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Greek Attic White-Ground Lekythos, Ex-MFA, Reed Painter

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Ancient Greece, The Reed Painter, ca. 440 to 425 BCE. A stunning white ground lekythos attributed to the Reed Painter, adorned with hand drawn/painted central scene in matt red-brown depicting a stele upon a stepped base, topped with a pediment with curved akroteria at both ends. To the left is a youth donning a himation draped across his body. Opposite, on the right, is a young lady, her coiffure in a top-knot, wearing a sleeveless chiton and himation. Framing the top of the scene is a register of meander punctuated by saltire-crossed squares. The shoulder is adorned with three palmettes and tendrils, hand painted in black. Size: 12-1/10" (30.7 cm)

Lekythos vases were among the various offerings and monuments paying tribute to the deceased in Athenian cemeteries. Lekythos vessels traditionally held oil and were decorated in the white ground technique from the middle until the end of the fifth century BCE. The term white ground relates to the light slip coating on the body and shoulder of the vase. Upon this background, figures and accoutrements were drawn in outline and then hand painted in rich colors, which have since faded. The iconography typically features tombs, visitors to these tomb sights, and touching farewell scenes, as the vast majority of these vessels were created for burial with the dead or to be offerings presented at their graves.

This piece has been attributed to the infamous Reed Painter who specialized in white ground lekythoi that depicted actual people rather than mythical beings as was more customary for black figure painters. It has wonderful provenance and once belonged to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Similar examples are featured in other fine museum collections such as that of the Art of Institute Chicago, the John Paul Getty Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Arts. For a similar example see http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/254782

Condition: White ground encrusted and lifted and some retouching of old glaze on lower bowl, neck, and lip. Minor chip and abrasions to rim.

Provenance: Ex-private Hunter/Gilmore collection, acquired 2011; ex-Charles Ede collection, ex-Mrs. May Sheppard Jordan (1921); deaccessioned from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (accession no. 21.275)

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