Italian Renaissance masterpieces, £19.99
Decorated pottery askos
Daunian, about 350-325 BC
From Canosa, Puglia, Italy
Canosa was an important town in ancient Apulia (modern Puglia, south-eastern Italy). By the time that this pot was produced, there was a strong mix of native cultural tradition with that of the Greeks who had settled in the area. Although much of the local pottery was now influenced by Greek imports and perhaps Greek immigrant potters, there was still a lively native tradition regarding shapes of vessels and their decoration.
This pot is of the type known as an askos, a globular vessel probably originally derived from containers made from animal skins or organs. Sometimes askoi actually take the shape of birds or animals. The production of askoi dates back thousands of years in this part of Italy; the local pottery industry flourished without interruption from the Bronze Age up until Roman times.
In the fourth and third centuries BC, many vessels from Canosa were ornamented with bands of decoration, known as listati. Here vibrant bands of flora and fauna, geometric patterns and swastikas (sun-symbols) encompass and emphasise the swelling shape of the body.
Askoi were often placed in tombs. Many of them have a strainer in the spout, and sometimes there is a spout at either end of the handle. Archaeologists are not certain of their exact function.
E.M. De Juliis, La ceramica geometrica della D (Firenze, G.C. Sansoni, 1977)
J. Reich, Italy before Rome-1, The making of the past (Oxford, Elsevier-Phaidon, 1979)
S. Moscati, Italy before Rome (Milan, Electa, 1987)
D.G. Yntema, The matt-painted pottery of so (Utrecht, Drukkerij Elinkwijk, 1985)
F. Salvia del Rosario, 'Askoi dall' Italia Meridionale' in Italian Iron Age artefacts -10, Papers of the sixth British Museum classical colloqium (London, The British Museum Press, 1986), pp. 323-33