Black Figure Lekythos; c. 500 BC; Attica; 65.001


R D Milns Antiquities Museum


Black Figure Lekythos

About this object

This small pottery lekythos was painted by the Diosphos Painter in the black-figure style at a time when red-figure was the dominant style of vase painting. It has an echinus-shaped mouth with a lip that is square in profile. The narrow neck joins on to an almost flat shoulder, while the strap handle passes from the base of the neck up and down to the outer edge of the shoulder. The body tapers sharply towards the foot which is a flat disc. The main figured scene, showing a seated and garlanded Dionysus between two satyrs playing musical instruments, occupies the widest part of the body on the side that is opposite the handle. This type of small attic lekythos is known as the "Little Lion" shape. The name comes from the frequent use of lions on the shoulder as decoration. The main colours are the red of the clay, black where slip has been painted on to the surface of the vase plus some added red and white. The vase has been broken into two large fragments, one consisting of the mouth, neck, shoulder and top part of the body and the other of the body and foot, plus some smaller fragments, and then repaired. The black and added white show some wear.

1. The mouth is black on its inner and outer surfaces while the top of the lip has added red. The neck and the shoulder are reserved. There is a band of black tongues on the shoulder, around the base of the neck, and a further band of black vestigial lotus buds on its outer edge.
2. The strap handle is painted black on its outer surface.
3. The main figured scene is painted in black on a red ground and placed on a brown ground-line. Above the figures is an ivy pattern frieze with above and below, double brown horizontal lines that continue around the vase as does the single brown line separating the ivy leaves, although the leaves are only above the figures. In the centre is Dionysus, in profile facing right, seated on a stool with animal feet. He is holding a kantharos in his right hand, a branched grape vine in his left and wears a garland on his head. On the left is a dancing satyr playing a lyre and facing right, and on the right is another satyr, facing left, playing a double flute. All figures have added red and Dionysus has added white on his clothing. Detail is incised although there is little anatomical detail. The eyes are rounded with an eyebrow above. Ears are simple hooks with a central dot in added red on Dionysus. All beards are red. The folds of drapery are very free and hang naturally.
4. Below the scene, the body is painted black except for a reserved band about one third of the way to the base.
5. The disc foot is painted black with a reserved outer edge.

Attributed to the Diosphos Painter. The Diosphos Painter was closely associated with the Sappho Painter and worked in Athens in the early part of the fifth century B.C. He mainly painted small vases such as lekythoi, small neck-amphorae ("doubleens") and alabastra. His name comes from an inscription on an amphora in the Cabinet des Médailles, Paris (number 219) which has a scene that perhaps shows the birth of Dionysus. While he commonly used the old -fashioned black-figure technique on either a red or a white ground, on his more interesting vases the Diosphos Painter also used Six's technique or a "semi-outline" technique in which figures, partly black and partly outline are combined. A concern with decorative balance is characteristic of his style and his figures often display a child-like spriteliness.

Date Made

c. 500 BC



Place Made


Subject and Association Keywords


Subject and Association Keywords


Subject and Association Keywords


Subject and Association Description

Lekythoi were used, mainly by women, to hold oil or perfumed oil for toiletry purposes usually, but they could also be used as tableware.

Medium and Materials


Style and Iconography





Height = 151 mm
Diameter = 56 mm

Object Type


Object number


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