The Freud Museum

Athenian White-Ground Lekythos

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3711, Athenian White-Ground Lekythos, Classical Period; c. 420-400 B.C.

Artist: Reed Painter
Culture: Greek
Material: Terracotta
Dimensions: h. 11 1/8 in 28.3 cm

White-Ground lekythoi, such as the one in Freud’s collection, were intended to hold perfumed oil given as gifts to the deceased. The ground, done in a white slip, allows for more colour and detail. However, white-ground painting is also very fragile and wears easily since much of the colouring was applied after firing. Because they were meant to be grave offerings, white-ground lekythoi were often decorated with funerary scenes.

This particular lekythos depicts grave stele flanked by a youth and a woman. Although it can be difficult to distinguish mourner from deceased, the woman, holding a basket of fillets, is most likely bringing offerings to the grave of the youth. This work is attributed to the Reed Painter based on the woman’s head, the way the stele is depicted, and the manner of the youth.

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