Height: 19.500 cm
GR 1856.5-12.15 (Vases E 697)
Room 19: Greece: Athens
Red-figured squat oil- or perfume-jar (lekythos), in the style of the Meidias Painter
Greek, about 420-400 BC
Made in Athens, Greece
Aphrodite in the Gardens
The elegant faces of the women in this garden scene and their fine, multi-pleated drapery are very characteristic of the style of the Meidias Painter and his associates. The names of all the figures are written alongside in white letters. The seated figure is Aphrodite, goddess of love; Eros, her son and messenger, sits on her shoulder. The figure to the right of them is Peitho, goddess and personification of Persuasion. Peitho is attaching sprays of leaves to a basket known as a kanoun, which was carried in processions. The three female figures to the left of Aphrodite are Kleopatra ('Of noble parentage'), Eunomia ('Good Order') and Paidia ('Games and Playfulness'). These personifications cluster around the goddess, offering fruit or a necklace. They may reflect both contemporary developments in philosophical thought, and the rise of cults of personifications (including Peitho and Eunomia).
The late fifth-century Athenian cult of 'Aphrodite in the Gardens' is likely to have stressed the goddess's links with nature and the renewal of vegetation. Athens was fighting a devastating war with the Peloponnesians at this time, and scenes like this may suggest the desire to escape from these grim realities into a garden paradise of peace and beauty.
L. Burn, The Meidias painter (Oxford, 1987)
L. Burn, The British Museum book of Gre (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)