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Elgin Amphora


Height: 67.000 cm

GR 2004,0927.1

Room 12b: Greece: Mycenaeans

    Elgin Amphora

    Athens, Greece Around 750 BC

    This splendid neck-handled amphora was made during Greece's Geometric period (900-700 BC). It has elaborate painted geometric decoration in black on a buff background, with snakes decorating the handles and bands of birds at the neck. The amphora was probably used to hold wine at the funerary feast of a wealthy individual and then placed in his tomb, perhaps along with some smaller vases and a bronze dinos or cauldron containing his ashes.

    The vase can be attributed to an artist known as the Dipylon Painter. He is named after the ancient gate of Athens next to the cemetery where many of his works have been found. He and his workshop specialised in the production of large vessels, especially funerary markers. One of their innovations was the expansion of the web of complex geometric ornament to cover the whole surface of a vase. The painting displays remarkable skill and precision.

    The amphora has been restored from a group of fragments excavated in Athens for Lord Elgin by the artist Giovanni Battista Lusieri between 1804 and 1806. Over the years the fragments were dispersed amongst several private collections. Detective work has enabled them to be brought together again, revealing the fine quality of this impressive vase.

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


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    On display: Room 12b: Greece: Mycenaeans

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    Mycenaean history, £14.99

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