A beautiful Greek Attic red-figure lekythos featuring a funnelled neck, leading to a stout, rounded body, the two of which are connected by a single curved handle. The lekythos is covered in a glossy black slip, with the exception of the bottom rim and the female figure which forms its main decoration, achieved through a complex, three-step firing process. The female figure, dressed in an elaborately draped peplos and himation, is depicted mid-stride, suggesting that she is likely a dancer. The strip of cloth, which appears hung on a peg to the left of the figure, may be a tainia, a form of ceremonial headband of Greek traditions that could have been worn on the head as well as on the body.
Date: Circa 5th century BC Provenance: From the Ingrid McAlpine collection, 1939 - 2018, London and Epsom. Condition: Fine, repaired to the neck.
Lekythoi were used in Ancient Greece to preserve and pour perfumed oil and ointments: its particular shape limited the release of the contents 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. The presence of the dancer and the tainia may suggest that this particular lekythos was intended for ritual use at a festival, though the lone dancer and the fact that the tainia is set aside could imply a scene of practice rather than performance. Attic pottery usually depicts many scenes of women taking part in different activities of everyday life and offers an interesting insight into a range of women’s roles in Ancient Greek society.