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Black-figured water-jar (hydria) with a scene at a fountain-house


Height: 50.600 cm

Canino Collection

GR 1837.6-9.53 (Vases B 334)

Room 69: Greek and Roman life

    Black-figured water-jar (hydria) with a scene at a fountain-house

    Greek, about 520-500 BC
    Made in Athens, Greece; from Vulci in Etruria (now in Lazio, Italy)

    A domestic or a ritual scene?

    Fountain-house scenes like this one show vases of this shape (hydriai or water jars) in use. The fountain-house is shown as a small but elegant building with a pediment above two Ionic columns, and a central partition. Inside, two women are filling jars with water, which gushes out of lion-headed spouts. At each side, two more women walk away with full water-jars on their heads. All the women have circular pads on their heads to support their heavy load.

    The popularity of fountain-house scenes at this time may reflect contemporary improvements in Athens' water-supply. Alternatively, such scenes may have ritual connotations. Some of the figures in the scene on the shoulder of the jar carry leafy branches of a type often seen in religious contexts. The inclusion of the gods Hermes and Dionysos has led some scholars to suggest that this and similar scenes may show preparations for a ritual known as the Hydrophoria. This took place on the second day of the spring festival of the Anthesteria, and involved the ceremonial pouring of water into a particular chasm.

    D. Williams, 'Women on Athenian vases: problems of interpretation' in Images of women in antiquity-1 (London and Sydney, 1983), pp. 92-106


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