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Identification and Creation
Object Number
1960.323
Title
Eye Cup: Athena
Classification
Vessels
Work Type
vessel
Date
c. 530 BCE
Places
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Vulci (Etruria)
Period
Archaic period
Culture
Greek
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/288461
Location
Level 3, Room 3400, Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Art, Ancient Greece in Black and Orange
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Physical Descriptions
Medium
Terracotta
Technique
Black-figure
Dimensions
H. 11.7 x Diam. 21.5 cm (4 5/8 x 8 7/16 in.)
Provenance
Fallani Collection. David M. Robinson, Baltimore, MD, (by 1954-1958), bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1960.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of David M. Robinson
Accession Year
1960
Object Number
1960.323
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
The exterior of this cup is a set of two pairs of eyes on either side, with the figure of the goddess Athena in the middle in place of a nose. The eyes are large and opened wide with exaggerated tear ducts. Their irises and pupils are rendered as target-like circles, using added white and added red in addition to a bold black outline. Above the eyes are slim and curvaceous eyebrows. The Athena in the center, on either side of the cup, faces right with her head turned over her shoulder. The plume of her helmet extends all the way up to the rim of the cup. On one side, she points her spear to the right, extending her other hand outwards. Her helmet, shirt, and skirt are decorated with added red. On the other side, her spear is pointed upward, her pose much narrower. Though her aegis is not decorated with red, her helmet and skirt are.


Commentary
The depiction of eyes on ceramic drinking vessels was most common for vases created in the later 6th century B.C.E. Their exact function is unknown, but they frequently occur with Dionysian imagery and have been thought perhaps to represent the wide, drunken eyes of the god. Another plausible theory is that they are apotropaic, meaning that they are intended to ward off evils like the evil eye. In cups such as this one, they double as masks as they cover the face when the drinker lifts the cup up to finish the last of the wine. Sometimes, their mask-like quality can be employed for humorous effect.
Publication History

David Moore Robinson, "Unpublished Greek Vases in the Robinson Collection", American Journal of Archaeology (Jan., 1956), vol. 60, no. 1, pp. 1-25

Exhibition History

The David Moore Robinson Bequest of Classical Art and Antiquities: A Special Exhibition, Fogg Art Museum, 05/01/1961 - 09/20/1961

32Q: 3400 Greek, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

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 am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu