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Lekythos (Oil Jar)

A work made of terracotta, white-ground.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of terracotta, white-ground.


about 440 BCE


Greek; Athens

About this artwork

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.


Currently Off View


Arts of the Ancient Mediterranean and Byzantium


Ancient Greek


Lekythos (Oil Jar)


Athens (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

440 BCE


terracotta, white-ground


EUAIΩN KA°O∑ ("Euaion is handsome")


31 × 10.4 cm (12 1/4 × 4 1/8 in.); Diam.: 10.4 cm (4 1/8 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Martin A. Ryerson through The Antiquarian Society

Reference Number


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Extended information about this artwork

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