ELEGANT IRIDESCENT GNATHIA KANTHAROS
S O L D
Measurements: Height – 22.1 cm, Width – 20 cm
Description: A beautiful and elegant kantharos from the South Italian region of Gnathia. The vessel consists of a deep bowl, tall pedestal foot and two high-swung handles which extend from the bowl’s base to its lip, and which extend well above the bowl’s lip at their highest point. Glazed entirely in a lustrous, glossy black paint, aside from the very base of the pedestal and a narrow band on the middle of the foot, where the clay has been left unpainted and contrasts nicely. Original incised and painted motif of a vine tendril is still visible. The external body of the bowl has been glazed in order to appear iridescent, indicating that this cup was designed with imitating a metal chalice in mind. Kantharoi were a Greek form of drinking vessel, most often used to hold wine for ritualistic use or for offerings. As a result of this religious significance, it was an attribute of Dionysus, the god of wine. Perhaps the vine motif harks towards this circular relationship, evoking thoughts not only of wine, but also the god with which it was most closely associated.
Although the kantharos is a Greek form of pottery, this cup is not Greek in its origin, but is from Gnathia, a region of southern Italy. Southern Italy was populated by a vast number of Greek colonies from the 8th Century BC onwards – so much so that to the Romans the area was known as Magna Graecia – ‘Great Greece’. These Greek colonies were instrumental in the bringing of Greek culture and thought to Italy, and so greatly influenced Roman literature, philosophy and material culture. Items from Gnathia are characterised by the glossy black glaze which covers this kantharos and by polychromatic pigments of white, ochre and maroon. The vine motif on the bowl keys into some of this polychromatic tradition.
Period: Circa 4th - 3rd Century BC
Condition: Fine and intact, some minor abrasion to exterior of bowl and traces of delicate white pigment remaining.