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Rhodian Oinochoe
Period: Archaic, late seventh century BC
Culture: Eastern Greek, Rhodes
Material: Terracotta
Dimensions: 28.5 cm H
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Oinochoai were used as pitchers to serve water or wine jug. Its elegant, broad piriform is complemented by a broad neck and a looping handle. This style of jug is often termed ‘Wild Goat’ or ‘Kamiros’, deriving from the ancient city on the north-west coast of Rhodes, where a number of these vessels have been found, but they are also widely known in Ionia (western Turkey). The neck is decorated with a double-stranded guilloche and on the main body a waterfowl walks to the right. It has various filling ornaments in the field, including a meander group, floral motifs, the main panel being framed by rectangular segments, and the remaining areas on this part of the vessels are painted with long pointed rays. The lower body is filled with a broad band of decoration. The representational and non-representational scheme is influenced by cultural contact with Near Eastern civilizations, notably Achaemenian. The same held true for the preceding Geometric period, but the style of the present oinochoe, and other vessels, was characterized by an Orientalizing, linear contouring, outlined shapes, and solid dark masses, rather than the angular decoration of the preceding era.

Greek symposia or banquets were an established form of social practice in the Archaic period. The drinking and revelry attested on vases and in Greek literature allow us to imagine the use of oinochoai in such a setting. In this context, our vessel would have played an integral role, and its trefoil lip was a simple yet ingenious method of pouring wine from three angles as the server would have weaved through the spontaneous movements of inebriated participants.

Wild Goat style oinochoai are a feature of some foremost museums, such as the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore (Inv. 48.2108, late seventh century BC), although the subject matter features wild goats, true to the classification of this group. Perhaps the closest parallel to our vessel is the fine vase in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu (Inv. 82.AE126, late seventh century BC).


Private Collection, Hamburg, acquired prior to 1977; and thence by descent.

Exhibited: Hamburg, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Kunst der Antike: Schätze aus norddeutschem Privatbesitz, 21 January - 6 March 1977.

Published: W. Hornbostel, Kunst der Antike - Schätze aus norddeutschem Privatbesitz, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, Mainz, 1977, no. 193.