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Work Votive tablet

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

Votive tablet

© 1993 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

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

Author(s):
Kardianou-Michel Alexandra

More than a thousand votive tablets were found at Penteskouphia near Corinth. Rectangular and of varying dimensions, sometimes with holes for hanging, they were probably hung on the branches of trees. Two stages in the making of vases are shown on this pinax. Onymon is using a pick to extract clay from a pit. On the other side, the potter is in front of the kiln holding the hook used for closing the vent.

The tablets found at Penteskouphia

The Penteskouphia site is 2.5 kilometers southeast of Corinth. A chance discovery in the summer of 1879 brought to light over a thousand tablets and painted fragments, sixteen of which are in the Louvre; the rest are in Berlin. More than 250 other fragments were placed in the Corinth Museum in 1905.
The rectangular tablets ("pinakes"), whose dimensions and qualities vary, are in white pottery covered with cream-colored slip. Some are painted on one side only. The decoration in black paint is highlighted with violet or white and the details brought out by incisions. These ex-votos are sometimes pierced with two holes so that they can be hung. They were probably suspended from the branches of trees or placed in branches near a cave or country sanctuary dedicated to Poseidon, since no remains of any archaic construction or necropolis have been found to date in the location where the tablets were found - that might account for such a large concentration of offerings in the same place.
These tablets are often depicted on Greek vases - together with herms - hanging on strings on a temple wall or a tree.
The offerings found at Penteskouphia are not unique. Others were found in Perachora in the potters' district of Corinth, Epidaurus, and Athens. They can be dated fairly easily by the different styles and were used for a fairly long period. The tablets were produced from the late seventh century until circa 500 BC.

Decoration

The most frequently portrayed deity is Poseidon - sometimes accompanied by Amphitrite - often on a chariot and holding his trident, forming a hieratic image reminiscent of an archaic sculpture. Athena and Hermes are also depicted. Mythological scenes are rare, though. There are also illustrations of horsemen and warriors, and naval scenes. Many scenes depict the work of potters: the extraction of clay, the potter working at the wheel or inspecting firing.
Several tablets bear inscriptions painted in the Corinthian alphabet of the sixth century BC, providing us with the names of the deities to which they were offered as well as the names of those who made the offerings, including local potters and painters (for example, a pinax in the Louvre shows that the painter Milonidas dedicated his own work).

The pottery

Two stages in the making of vases are shown on this pinax. According to the inscription, Onymon is using a pick to extract clay from a pit. On the other side, the potter Sordis is in front of his kiln holding the hook used to close the vent.
Eighteen tablets, four of which are whole, show potters' kilns. They are all round and small. The vault has a vent to release smoke and flames. The potter filled the kiln from the top. Once it was full, he completed the construction of the vault, leaving a vent that could be open or closed according to the phase of firing. When this was finished, part of the vault was demolished so that the vases could be taken out.

Bibliography

DENOYELLE Martine, Chefs d'oeuvres de la céramique grecque dans les collections du Louvre, 1994, p. 40, n 15.
Feuillet pédagogique : DENOYELLE M. : La fabrication des vases antiques, N 3/08
CUOMO DI CAPRIO Ninina, Pottery Kilns on Pinakes from Corinth, in Ancient Greek and Related Pottery, Proceedings of the International Vase Symposium 5, Amsterdam, 1984, pp. 72-82.

Technical description

  • Sordis

    Votive tablet

    Archaic period, 600-575 BC

    Penteskouphia (near Corinth, Greece)

    Corinth, Greece

  • Clay, gloss paint, outline drawing, incisions, red highlighting.

    H. 7.20 cm; L. 10 cm; D. 0.70 cm

  • Purchased 1881

    MNB 2858

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Galerie Campana II
    Room 41

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Additional information about the work

A name is inscribed in black on each face: Onymon and Sordis.