Nestoris (two-handled jar)

ca. 350–325 BCEAttributed to the Primato Painterterracotta, red-figure32 5/16 in. (82 cm.)

Gift of the Misses Harriet Sarah and Mary Sophia Walker


This striking vase is the first painted Greek vase to enter the Bowdoin College Museum of Art collection. It is in the form of a nestoris, a two handled jar often with attached discs decorating the handles and an additional pair of horizontal handles on the body. The form was adapted from local Italian shapes by Greek potters working in the Greek colonies of southern Italy. The decoration of this vessel is attributed to the Primato Painter, one of the last Greek vase painters working in Lucania in Southern Italy in the last half of the fourth century BCE. His designs exhibit special attention to elaborate floriate motifs, as on the sides and shoulder of this vessel. The figures that populate the vessel in three registers—one around the neck and two registers on either the front and back—do not cohere into a recognizable myth or narrative. Rather, they are stock figures—satyrs, youths, and a winged Victory—who engage in various revelries, lending a convivial air to the vase. 

The vase was purchased for the Museum by the Walker sisters, wealthy Massachusetts benefactors whose vision and generosity are responsible for the commission and design of the 1894 McKim, Mead, and White neoclassical building that today houses one of the largest antiquities collections on a college campus. In selecting this vase, the sisters consulted with the American collector Edward Perry Warren, whom they knew through their Boston circles. Warren would later go on to donate much of his own collection to the Museum, including a significant and comprehensive collection of Greek vases. In many ways, this early donation served as a seed for the collections of the new Museum building as well as an indication of the significance the Walker sisters, like many Americans of the late nineteenth century, attached to the study of original pieces of ancient Mediterranean art.

—Sean P. Burrus


Before 1893, excavated in Italy; 1893, likely purchased from a private collector in London by Harriet Sarah and Mary Sophia Walker; 1893, acquired by the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, gift from Harriet Sarah and Mary Sophia Walker, Brunswick.

Mary Sophia Walker and Harriet Sarah Walker

Donors of the Walker Art Building as well as a significant collection of art and antiquities, Mary Sophia Walker (1839–1904) and Harriet Sarah Walker (1844–1898) were among the most significant benefactors in the development of the art collection at Bowdoin.

Region: Italy See all 18
Map of Mediterranean Sea with Italy highlighted.