PERIOD: 6th Century BC
DIMENSIONS: Height 21 cm
PRICE: 5,500 Euros
PROVENANCE: Private collection of Donald R. Rickman, Germany, acquired before 1950.
CONDITION: In a good state of preservation. A broken piece on the mouth has been fixed on. Apart from this no other damage apart from superficial wear to the polychrome.
A polychrome pottery vessel of the type known as an alabastron. The surface of the vessel is covered in its entirety by a depiction in right profile of a mermaid with extended wings. In the space left not covered by the mythological creature, the artist has introduced rosettes and flowers as decorative motifs. All of this iconography has been painted in black over a light surface. Following the particular style, the anatomical details have been incised into the surface.
Mermaids were fantastical creatures, originally from Greek mythology, and widely found in fantasy stories in western literature. Their function and representation varied over time. In their original form they were hybrid creatures of women and birds, as can be seen in pictorial iconography on Greek vessels. Later the most common representations show them as young women with fish tails.
An alabaston is a type of pottery vessel used in antiquity to hold oil, especially perfumed oil or oil for massages. Most of them have a long narrow body with a round bottom. They were so designed so that liquid could only escape in small quantities, drop by drop. The mouth of the alabastron is wide and flat to allow the application of the liquid directly to the skin. They often had no handles but some have small ear-shaped lugs into which holes were punched. Strings were then put through these holes to facilitate transport.
They were generally made of terracotta, but some examples have been found around the Mediterranean coastlines made from glass or alabaster. As with other vessels from this period, the decoration was rich and finely painted. The best of their kind were never used in life, but were produced to be placed in tombs as part of the funerary goods.
Corinth is a city in the Peloponnese in Greece. It was very prosperous in classical times and one of the most important temples dedicated to Apollo is found there. The denomination, Corinthian vases, has normally been reserved to designated pottery that appeared in the zone in the last decades of the 7th Century BC. Early Corinthian Period, in the decades immediately before 600 BC, is a period of great ornamentation in pottery. Alabastrons and other, partially new forms, such as cups with two handles, tripods, round-mouth oinochoes, dishes and column kraters were decorated there.
Along with the common animal frieze style (at times alternating with demons, warriors, chariots and horses if the theme was epic) new characteristic figures were added, such as fat-bellied dancers wearing short tunics. Production of this type continued with variation in forms in the Middle and Late Corinthian Periods. The best vases were adorned with narrative scenes whose preferred themes were hunting, battles, banquets, departure to war and the feats of Heracles.
In the biggest and most important vases, the light Corinthian clay appears occasionally covered by a red-orange coating, in imitation of the Athenian pottery, and the figures display a very attractive polychrome (black, red, purple, white and yellow as well). The production of Corinthian vases ended around 550 BC and, in consequence, the trade of these vessels around the Mediterranean was taken over by pieces of Attic pottery.
Corinthian vases were the object of multiple imitations, not always easily distinguishable. The most numerous group of these are made up of the so-called Italo-Corinthian or Etrusco-Corinthian vases frequently found in Etruscan tombs.
A certificate of thermo-luminescence is attached.