Ancient Greece, Athens (Attic), attributed to The Reed Painter, ca. 440 to 425 BCE. A stunning white ground lekythos attributed to the Reed Painter, adorned with a hand painted central scene in matte red-brown depicting a stele upon a stepped base, topped with a pediment with curved akroteria at both ends. To the left is a youth donning a himation draped across his body. Opposite, on the right, is a young lady, her coiffure in a top knot, wearing a sleeveless chiton and himation. Framing the top of the scene is a register of meander punctuated by saltire-crossed squares. The shoulder is adorned with three palmettes and tendrils, hand painted in black. Size: 3.4" W x 12.1" H (8.6 cm x 30.7 cm)
This piece has been attributed to the infamous Reed Painter who specialized in white ground lekythoi that depicted actual people rather than mythical beings as was more typical of black figure painters. It has wonderful provenance and once belonged to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Similar examples are featured in other fine museum collections such as that of the Art of Institute Chicago, the John Paul Getty Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Arts. The Reed Painter executed his paintings in the true white-ground technique, outlining and sketching figures on the white ground, initially with a diluted reddish brown glaze and then following up with a more matte red or black. The coloration was added after the piece was fired. The subjects depicted were typically modeled upon real people rather than mythical figures - this in accordance with the white-ground lekythoi tradition. Most often, the Reed Painter depicted visitors to a tomb. The Reed Painter's name stems from his depiction of reeds in his work, especially those vessels of Charon.
Lekythos vases were among the various offerings and monuments paying tribute to the deceased in Athenian cemeteries. Lekythoi traditionally held oil and were decorated in the white ground technique from the middle until the end of the fifth century BCE. The term white ground relates to the light slip coating on the body and shoulder of the vase. Upon this background, figures and accoutrements were drawn in outline and then hand painted in rich colors. The iconography traditionally features tombs, visitors to these tomb sights, and touching farewell scenes, as the vast majority of these vessels were created for burial with the dead or to be offerings presented at their graves.
Published in the Beazley Archive, vase number 217722 as well as Beazley, J.D. "Attic Red-Figure Vase-Painters." 2nd edition (Oxford, 1963): 1379.61
See other examples of white-ground lekythoi attributed to the Reed Painter at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Accession Number 53.107)
Cf. John H. Oakley. Picturing Death in Classical Athens: The Evidence of the White Lekythoi. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
This piece has been tested using thermoluminescence (TL) analysis and has been found to be ancient and of the period stated. A full report will accompany purchase.
This piece has been searched against the Art Loss Register database and has been cleared. The Art Loss Register maintains the world's largest database of stolen art, collectibles, and antiques.
Provenance: East Coast collection, New York Gallery, New York City, New York, USA; ex-private Hunter/Gilmore collection, acquired 2011; ex-Charles Ede collection; ex-Mrs. May Sheppard Jordan (1921); deaccessioned from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, accession no. 21.275; Published in the Beazley Archive, vase number 217722 as well as Beazley, J.D. "Attic Red-Figure Vase-Painters." 2nd edition (Oxford, 1963): 1379.61
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Normal surface wear with some pigment loss commensurate with age. Areas of white ground have lifted and there is some retouching of old glaze on lower bowl, neck, and lip. Chips and abrasions to rim and foot. There is a plastic plug inserted in center of the foot. TL drill holes beneath foot and beneath upper curve of handle.