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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Trefoil Oinochoe
Work Type
mid 8th-7th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Asia, Phoenicia
Neo-Assyrian period
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

18.1 x 10.6 cm (7 1/8 x 4 3/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Artax 1
Alloy: Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin
Other Elements: lead, iron, arsenic
K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The patina is mottled cupritic red, brown, and various shades of green and black. One side is much greener than the rest, and there are slightly lighter green spots throughout.

The body of the vessel and the handle are shaped from two separate pieces of bronze sheet metal. They are held together with three copper alloy rivets, two of which are located on the top of the handle and one of which is located on the shoulder of the vessel. The inner surface of the vessel’s neck preserves visible marks of the tools used to raise the piece. The sides of the spout were formed by pinching the rim toward the center of the opening. The edge of the rim is ever so slightly flared. The handle is embellished with a variety of punched patterns: a small pointed punch was used on much of the background of the handle, while a short flat punch served to create the lines on the top, and a hollow circular punch (c. 2.5 mm in diameter) was used on the top and vertical sections. Some of the scratches on the longer incised decorative lines expose shiny metal and are probably from post-excavation cleaning. The decorative patterns were created on the flat sheet of metal that formed the handle before it was bent into shape and attached to the vessel. The scalloped edges of the top of the handle were shaped by cutting. The flared edges of the vertical portion of the handle either represent the original thickness of the sheet or were formed by hammering the edges in toward the center.

The foot of the vessel was also formed by hammering but is very uneven, perhaps as a result of damage and repair. Indeed, several areas in the body of the vessel above the foot are dented. One of these has a crack (c. 5 cm long) that was partially hammered out, causing some of the metal near the bottom of the damage overlaps. Another dented area (c. 4.5 x 6.5 cm) appears to have been repaired with a fill and painted over with a fake patina that mimics the surrounding genuine cupritic red and green patina on the bronze. This repair does not show up well under ultraviolet light. There are additional cracks on the shoulder and neck. None of these is particularly visible from the inside of the vessel, which is coated with a variety of accretions.

Francesca G. Bewer (submitted 2012)


Recorded Ownership History
[Royal Athena Gallery, New York, (1989-1890)] and Sol Rabin, Beverly Hills, CA (1989-1990), gift; to The Harvard University Art Museums.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Dr. Jerome M. Eisenberg and Sol Rabin
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
The handle of this trefoil oinochoe is covered on the exterior with incised decoration. The trefoil mouth of the vessel is thickest along the edge, with a round central mouth and two narrower sides. The neck is a long, thin cylinder, and the body is an oblate sphere. The foot is a raised ring at the bottom. The flat handle is widest at the mouth, tapering from 5.7 cm to 0.9 cm at the bottom. The main incised design of the handle includes a series of volutes with short marks and circles. At the top of the handle, there is extensive, although faint, stippling; toward the bottom of the handle, the decoration simplifies into a row of circular marks. The sides of the top of the handle are contoured to correspond to the incised decoration on the exterior; the sides of the gripping portion of the handle are raised edges. The attachment plate is a simple circular shape. The handle is attached to the vessel by means of two rivets under the lip and one in the body; the rivets have semispherical heads visible on the interior of the vessel at the top and on the exterior at the attachment plate.

Exact parallels are lacking for this vessel, in both the shape of the body and the handle. The globular vessel body with long neck and trefoil mouth might be compared to seventh-century-BCE ceramic examples from the Phoenician world (1).


1. See ceramic examples in E. Gubel, ed., Les Phéniciens et le monde méditerraneen, exh. cat., Générale de Banque, Bruxelles; Banque Générale du Luxembourg (Brussels, 1986) 181, no. 168; and G. Markoe, Phoenicians (London, 2000) 162, fig. 65.q. Compare also a metal oinochoe, dated to the twelfth century BCE, with a globular body and a flat handle in V. Karageorghis, Ancient Cyprus: 7,000 Years of Art and Archaeology (Baton Rouge, 1981) no. 68.

Lisa M. Anderson

Exhibition History

  • Ancient to Modern, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2012 - 06/01/2013

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Verification Level

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