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Identification and Creation
Object Number
Amphora Handle with Satyr Playing Syrinx
Work Type
first half 5th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Etruria
Archaic period, Late, to Early Classical
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Cast, lost-wax process
17.3 x 6.5 x 15.5 cm (6 13/16 x 2 9/16 x 6 1/8 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Bronze:
Cu, 88.36; Sn, 9.6; Pb, 1.73; Zn, 0.004; Fe, 0.04; Ni, 0.05; Ag, 0.07; Sb, 0.05; As, 0.1; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, less than 0.005; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001

J. Riederer

Technical Observations: The patina is green with areas of red. Some areas are completely mineralized, although the handle appears stable and strong. The surface has been carefully cleaned mechanically, revealing much of the original detail.

The handle is a hollow cast, and gray core material is visible at both of the open ends of the casting. The relief designs and general shape are fairly complex, and given that multiples are often made of vessel handles, it is likely the wax model was made indirectly using a mold. Many details would have been cleaned up working directly in the wax, but very fine lines, such as the strands depicted within the locks of hair, were cold worked in the metal with a tracer tool and punches. The gray core is very fine and homogeneous. Black flecks of charcoal at one end are not part of the core itself but rather come from the burial accretions on top of the core and on top of some metal surfaces.

Henry Lie (submitted 2012)

Hesperia Art (George Allen), Philadelphia; acquired by Dr. and Mrs. Robert Waelder, Broomall, PA, in 1958. Purchased by Harvard University Art Museums from Robert Hecht, Jr. in 1998.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, David M. Robinson and Marian H. Phinney Funds
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
A satyr playing a syrinx is depicted on the attachment plate of this amphora handle. The satyr’s nude body is flattened where it would have attached to the shoulder of the amphora, and it would have been best viewed from above, looking down on the vessel. In spite of the flatness, the satyr’s musculature is carefully depicted in the arms, torso, and legs. His legs are splayed wide, and his feet are supported and connected by two volutes that spiral out from a scallop shell. He holds the nine-chambered syrinx to his mouth with his fingertips and rests his elbows on his knees, while his stomach supports the bottom of the instrument. The satyr’s beard, with thin straight locks, appears on either side of the syrinx, and the hairs on the moustache are rendered with very fine lines. The thick straight locks of hair on his forehead are framed by his large, pointed ears. His eyes, with thick upper and lower lids, and nose are carefully rendered. The length of the handle is decorated by a central row of raised beads that is flanked by a smaller row of beads on each side. The handle thickens and curves as it approaches the top, where it is broken.

Five other examples of this amphora handle type are known, all of which are more complete at the top than the Harvard piece. An exact parallel for the Harvard handle is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1). Four other handles depicting satyrs in a similar style, which are still attached to amphorae, are in the Vatican Museo Gregoriano Etrusco and the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (2). On the Vatican amphora, one satyr drinks from a kantharos while the other gestures toward his stomach; the Berlin amphora has one satyr who plays the syrinx and another who drinks from a kantharos. On the five complete examples, sleeping dogs or deer are shown curled at the top of the handle where it joins the neck of the vessel.


1. See M. Comstock and C. C. Vermeule, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Bronzes in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Greenwich, CT, 1971) 360-61, no. 507 (inv. no. 99.464).

2. For the Vatican (inv. no. 16299) and the Berlin (inv. no. Fr. 674) amphorae, see U. Peltz, “Die etruskische Bronzeamphora aus Schwarzenbach: Herstellung und Restaurierung,” Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen 46 (2004): 233-44. Peltz notes that the same workshop produced the handles on the Berlin amphora and the handle in the MFA, the latter of which is an exact parallel for Harvard’s handle; see ibid., 235 n. 9. Although the Berlin example was found in a Celtic “hill grave” in what is now western Germany, Peltz locates the workshop producing the amphorae and handles in Vulci, where the Vatican example originates.

Lisa M. Anderson

Publication History

[Reproduction only], "Hesperia Art Advertisement", Archaeology, (March 1958)., p. 292.

David Gordon Mitten and Suzannah F. Doeringer, Master Bronzes from the Classical World, exh. cat., Verlag Philipp von Zabern (Mainz am Rhein, Germany, 1967), p. 194, no. 199.

James Cuno, ed., Harvard University Art Museums Annual Report, 1998-99, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, 2000), p. 21.

Exhibition History

Master Bronzes from the Classical World, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 12/04/1967 - 01/23/1968; City Art Museum of St. Louis, St. Louis, 03/01/1968 - 04/13/1968; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 05/08/1968 - 06/30/1968

Re-View: S422-423 Western Art of the Middle Ages & Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/16/2008 - 06/18/2011

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

Collection Highlights

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at