About This Artwork

Greek; Athens

Lekythos (Oil Jar), About 440 BC

Terra-cotta, decorated in the white-ground technique
H. 31 cm (12 1/4 in.); diam. 10.4 cm (4 1/8 in.)
Inscription: EUAIΩN KA°O∑ (Euaion Kalos; "Euaion is handsome")

Gift of Martin A. Ryerson through The Antiquarian Society, 1907.19

Athenian cemeteries housed a variety of monuments and offerings to the dead. This terracotta vessel, called a lekythos, is one example that held oil. From the middle until the end of the fifth century B.C., they were usually decorated in a distinctive technique known as white ground, so called after the light slip coating on the body and shoulder of the vase. Atop this, figures were usually drawn in outline and then painted in rich colors, many of which have since faded. Since most of these bottles were made for burial with the dead or to be left at their graves, the scenes on their surfaces typically represent tombs, visitors to tombs, and farewell scenes.

A woman drawn in outline stands beside an empty chair. Presumably it references the absence of a loved one. A basket sits on the ground behind her. There are no remains of color. Unrelated to the scene but of interest in its own right is the inscription extending before the woman. It states that a youth by the name of Euaion is handsome. The subject of this praise is probably the son of the great Athenian dramatist Aeschylus (525–456 BC). Like his father, Euaion became a tragedian.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

The Art Institute of Chicago, Ancient Art Galleries, Gallery 155, April 20, 1994 - February 6, 2012.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Of Gods and Glamour: The Mary and Michael Jaharis Galleries of Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Art, Gallery 151, November 11, 2012 - present.

Publication History

Karen B. Alexander, "From Plaster to Stone: Ancient Art at the Art Institute of Chicago," in Recasting the Past: Collecting and Presenting Antiquities at the Art Institute of Chicago, by Karen Manchester (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2012), p. 22, 38.

J.D. Beazley, Attic Red-Figure Vase Painters, vol. II (The Clarendon Press, 1963), p. 1579, 23.

Art Institute of Chicago, "Gift of Greek Vases," Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago, Vol. 1 (1907), p. 12, fig. 2, and XXVII (1933), no. 18, pp. 130-133.

Daniel Catton Rich, "An Inscribed Greek Vase," Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago, 23, 8, (November 1929), pp. 131-132.

W. Fröhner, Collection van Branteghem: Vases peints et terre cuites antiques (Paris 1892) no. 172.

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