White-Ground Lekythos

Created: Attica. circa 490 BC


Lekythos is a vase for oil and ointments. This example combines the red-figure technique - in which the image or ornament is reserved in unpainted clay against a background painted with black lacquer - with painting on a white ground covering the central part of the body. White-ground lekythi were usually used in burial rituals. Artemis, goddess of the hunt, holds in one hand a flat bowl or phiale and with the other touches the beak of a swan. The face and naked parts of the goddess's body and the figure of the swan are in low relief, formed through layers of application of the white ground. The remaining drawing is composed of lacquer and relief lines, with details drawn in diluted lacquer to create a painterly effect. The grace of the goddess's slender silhouette is emphasized by the elegant gesture of the hands. The face is enlivened by an "archaic" smile, while the folds of drapery are arranged according to an old-fashioned system known as the "swallow tail". A taste for archaic forms in vase painting, the interest in rare subjects and the creation of poetic images were all features of the work of an artist known - after a depiction of Pan on a vase in Boston - as the Pan Painter. The Hermitage lekythos is one of the best works by this outstanding vase-painter of the first quarter of the 5th century BC.


White-Ground Lekythos





height: 38,0 cm

Acquisition date:

Entered the Hermitage in 1901; formerly in the V.K. Abaza collection

Inventory Number:



User collections including this work of art: