Height: 29.000 cm
GR 1873.8-20.265 (Vases E 788)
Room 15: Athens and Lycia
Red-figured drinking horn (rhyton), signed by the potter Sotades
Greek, about 470-460 BC
Made in Athens, Greece; from the 'Brygos Tomb' at Capua, Campania, Italy
Sphinx and scenes of the snake-bodied King Kekrops
Sotades was an inventive potter. One of his specialities was the production of vases that combined moulded and wheel-made elements. This sphinx is very carefully modelled and coated in fine, white slip. The red-figure scenes on the cup show Kekrops, the legendary, snake-bodied king of Athens, with other figures, including most probably his children.
Scenes on other vase paintings suggest how vessels of this type were used. The spout between the front legs of the sphinx was closed, probably with a finger, while wine was poured into the cup at the top; the finger was then removed and the wine allowed to flow out, sometimes from a considerable height, into a cup or bowl below. This must have been fun to do and watch: it also served the practical purpose of aerating the wine and making it frothy.
This vase is one of seven found together in one tomb at Capua. The sphinx, a mythical creature seen by the Greeks as a guardian of the dead, makes the vase appropriate for funerary use. The iconography of the red-figured scene, like that of other vases from the tomb, suggests the possibility that the dead person was an Athenian migrant to the west.
D. Williams, 'The Brygos Tomb reassembled and 19th-century commerce in Capuan antiquities', Journal of Archaeology, 96 (1992), pp. 617-36
H. Hoffmann, Sotades (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1997)
D. Williams, Greek vases (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)