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Attributed to the Lion Painter, Monumental Olpe (Pitcher) (c. 730-700 BC)

For Artwork in Focus we explore individual artworks, critiquing their style and discussing their socio-political context. Today we look at Monumental Olpe (Pitcher) (c. 730-700 BC) which is Attributed to the Lion Painter.

About the Work

Title : Monumental Olpe (Pitcher)
Year : c. 730-700 BC
Artist : Attributed to the Lion Painter
Medium : Terracotta
Dimensions : 66 cm h x 35.2 cm diam (26 x 13 7/8 in.)
Location : Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

A Monument Pitcher

The piece presented above is not a regular pitcher for holding water or wine. Instead, it is a monument. This means that, as opposed to being utilised during a regular meal in ancient Greece, the pitcher took the special place of being placed in the tomb. Such tomb ‘monuments’ not only served as markers of who lay there, they were also a symbol of status in society. Monuments were reserved only for the rich and elite in ancient Greece. Of course, it also served the function of holding wine for the dead in the afterlife.

Regarding the artistic style of this pitcher, the digital catalogue of the Harvard Art Museums explains:

“The human and animal figures inserted among the meander and other patterns are conceptual rather than naturalistic creatures: haunches are big, necks broad, waists slim, and key features such as the lion’s jaws carefully indicated.”

Other Details

Attributed to the Lion Painter, the Monumental Olpe (Pitcher) is housed in the Harvard Art Museums in Room 3410. It is part of the museum’s collection of the South Arcade. The piece has been housed at the Fogg Art Museum since 1950.

To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit Artwork in Focus.

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