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Identification and Creation
Object Number
Handle and Neck of an Oinochoe (wine pitcher)
Work Type
early 5th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Campania
Archaic period, Late, to Early Classical
Persistent Link
Level 3, Room 3400, Ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Art, Ancient Greece in Black and Orange
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Physical Descriptions
Bronze, leaded bronze handle
Cast, lost-wax process
7.2 x 18.7 x 22.8 cm (2 13/16 x 7 3/8 x 9 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Leaded Bronze:
Point 1 (handle): Cu, 83.9; Sn, 9.26; Pb, 6.36; Zn, 0.01; Fe, 0.05; Ni, 0.07; Ag, 0.06; Sb, 0.07; As, 0.15; Bi, 0.054; Co, 0.016; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
J. Riederer

Chemical Composition: Body
XRF data from Tracer
Alloy: Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin
Other Elements: lead, iron, silver, arsenic

XRF data from Artax 1
Alloy: Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin
Other Elements: lead, iron, arsenic

XRF data from Artax 1
Alloy: Leaded Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin, lead
Other Elements: iron, nickel, arsenic

XRF data from Tracer
Alloy: Leaded Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin, lead
Other Elements: iron, nickel, silver, antimony, arsenic

K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The original vessel was made up of at least two pieces: a cast handle and a raised body. The body would have been hammered out from a thicker-walled cast form with a thick, partially decorated lip. The fine beads may also have been formed with a punch. The guilloche and other decorative elements were cold worked into the surface. The sides of the top edge adjacent to the handle appear to have been hammered out and squeezed or pinched together to form the narrow protruding elements. The rows of round indentations at the center of the incised lines of the guilloche were punched. In several areas, the incised lines show very fine repeated marks of the chisel tip’s progression through the metal (visible only under magnification).

Only the top of the body remains; the part below the neck broke off due to weakening of the metal through mineralization. The surface of the vessel is very polished and a smooth light to dark green. The part of the handle that would have had the most exposure due to handling is darkest. The vessel’s surface reveals a fine fibrous, wavy linear structure that is also visible with the aid of magnification in the highly mineralized (and fragile) areas at the broken edges of the body. The pattern suggests that the metal underwent elongation as it was shaped and that the heterogeneous nature of the alloy accounts for differential corrosion. U. Peltz, conservator of metals at the Antikensammlung in Berlin, suggested that the lighter parts are the result of preferential corrosion of the tin-rich areas that formed metastannic acid.

The handle was cast separately by the lost-wax process, judging from the details and complexity of the shape. Much of the detail was already formed in the model but reworked in the metal (e.g., the strands of hair and beard). The silenus face on the top of the handle is much more worn that the one at its base. The handle was joined to the vessel by means of additional metal poured between the two parts, forming a mechanical join. One can see the space between the metals clearly on the proper right side of the top silenus head. A similar method was no doubt used to affix the attachment plate of the handle, as the inner surface is quite smooth and there are no visible holes or traces of some other method of joining. The ovoid impressions preserved in the inner surface of the vessel are formed by hammer blows, but they seem to be spaced too far apart to relate to the raising of the vessel.

The surface was clearly cleaned or scraped free of corrosion accretions during restoration. A number of small pitted areas of the same size on the proper right side of the neck and into the guilloche could reflect areas where the corrosion attacked the surface, or perhaps they could be the location of later damage during excavation. The surface also has a number of scratches and cracks emanating up from the broken edges. Evidence of deep scraping is particularly visible on sections of the handle. The dark brown accretions on the handle may be a mixture of burial accretions and wax, as the material is quite friable and the metal surface below it is matte and green. Remains of a light orange clay or earth are stuck to various parts of the vessel (e.g., inside of the vessel, bottom of the handle, parts of the guilloche decoration). The dark brown patch on the underside of the protruding element on the proper left side of the rim corresponds to an accretion of a tan material on the inner surface and looks like some kind of repair.

Francesca G. Bewer (submitted 2011)

Frederick M. Watkins, New Haven, CT, (by 1953-1972), bequest; to the Fogg Art Museum, 1972.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Frederick M. Watkins
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 top of this beaked oinochoe, or Schnabelkanne, ends with breaks in the neck. It has a lustrous green patina. Part of an incised guilloche band, framed by tiny beads, is preserved at the bottom of the break. A second guilloche, framed by tiny beads bounded by raised, horizontal ridges, extends around the mouth of the vessel. A band of tongues extends completely around the rim of the spout and passes under the attachment for the handle.

The handle, cast in one piece and concave in profile, consists of a central ridge, widening into a facet that extends to the back of the silenus head facing into the spout. The smaller, upper silenus, with a broad nose and large oval eyes, peers into the spout. The ends of his long outward-curving moustache extend to the edge of his beard.

The lower terminal of the handle, by which it was attached to the shoulder of the oinochoe, ends in a larger satyr head, which has similar facial features and details to the smaller silenus head. A horizontal groove separates the bottom of the handle from the top of the satyr’s hair. This face exhibits the same bulging tear-shaped pupils surrounded by raised eyelids as the head at the rim. The satyr’s pointed animal ears, modeled by deep tear-shaped grooves, curve along the outer contours of his hair. There are traces of five or six large beads at the outer sides of the base of the handle. The attachment of the silenus head is concave on the rear, so that it would fit closely to the contour of the shoulder of the vessel.

This magnificent fragmentary ensemble comes from one of the finest examples of a type of beak-spouted oinochoe that was extremely popular during the fifth through the early third centuries BCE in both Italy and northern Greece (1). The painstakingly rendered guilloche and the vigorous modeling of the silenus heads suggest that this piece originated in a Campanian or even Latin workshop during the first half of the fifth century BCE (2).


1. For additional bibliography, see I. Krauskopf, “La ‘Schnabelkanne’ della collezione Watkins nel Fogg Art Museum e vasi affini,” Prospettiva 20 (1980): 7-16, esp. 14, n.6-7; and P. J. Riis, “Some Campanian Types of Heads,” in From the Collections of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptothek, 1938 (Copenhagen, 1939) 2: 140-68, esp. 144-47, fig. 6.c. A comparable silenus looks into the mouth of a similarly shaped vessel from Tomb A at Derveni in Thessaloniki; see P. Themelis and I. Touratsoglou, Οι τάφοι του Δερβενίου = Hoi taphoi tou Derveniou (Athens, 1997) 35, no. A5, pl. 40 [in Greek]. For ceramic vessels of similar shape, see J. D. Beazley, Etruscan Vase-Painting (Oxford, 1947) 266, shape 6. For a discussion of the shape in general, see E. Hostetter, Bronzes from Spina 2 (Mainz, 2001) 38-40.

2. For a comparison of the silenus heads, see E. Diehl, Die Hydria: Formgeschichte und Verwendung im Kult des Altertums (Mainz, 1964) 220-21, no. B173, pl. 21.2.

David G. Mitten

Publication History

Ancient Art in American Private Collections, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1954), no. 230, pl. 71.

The Frederick M. Watkins Collection, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1973), p. 77-79, no. 32.

Caroline Houser, Dionysos and His Circle: Ancient Through Modern, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, 1979), p. 56-57, no. 37.

Ingrid Krauskopf, "La 'Schnabelkanne' della collezione Watkins nel Fogg Art Museum e vasi affini", Prospettiva (January 1980), vol. 20, 7-16., figs. 1-3.

Henry Lie and Francesca Bewer, "Ex Aere Factum: Technical Notes on Ancient Bronzes", Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, ed. Susanne Ebbinghaus, Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2014), 38-63, pp. 43 and 54-55, figs. 2.2 and 2.11.a-b.

Susanne Ebbinghaus, ed., Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, Harvard Art Museum/Yale University Press (Cambridge, MA, 2014), p. 43, fig. 2.2; pp. 54-56, 75, fig. 2.11a-b

Exhibition History

Ancient Art in American Private Collections, Fogg Art Museum, 12/28/1954 - 02/15/1955

The Frederick M. Watkins Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 01/31/1973 - 03/14/1973

Dionysos and His Circle: Ancient through Modern, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 12/10/1979 - 02/10/1980

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

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

Google Art Project

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