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Home > Auctions > 24th May 2016 > Greek Hellenistic Centuripe Wedding Urn with Painted Figural Scene

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LOT 0194

Sold for (Inc. bp): £22,320

37" (10 kg, 94cm).

A large ceramic vessel consisting of a pedestal base decorated with diagonal lines of cream, pink, brown and red paint; a bowl shaped body decorated with applied relief consisting of acanthus leaves, rope decoration and a central head of Medusa flanked by a floral scroll, traces of paint; lid painted with a scene of a woman in yellow and white robes seated on a throne, left arm reaching forward; in front winged Eros kneeling and reaching both hands towards an altar; on other side of altar a female (Aphrodite?) seated on a throne and looking towards the altar, Eros and seated female, wearing white and yellow robes; behind another seated female looking towards the other figures and wearing white and brown robes; below painted scene applied rope decoration with applied lion heads below; finial connector painted with flowers, possibly myrtle, on the bulbous body, top with turned grooves and hole in the centre, underside with projecting funnel; possibly a further section absent; on top a sitting dove, head turned slightly to the left, in a white slip.

Property of a German gentleman; acquired 1980s, previously in the Antoine Sanna collection, Belgium, since the late 1960s.

Accompanied by an Art Loss Register certificate.

Cf. Mayo, M. The Art of South Italy: Vases from Magna Graecia, Ricmond, 1982, pp.282-285. For a similar example see the Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession number 30.11.4a–c; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, accession number 1970.478.

This lidded bowl is known as a lekanis and belongs to a unique local tradition of pottery known as Centuripe Ware which was manufactured in eastern Sicily in the third century BC, at a time when the island was a Greek colony. Vessels of this type have been discovered in tombs near the towns of Centuripe and Morgantina, close to Mount Etna, and usually depict women performing religious rites. These vessels are distinguished by the application of tempera paints after firing, which allows for a wider range of colours than is found in the conventional black and red figure traditions. The background of the painted scenes is usually painted a rosy red, and the figures are often made up of pastel colours such as pink, blue, yellow, or purple. The beautifully modelled figures and complex colour combinations look beyond conventional Greek vase-painting practices to traditions of monumental painting, of which few contemporary examples survive; one notable surviving example of this genre is the painting of the abduction of Persephone over the entrance to the tomb of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, at Vergina. Painted and gilded terracotta appliqués, some of which recall architectural details, were also added to these vessels. Although the majority have been found in funerary contexts they have also been found at temples. At Morgantina the majority of the vessels have been found in sanctuaries and all of the temples in the area dedicated to Demeter and Persephone have produced examples, as well as sanctuaries to Aphrodite. Some examples have also been found in domestic contexts.The scenes painted on the vases generally have a ritual character that has been explained as depicting marriage ceremonies, usually of the gods, and the examples found in private houses have been explained as wedding gifts that were displayed to commemorate the marriage of the owners. The deities represented on the scenes have been interpreted as the marriage of Persephone to Hades, with the rituals being presided over by Aphrodite and Eros; the presence of a dove on this piece would tie in well with marriage rituals as the dove was sacred to Aphrodite, goddess of love. The importance and expense of this type of pottery would have led to them being re-used in funerary contexts, particularly the idea of love extending beyond the grave.