Byzantine and Russian icons, £15.99
Height: 22.800 cm
Room 20: Greeks and Lycians
Silver double-headed drinking vessel (kantharos)
Greek, about 350-300 BC
Probably made by a Greek in Asia Minor for a Lykian client
The Judgement of Paris in relief
This kantharos was created in the shape of two heads back-to-back. The best preserved head is female while the other is male and wears a Phrygian cap. The two may represent Helen or Aphrodite and Paris, or perhaps the goddess Kybele and her beloved shepherd, the god Attis.
On the neck of the vessel, the Judgement of Paris is shown in relief. The figures are named in Lykian script in gilded panels. On the front are Perdreta (Aphrodite), Mal(eia) (Athena) and Alekss(k) (Alexandros/Paris). On the other side were Hermes (only a wing from his cap remains) and Hera, now missing.
The vessel was probably cast roughly into shape and then the heads were modelled from the inside using the repoussé technique. The final details were tooled from the outside. The handles (now missing) and possibly the base, part of which survives, were added separately. Many of the details were gilded to create a polychrome effect. Part of the inlaid eyes are preserved. These were filled with clear glass for the 'whites' and darker glass for the iris and pupil.
D.E. Strong, 'A Greek silver head-vase', The British Museum Quarterly-7, 28 (1964), pp. 95-102
J. Borchhardt, Die Bauskultur des Heroons von (Berlin, Gebr.Mann, 1976)