Lekythos (oil flask)

ca. 430 BCEAttributed to the Boston Phiale Painterterracotta, red-figure14 13/16 in. × 2 1/2 in. × 2 13/16 in. (37.62 cm × 6.35 cm × 7.14 cm)

Gift of Edward Perry Warren, Esq., Honorary Degree 1926


This red-figure lekythos depicting a female dancer and her teacher would have been used as a container for oils or perfumes. Both red- and black-figure lekythoi could have functioned within the contexts of either daily life or the tomb. The lekythos illustrates a nude young girl whose weight is primarily on her bent left leg, enabling her to extend her straightened right leg as she reaches toward her female teacher with clasped hands. Her teacher, draped in a long, flowing garment, has her right hand raised although there is ambiguity as to whether this action indicates a forthcoming correction to the student’s dancing or if her hand is on a path to meet her student’s hands. 

The Boston Phiale Painter, also referred to as the Phiale Painter, derives their name from a phiale now in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The Boston Phiale Painter’s iconographic interest in female entertainers is evident in the decoration of this Bowdoin lekythos, which depicts a group of female musicians as well as courtesans entertaining men. These roles were common occupations for women and were especially important for the symposium, which reinforced the male participants shared identity as Greek men through drink and discussion, and where female entertainers acted as peripheral servants. 

In Edward Perry Warren’s own words, one of his primary motivations as a collector, purchasing agent, and donor was to do “the work most needed of all works, supplying eventually the terrible gap that exists on this new continent, the absence of that which delights the eye and rests the soul.” Warren not only presented the MFA with the name vase of the Boston Phiale Painter, bought in Athens, but his prowess and educated eye led him to purchase other vessels by the skilled Greek vase painter, such as this lekythos

Warren donated several other vases that have since been attributed to artists with similar modern names, such as the Bowdoin Eye Painter and the Bowdoin Painter. It was the pioneering work of John Beazley (1885–1970) in the first half of the twentieth century through which these and other attributions were made. Beazley was a friend and protégé of Warren’s, and the many collections he carefully studied included that of the College. Warren’s partnership with the vase scholar John Beazley (1885–1970) impacted the reception of Warren’s donations and legacy as a collector. By identifying artists, Beazley established links between objects Warren donated or sold and antiquities held in other institutions. This contributed to a more nuanced, fuller understanding of the ancient Mediterranean world.

—Brooke Wrubel


Before 1913, collection of Edward Perry Warren; 1913, gifted to the Bowdoin College Museum of Art by Edward Perry Warren.

Edward Perry Warren

A testament to his impact as an influential twentieth-century American antiquities collector, Edward Perry Warren’s (1860–1928, H ’26) name is linked to hundreds of ancient objects housed in institutions across the United States, including more than five hundred works at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art alone.

Region: Greece See all 24
Map of Mediterranean Sea with Greece highlighted.