Askos in the form of a duck

Etruscan, 350-325 BC
From Vulci, ancient Etruria (now in Lazio, Italy)

A swimming couple

This type of ornate ceramic askos, in the form of a duck, was produced predominantly at Chiusi (Latin: Clusium), an important city in northern Etruria. It belongs to a class of Etruscan pottery of the fourth and third centuries BC which includes vases in the shape of human heads as well as more conventional pottery-shapes, and is known as the Clusium Group.

The askos is decorated on either side with figures in low relief: a young man on one side and a young woman on the other. They are shown as if swimming alongside in the water, nude apart from slippers and cloaks flowing behind them. The bird's wing and chest feathers are depicted in stylized fashion with additional patterns of scrolls and circles; even the beak has decorative lines which follow its contours.

A number of examples of this kind of askos are known. Sometimes the figures are painted instead of being applied; they hold a variety of objects, such as ribbons, in one instance a duck, perfume phials or perfume pins. Often they take on the identity of Lasas, female spirits associated with the worship of Turan, the Etruscan version of Aphrodite.

With their elaborate form and sometimes additional decoration in gold, these objects were clearly made for a wealthy clientèle.

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More information


O. Brendel, Etruscan art, Pelican History of Art (Yale University Press, 1995)

E. Macnamara, The Etruscans-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)

L. Burn, The British Museum book of G-1, revised edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)


Height: 6.000 inches
Length: 9.000 inches

Museum number

GR 1865.1-3.20 (Vases G 151)



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