Ariadne Galleries

Bucchero Ware Kyathos
Period: Sixth century BC
Culture: Etruscan
Material: Terracotta
Dimensions: 44.8 cm H
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This kyathos is generous in size and boldly proportioned. The shape is that of a standard Archaic Etruscan kyathos with an articulated, bowl-shaped body with modeled rim sitting on top of a flared stem and foot.  The tall, looping strap handle indicates the influence of metallic prototypes.  An X has been incised into the handle where it meets the bowl of the cup as added decoration, and small horns adorn the rim on either side of the handle for further visual interest.


The vase is well and sturdily made from very heavy clay with careful attention to symmetry.  The burnished surface of the cup has survived in good condition, still maintaining some of its original luster.  It is in excellent condition and appears to be intact.



Private Collection, France.
Private Collection, Switzerland.

Published: Christie's London, Antiquities Sale, 23 September 1998, lot 264.

The kyathos shape in ancient pottery can be traced back to the 7th-6th century BC, and it is believed to have mimicked the form of contemporary metal vessels, providing a less expensive, easier to produce version of similar cups in gold, silver, and bronze.  Our bucchero piece clearly reflects similar origins, judging from its propensity towards flattened forms that could just as easily have been produced from hammered sheets of metal.  The bucchero technique is considered a native Etrurian invention, first appearing in the 7th century BC.  It involved fashioning the vessels and then firing them in a kiln that was relatively oxygen-free, resulting in the blackened color.  Shine was imparted to the surface by burnishing with a stick.


Oversized wine cups of this type are popular products of bucchero workshops at Vulci.  Other large cups have been found left as offerings or as memorial goods, and judging from the great weight of our kyathos, which would have made it very difficult to drink from, it probably served a similar purpose.