Ancient Greek Gnathian Oinochoe with Eros

£ 2,950.00

An ancient Greek terracotta oinochoe, atrributed to the Gnathian style. The vessel is coated in a dark glossy glaze across its entire outer surface, except the base. The rounded body leads to a squat neck, which ends with a wide trefoil lip. A large, flattened handles extends from the edge of the trefoil lip to sit on the gentle curve of the jug’s body. The body is the main focal point and is richly decorated. The large scene depicts a seated male figure upon a rock, nude in his portrayal and large unfurled wings at his back. He is characterised as Eros, the winged god of love, shown in adult form. His head is adorned with a stephane (decorative wreath) and strands of yellow and white jewellery have been placed around his wrists, thighs, ankles, and neck. He holds a mirror in his right hand and a shallow phiale, or libation bowl, aloft in his left. A whip, one of Eros’ common attributes, also hangs from his left hand. The painting is further enriched with fine details, such as feathers in the wings, and spirals and rays in the corners of the frame. The whole scene has been executed in the typical Gnathian colour scheme of rich burgandy, yellow ochre and highlighting white pigments. The bottom of the oinochoe remains flat and generally unglazed, except for a slight overspill from the body to one side.

Date: Circa 4th Century BC
Provenance: UK London dealer 1990s. Bonhams reference number: 445037/33. Ex JL Collection
Condition: Very fine condition. Very minor pitting and rubbing, otherwise complete and intact.


Product Code: GS-86
Category: Tags: , , ,

This highly decorated wine jug, known as an oinochoe originates from Southern Italy, and is attributed to the Gnathia style. The Southern Italian peninsular was populated by a large number of Greek colonies from the 8th century BC onwards – so much so that the Romans referred to the area as Magna Graecia – Great Greece. The pottery attributed to the Gnathia style is so termed after the site of Gnathia (present-day Egnazia), which is located on the Adriatic coast of Apulia. Gnathia ware was famed for its glossy black slip pottery and for its polychromatic decoration – often using shades of white, ochre and red.

An oinochoe (wine jug) such as this would likely have been used at an all-male symposium after a banquet, with drinking, music, and other elicit performances. The subject theme fittingly linked to the frivolous activities of the symposia. Eros was the ancient Greek deity of erotic and passionate love, known in Greek as ἔρως. The winged god is commonly shown in child form and holding a bow and arrows, with which he would spark desire in his targets. He has several origin myths, either making up one of the earliest or primordial gods from the time of the Titans, or as the son of Aphrodite, goddess of love, and Ares, the god of war.

To learn more about Greek pottery, please visit our relevant blog post: Styles and Uses of Greek Pottery.

Dimensions L 17.1 x W 12.7 cm
Greek Mythology





Southern Europe

Reference: For a similar item: Christie’s, London, Interiors Auction, 2ND October 2012, lot 428

You may also like…