Greece, Hellenistic Period, ca. late 4th to 1st century BCE. An elegant 96% silver bowl, in the form of a mastos or mastoid, a drinking vessel shaped like a breast. This example sits on a rounded base without a nipple. It has a shallow, tapered body with no handles, and a rim that is smooth on the exterior and rolled on the interior, forming a slight lip. During the Hellenistic period, wealthy Greeks used silver as a marker of wealth more commonly than they had in the past. During the fifth century, a new silver source was discovered in the Laurium Hills in Attica, which was mined extensively soon thereafter. The profits from the mines enriched several Athenian families and created a greater pool of silver with which artisans could produce fine goods like this cup. Size: 6.6" W x 2" H (16.8 cm x 5.1 cm); 235.3 grams
The mastos form seems to be deliberately breast-shaped, based on archaeological findings suggesting ritual functions for these cups. Mastoid cups and ceramic votive representations of breasts have been found at sanctuaries to Diana and Hercules - two figures in classical religion associated with birth, nursing, and rearing children. Fascinatingly, some of these even have dedications made by wet nurses. Some scholars theorize that the drinking of breast milk from a vessel like this one by an elderly or deathly ill adult symbolized rebirth in the afterlife.
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-Frances Artuner collection, Belgium, collected in the 1960s
All items legal to buy/sell under U.S. Statute covering cultural patrimony Code 2600, CHAPTER 14, and are guaranteed to be as described or your money back.
A Certificate of Authenticity will accompany all winning bids.
We ship worldwide and handle all shipping in-house for your convenience.
Very slight dent to one side of rim. Otherwise in beautiful condition, with light deposits on surface.