Lebes Gamikos Greek vessel




6th Century BC to 4th BC


33″ (83.8cm) high x 12″ (30.5cm) wide





Gallery Location



Red-figure Lebes Gamikos – “marriage bowl” – with white, yellow and red additions. Traditionally used during the ancient marriage ceremony, it may have been intended to store water for the nuptial bath, mix wine or prepare food for the wedding banquet, serve as a vase for flowers or gift for the bride. This particular example is a far more elaborated form than other extant examples that consist of a small Lebes on a stand. Here, we have a tripartite form consisting of a large Amphora with handles supporting stemmed Kylix – “drinking cup” – with integral, surmounting Lebes. Decoration consists of, from main register up, on side A: a half-draped, bearded male wearing victor’s wreath, seated on rocky outcrop, presenting wreath to goddess standing right; goddess leans against half-column, holds spear and shield and presents male with plumed Athenian helmet. To left, armoured male wearing Athenian helmet, holding shield and spear. Fillets and ivy in the field; egg and dot motif above and meander motif to groundline; elaborate palmette complex on either side. Naked warrior wearing helmet, shield and greaves running left on shoulder; box and pinwheel in the field. To Kylix, on either side we have the profiled head of “Lady of Fashion,” hair fastened in kekryphalos and surmounted by stephane, wearing pearl earrings and necklace; palmette either side; wave motif and tongues below. To Lebes, “Lady of Fashion” wearing chiton; fillet in hair surmounted by stephane, holding mirror and basket; tongues to shoulders and handle; egg and dot to rim; palmette either side. Main register on side B shows the naked groom, chlamys draped across shoulders, arriving on horseback, carrying lit torch; naked male with chlamys draped over left arm leads horse by red reins on the right, similarly carrying lit torch; behind, naked male holding torch in left hand and presenting groom with small gift in right hand. Fillets, above; ivy, to groundline. To shoulder, female wearing chiton, hair in kekryphalos surmounted by stephane, pearl necklace and bracelet and holding patera in one hand and thyrsus – associated with Dionysus – with fillet attached in the other. Box and pinwheels in the field. “Lady of Fashion” to Kylix – detailed above – Lebes, with male wearing himation leaning against half-column with pomegranate; ivy and ovolo in the field. These scenes may be interpreted as references to classical mythology. The wedding of Peleus and Thetis often features on Lebes Gamikos. The presentation of the helmet to the seated male may in fact reference Thetis’s presentation of armour to her son, Achilles as described in The Iliad. The helmeted figure on the left could be Ares. The obverse may represent the groom arriving on horseback on the wedding day. An exquisite, exceptionally well-executed piece that speaks not only of the prevalent artistic vocabulary but offers a tantalizing insight into wedding rites in the ancient Classical world. Cf. Antiken-museen, Berlin, Germany, Catalogue no.: Berlin F2294

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