Lekythos (oil flask)

ca. 450 BCEAttributed to the Bird Painterterracotta, white-ground12 3/8 in. × 3 13/16 in. (31.5 cm. × 9.7 cm.)

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


Lekythoi, containers for oil, were crafted in a variety of shapes, from the narrower to the squatter, and were decorated in black-figure, red-figure, or the white-ground technique. This white-ground example is the only lekythos form definitively created for the tomb. The fragile, white-ground medium, which is more susceptible to wear and tear than designs executed in black- and red-figure techniques, would not have held up to daily use and has not been found outside of tomb contexts. The funerary context is also visually reinforced by this vessel’s iconography, as is the case with many similar examples.

The front of the vessel depicts a stele (funerary monument) marking the grave most likely belonging to the male figure draped in a rich maroon garment on the viewer’s right. He holds a staff in his right hand and gazes outward at the approaching figure, as if to greet her. On the other side of the stele is a woman carrying a basket with wreaths and ribbons, presumably to adorn the gravesite. The depiction of a living individual interacting with a deceased figure is common among Greek funerary objects and can also be observed on the Greek stele in the Museum’s collection, which illustrates two brothers shaking hands in salutation. Whether this gesture is intended to represent an arrival or departure remains ambiguous.

Given Edward Perry Warren’s commitment to developing a representative collection of vessels, the white-ground lekythos is an important addition. Later museum purchases such as the bail-handle olpe depicting a funeral scene expand on Warren’s foundation, regarding both the types of vessels in the collection as well as works that provide insight into rarely depicted burial practices.

—Brooke Wrubel


Before 1923, collection of Edward Perry Warren; 1923, 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
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