Vase in the form of a male grotesque head

Roman, 2nd-3rd centuries AD
From Knidos, modern Turkey

A cruel caricature?

This particular vase is a type of pottery called Knidian Relief Ware, which was manufactured in large quantities in and around Cnidus in south-east Turkey. The vase was made by pressing clay into two a two-part mould, joining the two halves, then adding the details of the beard and eyebrows by hand. The vase was then immersed in a bath of slip or colour-coat before being fired. In Knidian Relief Ware grotesque heads were a very popular motif, along with animals such as rams, lions and dogs.

Mould-made pottery became very popular in the Hellenistic and early Roman periods, with several centres, in particular along the western coast of Turkey, producing vases in the shape of people or animals. Cruelly caricatured representations of people were a very popular motif in pottery vases, as indeed they were in other areas of art, for example sculpture and terracottas.

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More information


J.W. Hayes, Handbook of Mediterranean Roma (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)

S. Walker, Roman art (London, 1991)

P. Roberts, 'Mass-production of Roman fine wares' in Pottery in the making: world-5 (London. The British Museum Press, 1997), pp. 188-93


Height: 17.000 cm

Museum number

GR 1814.7-4.301


Townley Collection


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