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A two-handled bowl seen from below which is decorated with two large eyes on either side of a figure.

A red bowl decorated with two large eyes in black. Between the eyes there is a figure (also in black) whose body faces right while their head faces left. They hold a long spear in their left hand and gesture with their right arm. They also wear a helmet with a tall attachment which is implied to continue past the edge of the bowl. The bowl has a fluted stem and a flat base, and the stem is hollow, opening up a round hole in the base.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Eye Cup: Athena
Work Type
c. 530 BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Vulci (Etruria)
Archaic period
Persistent Link


Level 3, Room 3400, Ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Art, Ancient Greece in Black and Orange
View this object's location on our interactive map

Physical Descriptions

H. 11.7 x Diam. 21.5 cm (4 5/8 x 8 7/16 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
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
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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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.

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

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Verification Level

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