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Two figures pass a baby between them while another figure looks on.

The vessel is black with a tall neck, wide spout and two handles on the body of the vessel. In red, a standing figure who appears to be a woman either receives or hands a baby to a seated figure. Behind her there is a rectangular structure which may be a drying rack with something stretched on it. A third figure who appears to be male stands behind the seated figure and looks on. They all wear draping robes. There are floral and geometric motifs along the upper rim of the vessel and bordering the scene.

Gallery Text

It was the main duty of a Greek man to defend his city and of a Greek woman to bear children. This water jar presents a picture-perfect family: a young mother, a lively baby boy being handed to a nursemaid, and a youthful husband. A loom signals the accomplishments of the mistress of the house. The scene’s calm mood is typical for the High Classical period of the mid-fifth century BCE and prevails on grave reliefs showing similar family groups. In fact, a hole pierced in the vessel’s base renders it useless to the living and suitable for a tomb.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Hydria (water jar): Family Scene
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Red-figure Hydria (Kalpis): Family Scene in a Domestic Setting
Work Type
440-430 BCE
Find Spot: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Vari (Attica)
Classical period, High
Persistent Link


Level 3, Room 3410, South Arcade
View this object's location on our interactive map

Physical Descriptions

H 34.6 x Diam 24.6 cm (13 5/8 x 9 11/16 in.)
Diam w/ handles 30.2 cm (11 7/8 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
David M. Robinson, Baltimore, MD, (by 1937-1958), bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1960.

State, Edition, Standard Reference Number

Standard Reference Number
Beazley Archive Database #8184

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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Domestic scene, father, mother, child and nurse; loom in background. Mended.

Publication History

  • Eva C. Keuls, The Reign of the Phallus: Sexual Politics in Ancient Athens (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), p. 73, fig. 58
  • Brian A. Sparkes, ed., Greek civilization: an introduction, Blackwell Publishers (Oxford, UK; Malden, Mass., USA, 1998), 238/14.3
  • Karen-Hanne Stærmose Nielsen, Kirkes Væv: Opstadvævens historie og nutidige brug, Historisk-Arkaeologisk Forsogscenter Lejre (Lejre, Denmark, 1999), p. 75, fig. 41
  • Pierre Brulé, Women of Ancient Greece, Edinburgh University Press (Edinburgh, 2003), p. 166
  • Icons and Power: The Mother of God in Byzantium (2006)
  • Gabriel Herman, Morality and Behaviour in Democratic Athens: A Social History, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, UK, 2006), p. 180, fig. 5.1
  • Marie-Claire Crelier, Kinder in Athen: im gesellschaftlichen Wandel des 5. Jahrhunderts v. Chr. (Remshalden, Germany, 2008), p. 262; n.p. H3, ill.
  • Elena Walter-Karydi, Die Athener und ihre Gräber (1000 – 300 v. Chr.), De Gruyter (Berlin, 2015), pp. 328-329, fig. 209
  • Stella Spantidaki, Textile Production in Classical Athens, Oxbow Books (Oxford, UK, 2016), p. 54, fig. 5.7
  • John Oakley, A Guide to Scenes of Daily Life on Athenian Vases, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, 2020), pp. 9-11, fig. 1.4

Exhibition History

  • The David Moore Robinson Bequest of Classical Art and Antiquities: A Special Exhibition, Fogg Art Museum, 05/01/1961 - 09/20/1961
  • Pandora's Box: Women in Classical Greece, The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, 11/05/1995 - 01/07/1996; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, 02/04/1996 - 03/31/1996; Antikenmuseum und Sammlung Ludwig, Basel, 04/28/1996 - 06/23/1996
  • Coming of Age in Ancient Greece: Images of Childhood from the Classical Past, Hood Museum of Art, Hanover, 08/23/2003 - 12/14/2003; Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, New York, 01/20/2004 - 04/15/2004; Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, 05/21/2004 - 08/01/2004; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 09/14/2004 - 12/16/2004
  • HAA132e The Ideal of the Everyday in Greek Art (S427) Spring 2012, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2012 - 05/12/2012
  • 32Q: 3410 South Arcade, Harvard Art Museums, 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