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Rare Greek Attic Alabastron with Scale Armor Design

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Directory: Hidden: Viewable: Pre AD 1000: Item # 1276507
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This rare piece is a Greek Attic "black-figure" alabastron that dates circa early 5th century B.C. This piece is approximately 6 inches high, by 2.3 inches in diameter at the upper rim. This piece has four black bands, with light tan reserve sections seen between, that run horizontally around the piece from top to bottom. This piece is also designed with a wide, flat disk at the top which is a design feature that helped control the flow of liquids from the piece. This piece likely held a precious olive oil, or a perfume-type unguent with an oil base. This piece also has a black "line design pattern" that is seen on the upper third of the main body of the vessel, and this "line design pattern" also runs around the piece. This pattern is often referred to as a "net pattern" which usually is seen with straight lines, but the pattern seen here is seen with overlapping "u-shaped" sections that resemble overlapping scale armor, and there is a strong possibility that this is likely what this pattern is meant to represent. This piece was created at about the time of Athen's victory over the Persians at Marathon circa 490 B.C., and shortly after the stunning Athenian victory, Pheidias designed a massive bronze statue on the Parthenon referred to as the "Athena Promachos", meaning "Athena who fights in the front line". According to Pausanias, this warrior Athena was complete with a helmet, spear, and a scale armor cuirass which also displayed a facing head of Medusa. This image of the warrior Athena wearing a scale armor cuirass is also often displayed on Athenian "black figure" and "red figure" ceramics during the first quarter of the 5th century B.C. The "line design pattern" seen on the piece offered here likely refers to Athena Promachos, and her scale armor cuirass, and the Greek Attic painter who produced this piece, simply transferred this pattern onto this example. In addition, this piece likely held olive oil which was sacred to the goddess Athena, and there was a sacred grove of olive trees which was located near the base of the Parthenon. If in fact the design on this rare vessel is intended to represent scale armor, was the design of this piece conceived to protect a sacred olive oil? This is a question that really cannot be answered, but what is certain is that this alabastron vessel, with this "scale armor line design pattern", is also not seen on other Attic alabastron examples that are classified in the Beazley Archive, Oxford; however, this pattern is seen on other Attic vessels for the period that show Athena wearing a scale armor cuirass. The piece offered here is intact, with no apparent repair/restoration, and has some minute surface pitting and scraps. Overall, this elegant piece has a great deal of eye appeal, and is a very nice example with a rare painted design. This piece also comes with a custom metal stand, and can easily be removed. Ex: W. Levy collection, U.K., circa 1916-2006. Ex: Bonham's Antiquities, London, April 2007, no. 324. Ex: Private New York collection. I certify that this piece is authentic as to date, culture, and condition: