South Italian Gnathian Epichysis

£ 1,295.00

A fine Greek vase in the classic Gnathian style, originating from the south Italian region of Apulia. The squat, globular body leads to a thin neck with a narrow, steeply angled spout to provide control over the flow of liquid when poured. The thin handle rises above the spout in an elegant curve, before bending back down into a straight vertical to join the body. A delicately moulded face marks the point of separation between the handle and the pouring spout, further enriching the composition. The elaborate geometric and floral decoration in maroon and yellow pigment stand out against the ground of buff light clay coated in shiny black gloss. The neck is adorned with vertical lines, splaying outwards along the curve as it joins the body, where they meet a ring of small dots. The main decoration of the body is a repeating pattern of grape bunches, leaves, and vine tendrils above and below a central maroon band. Such motifs are typical of Gnathian ware. Two thin unglazed bands around the circumference, frame the base of the vessel, as does an unglazed band around the foot. The base is unglazed and unadorned.

Date: Circa 330 - 300 BC
Provenance: Ex David William Akeherst Collection by descent, joining the British Museum in 1948 in the Greek and Roman Antiquities Department moving to be Chief Conservation Officer of Glass and Ceramics until retirement in 1982
Condition: Fine condition, with minor repairs to the neck, base, and foot of the vessel. Some earthly encrustation and wearing of pigment.


Southern Italy 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. After 330 BC, white paint became predominant. The Gnathian style incorporated a range of scenes, including images from the lives of women, erotic meetings, theatrical scenes, and Dionysian motifs, such as the grapes and vines on this vessel. Epichysis were used in Ancient Greece for pouring liquids, such as wine and oil. The liquid could be distributed with a degree of control, due to the slender concave neck. The rounded body of this example is unusual for an epichysis, as they normal feature a cylindrical box shape.

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


Dimensions L 15.4 x W 9.4 cm
Greek Mythology





Southern Europe

Reference: For a similar item: The Brooklyn Museum, New York, item 1994.209.6.