Greek Attic Lekythos Attributed to the Beldam Painter with Marriage Procession
A fine Greek black figures terracotta lekythos featuring a tapered body with a narrow neck and a small, deep mouth. A single applied handle joins the neck to the shoulder of the vessel. The lekythos displays a beautiful decoration with glossy black slip against the red clay, visible to the vessel’s body, rim and base. The decoration which unfolds before our eyes is arranged in a frieze, running around the vessel’s body, featuring the depiction of a chariot in profile. The iconography of the chariot held a deep meaning in Ancient Greek art, being a symbol of transition and of a new phase in life. The centre of the vessel is occupied by the representation of two horses, flanked by draped figures, rendered in a stylised and crude manner, with additional details emphasized in white pigment. While the two figures behind the horses are portrayed standing, with one shown holding what appears to look like a wreath, the figure to the front is portrayed seated on a diphros, a stool without back and with four turned legs. The representation on this lekythos might be referred to a wedding procession, a suitable iconographic motif for a lekythos, a vessel used to hold perfumes and oils, which would have possibly belonged to a woman. If we allow this interpretation, the two figures at the back might be identified as the wedded couple. The lekythos has been attributed to the Beldam Painter, an Attic black figure vase painter active in the Athenian region around the first half of the 5th century BC. One of the characteristics of his artistic production are the garlands of ivy, sometimes rendered as simple outlines, as seen on this beautiful example, to the lekithoi’s shoulders and necks. The style of the Beldam Painter appears really close to the production of another Attic painter, the Haimon Painter.
Date: Circa 5th Century BC Provenance: From an early 20th century French collection. Condition: Fine condition, with abrasion to body which has resulted in loss of some pigment. Professionally repaired.
Lekythoi were used in Ancient Greece to preserve and pour perfumed oil and ointments: its particular shape limited the release of the content and was suitable to prevent waste. Lekythoi were mainly used at baths and gymnasiums and for funerary offerings, as they were sometimes used for anointing dead bodies. Lekythoi would have been decorated with different motives driven from literature, mythology or daily life, such as weddings. Marriage was an important event in Ancient Greek culture, and vessels decorated with wedding scenes might have been gifted to the wedded couple or placed in temples as votive offerings. It is interesting to note that real life wedding in Ancient Greece di not involved horse chariots: it was custom for the bride to leave her house seated in a mule-drawn cart.