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Work Aryballos

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Archaic Greek Art (7th-6th centuries BC)

Aryballos

© R.M.N./H. Lewandowski

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Archaic Greek Art (7th-6th centuries BC)

Author(s):
Marie-Bénédicte Astier

This bronze aryballos of Corinthian inspiration is engraved with an inscription telling us that the object is an offering to two gods, probably Castor and Pollux, by Chalkodamas. The bottle comes from Sparta but the style of the letters of the dedication show that it is an Argive work made between the late 7th century and 550 BC. The dedicator's name means "He who dominates bronze," suggesting that Chalkodamas is the maker of the bottle.

An offering by Chalkodamas

This small bronze aryballos entered the collection of the Louvre in 1884. An inscription in Greek runs across the belly of the bottle, engraved from right to left: "Chalkodamas dedicated me to the two gods as an offering of exquisite beauty." In accordance with an Archaic custom displayed by many votive offerings (statues, small sculptures, vases, and jewelry, among others), the object speaks. It describes itself as an object of exceptional beauty, no doubt one of great virtuosity at the time, and calls itself an "agalma," that is, an offering aiming to please the gods to whom it was dedicated. The inscription is unusual in that the name of the dedicator, meaning "he who dominates bronze," suggests that Chalkodamas was a bronze-maker and that this aryballos was his work.

An Argive work from the Archaic period

This votive offering probably comes from Sparta in Laconia (southern Peloponnese). However, the form of the letters of the dedication are of Argive origin and enable us to date the bottle to the early decades of the Archaic period. The object would therefore have been made between the late 7th century BC and the first half of the 6th century BC in a workshop of the Argos region, northeast of the Peloponnese. In this context, the "two gods" mentioned in the inscription probably refer to the Dioscuri; the twins Castor and Pollux were the object of a particular cult in this part of the Peloponnese penisula. They were honored notably in a large temple located between Argos and Lerni.

A bottle inspired by Corinthian pottery

The shape of this vessel is inspired by the Proto-Corinthian terracotta models made in great numbers from the 7th century BC in the region of Corinth, which borders the Argolis. The perfume trade, particularly active at the time, led craftsmen to create tiny bottles for perfumed oil, usually with a spherical or pear-shaped belly, a vertical handle (lost here), and a wide, flat rim for easier application of the ointment or perfume.

Technical description

  • Chalkodamas (?)

    Aryballos

    Late 7th century BC to first half of 6th century BC

    Sparta? (Greece)

    Argos (Greece)

  • Cast bronze with incisions

    H. 4 cm

  • Purchase, 1884

    Br 2918

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Bronzes room
    Room 32, temporarily closed to the public, works n

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Additional information about the work

Inscription engraved on the bottle's belly: "Chalkodamas dedicated me to the two gods as an offering of exquisite beauty"