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Lekythos in the Form of Sphinx

Late 5th century BC

Attica

Clay; h 21.5 cm

This vessel for perfumed oil, of Attic work, was found not far from Taman in 1869. This superb example of Greek art demonstrates a notable characteristic of art of the Classical period: the form of the rim, neck and handle is that of a lekythos, while the body is executed in the form of a Sphinx a mythological creature with a lion's body, bird's wings, and a woman's head, with fine facial features and a magnificent head of curly hair. Two techniques are used in the painting: the rim, neck and surface beneath the handle are covered with black lacquer and painted in red-figure style. The well-preserved polychrome painting on the Sphinx body makes this lekythos worthy of particular note: the blue eyes shaded by their black eyelashes, the delicate colour of the cheeks, the pink lips and moderate use of gilding enable us to imagine the original colour range of monumental Greek sculpture of the Classical epoch.

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