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Bowl with a gorgon's head


Diameter: 37.000 cm
Height: 10.000 cm

GR 1861.4-25.46

Room 13: Greece 1050-520 BC

    Bowl with a gorgon's head

    Greek, Archaic period, about 625-600 BC
    Made in Corinth, Greece; from Kamiros, Rhodes

    Petrifying pottery

    A frieze of panthers, deer, two sphinxes and a siren surround the frontal, staring face of the gorgon Medusa. According to Greek legend, anyone who looked upon the face of the Gorgon was instantly turned to stone. The hero Perseus succeeded in chopping off her head, which he handed to the goddess Athena to set in the centre of her shield. Gorgon heads are quite often found in the centre of cups and bowls at this time. Their shape is suited to the circular field available, and their design is usually both decorative and eye-catching. It seems likely that they also fulfilled an apotropaic function: warding off the 'evil eye' from the user of the vase.

    By the late seventh century BC, Corinthian pots were popular throughout the Mediterranean. As production increased to meet demand, new and larger shapes of pot appeared alongside the still popular perfume bottles. The fine workmanship of the Protocorinthian style was gradually replaced by a slightly cruder black-figure style. In the sixth century BC real and mythological animals, which remained the basic subject for Corinthian vase painters, gradually became longer and their details more sketchily incised; at the same time the filling ornament through which they prowl became denser and less carefully executed. This bowl was made early in the Archaic period, and the painting and incision are still quite careful.

    L. Burn, The British Museum book of Gre (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)

    J. Boardman, Early Greek vase painting: 11t (London, Thames and Hudson, 1998)

    D. Williams, Greek vases (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)


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    On display: Room 13: Greece 1050-520 BC

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