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Work Corinthian plastic vase in the form of a drinker
Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Archaic Greek Art (7th-6th centuries BC)
Plastic vase in the form of a komast
© Musée du Louvre
Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Archaic Greek Art (7th-6th centuries BC)
This figurine of a komast—a banqueter holding a skyphos formerly known as "the drinking satyr"—is actually a trick vase. Thanks to the potters' skill and knowledge of the basic principles of physics, this vase was both a source of amusement and a miraculous fountain of wine—a true marvel of Dionysus, the god of wine and revelry (komos). The figure and its base are hollow; the wine could be made to appear or disappear in the skyphos by means of a clever system of holes.
Komasts—dancing figures with expressive gestures, dressed in padded costumes that exaggerated their anatomy—feature on many Corinthian vases. They were a common iconographic theme from the Transitional Period (630-615 BC) through the Late Corinthian (570-550 BC), and were represented on aryballoi, alabastra, and wine vases such as kraters and oinochoes. Komasts were originally ordinary people who celebrated the rituals related to the cult of wine god Dionysus. Corinthian potters excelled in producing so-called "plastic vases" (i.e. vases in the shapes of animals, birds, fruits, or people).
The drinking komast
This Corinthian plastic vase—the figurine of a komast holding a skyphos—is an unusual and enigmatic object, in the form of an amusing trick. Formerly referred to as "the drinking satyr", it is attributed to the Komast group and unquestionably dated to 580-570 BC, being clearly related to the painted pottery of that period. The skyphos that the komast holds to his belly is decorated with a frieze of horsemen (a common decorative theme for the Corinthian painters of that time), together with spirals, and radiating ridges. Although the figure itself is a caricature with a disproportionately fat belly, and wears nothing but a leopard skin (pardalis) and boots, it looks nothing like a satyr. The huge belly merely accentuates the comic aspect of this avidly thirsty drinker who has nothing grotesque or animal about him, and lacks the pug nose, pointed ears, and tail of the companion of Dionysus.
The inscription in the Boeotian alphabet on the komast's arm indicates the name of the owner of the vase, engraved after purchase—so it was not made to commission. It proves that Boeotian buyers were interested in this Corinthian ware.
A trick vase
Our drinking komast hides a surprise. The base and the figure itself are hollow, and the bottom of the skyphos is pierced with a hole, as is the body of the drinker in two places. By filling the skyphos and tipping the object backwards, liquid can pass into the drinker's belly. If the two holes are plugged and the vase placed on its base, the wine remains inside the cavities and the skyphos is empty; when the holes are unplugged, the air pressure sends the liquid down to fill the skyphos.
- DENOYELLE Martine, Chefs d'œuvre de la céramique grecque dans les collections du Louvre, 1994, p. 36, notice 13.
- LISSARRAGUE François, Un flot d'images, 1987, p. 50-51.
- SMITH Tyler Jo, "Dancing Spaces and Dining Places : Archaic Komasts at the Symposion" dans Periplous : Mélanges Boardman, 2000.
Plastic vase in the form of a komast
C. 600-575 BC
H. 20.5 cm; Diam. 14.5 cm; W. 17.5 cm
Acquired in 1891
Galerie Campana II
Display case 14: Corinthian ceramics
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