Lekythos (oil flask)

ca. 480–470 BCEterracotta, red-figure7 13/16 in. × 2 13/16 in. (19.9 cm. × 7.2 cm.)

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


This red-figure lekythos, a vessel for storing oils and perfumes, features a scene of a youth as he plays the flute. Music was fundamental to private pastimes in ancient Greece, as depicted on this lekythos, as well as more public pastimes such as theatre and poetry. Youthful male musicians are frequently portrayed on vessels, including those utilized during the Greek symposium. One similar example is the red figure amphora attributed to the Pan Painter which depicts a flute player and his teacher, on view nearby. The aulos, the type of flute illustrated here, consisted of two pipes that required the musician to hold one in each hand. Warren also donated an ivory aulos, also on view nearby.

This lekythos is one of Edward Perry Warren’s many donations that contribute to his goal of building a representative collection of Greek vases. Additionally, the vessel’s iconography is tied to Warren’s interests in both Greek leisure culture and the aesthetics of the male body. The youth is seated on a backless chair, and he maintains the appropriate upright posture for a musician. The muscular nature of his torso and arms are quite easily discernible and further emphasized by his portrayal in profile, facing the viewer’s right. His chest appears particularly sculpted given the curvilinear nature of the line used to define it, suggesting he is strong and perhaps also in the process of inhaling prior to playing the instrument. This appreciation for the aesthetics of the male body would have been valued both in ancient Greece and by Warren.

This artist’s hand was labeled as the Bowdoin Painter by vase scholar John Beazley (1885–1970). Following Beazley’s identification, over two hundred and fifty vases have been linked to this single painter based on the stylized treatment of specific painted elements. Although the Bowdoin Painter also painted white-ground lekythoi, one of which is now in the Getty’s collection, most of the works are executed in red-figure. Ultimately, Warren’s donation of this object, his relationship with Beazley, and Beazley’s identification of the Bowdoin Painter enable connections to be drawn between the Museum’s collection and institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the British Museum, and the Louvre Museum.

—Brooke Wrubel


Before 1920, collection of Edward Perry Warren; 1920, 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.