Hellenistic Marble Shell

SKU DD.001

Extra Fine


300 BC to 100 BC


10″ (25.4cm) high x 18″ (45.7cm) wide




Central Europe

Gallery Location



Extremely rare, only a few marble shells have survived from the ancient world. A form taken from the shells that could be found along the shores of Greece, its hollowed out interior is suggestive of its use as a libation vessel, used to pour liquids (usually wine) into the ground as thanks to the gods, an invocation for divine help, or in honor of the deceased. However, as so few survive and their find contexts are not coherent, their original function is not known. This shell is finely carved, the natural qualities of the marble giving it an incredibly natural appearance. The carving is smooth and gently rendered with great attention to detail. It shows a clear interest and study of the natural world by whoever created this magnificent piece. It is truly remarkable. Other examples can be seen in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1995:19), and in the J. Paul Getty Museum.

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