Friday, January 22, 2021

Lebes gamikos: ceremonial wedding jars

The lebes gamikos, or "nuptial lebes," (plural - lebetes gamikoi) is a form of ancient Greek pottery used in marriage ceremonies (literally, it means marriage vase). It was probably used in the ritual sprinkling of the bride with water before the wedding. In form, it has a large bowl-like body and a stand that can be long or short. A typical lebes gamikos shows wedding scenes (including mythic weddings such as the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, but the iconography can also be related to scenes such as mimes.

One of the earliest lebetes gamikoi was painted by, apparently, a follower of Sophilos (c. 580 - 570 BCE). The lebes gamikos had the typical wedding procession, accompanied by the unique addition of chariots bearing Helen and Menelaos and the bride's brothers.

Sophilos (active about 590 – 570 BCE) was an Attic potter and vase painter in the black-figure style. Sophilos is the oldest Attic vase painter so far to be known by his true name. Fragments of two wine basins ('’dinoi’’) in Athens are signed by him, indicating that he both potted and painted them. Apart from his work for the domestic market, he was also one of the masters of major significance in the process of supplanting the dominance of Corinthian vase painting in the markets of Etruria, and Southern Italy, the most important export area for Greek vases. His works were exported as far as the Black Sea region, Syria and Egypt (Naukratis). He was one of the first painters to use additional colors at a grand scale, thus increasing the optical and artistic distinction between Corinthian and Attic vase painting. While he was conservative and traditionalist in terms of the ornamentation and animal figures he used, his intervening figural scenes, mostly of mythological motifs, were entirely innovative. He broke up established standard scenes, had figures act individually, and found clever and unconventional new ways of structuring the narrative. As his artistic style progressed, he increasingly pushed ornamental designs into the margin, as his figural scenes became more and more important.

Woman and youth. Side B from a Apulian red-figure lebes gamikos, 360–350 BCE at The Louvre by Wikimedia Commons contributor Marie-Lan Nguyen

Lebes gamikos with eros seated in front of a woman, from Apulia, 350-300 BCE at the Cincinnati Museum of Art courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Sailko

Lebes Gamikos with lid in the form of a lekanis, attributed to Asteas or his workshop, Paestum, 350-340 BCE at the Martin von Wagner Museum in W├╝rzburg, Germany courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Daderot.

Gynaeceum scene. Side A of an Attic red-figure lebes gamikos, 420–410 BCE at The Louvre courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Marie-Lan Nguyen.

Lebes Gamikos, ascribed to the Sabouroff painter, depicting the adornment of a bride, around 450 BCE, with another piece from a grave in Athens, Antikensammlung Berlin / Altes Museum courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Marcus Cyron

Lebes gamikos with judgment of paris and marriage scene, from Attica, 520-510 BCE courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Sailko

Nuptial lebes with representation of female worshippers, deposited as a grave good. Thebes, 4th century BCE at the Archaeological Museum of Thebes courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Zde.

Lebes Gamikos marriage jar, Asteas-Python Workshop, Paestan red figure, 325-320 BCE, terracotta - Spurlock Museum courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Daderot

Lebes gamikos with lid. Second half of fourth century B.C.E. in the Mediterranean Museum in Sweden courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Lokal Profil

Terracotta lebes gamikos (jar associated with weddings) with lid, Greek from Centuripe, Sicily, 3rd century B.C.E. at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Two women at a bathtub on which Eros is standing. Paestum red-figure lebes gamikos, ca. 340 BCE at the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor Marie-Lan Nguyen

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