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Work Ionian "Wild Goat" oenochoe reflecting the Oriental influence

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

Oenochoé ionienne orientalisante

© 2008 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

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

Kardianou-Michel Alexandra

This style's name comes from the wild goats frequently depicted on oenochoes - vessels used for pouring wine. They developed from bronze vessels and dishes with or without a foot. The line drawing has highlights applied over an ivory-colored engobe that covers the whole surface. Highly stylized animal drawings, featuring both real and mythological creatures, decorate several zones. The rest is ornamented with stylized patterns including triangles, swastikas, rosettes, and abstract floral motifs.

The Oriental influence

In the late 8th and the 7th centuries BC, the geometric style began to change. Objects were continually being imported. In around 730 BC, artisans began to take an interest in these imports and tried to imitate them. The imports were mainly luxury goods such as metal vases, fabrics, and decorative objects made of ivory. In turn, the new techniques gave rise to new subjects and shapes. Links with the East led to the introduction of Oriental motifs in Greek art, such as plant motifs (lotus blossoms and palmettes), exotic or mythological animals, and patterns originally woven into fabrics, such as braided motifs and rosettes.

A new range of decorative motifs

The increase in the range of decorative motifs was particularly apparent in pottery. Human figures and animals were depicted in a more naturalist manner. In around 660 BC the style developed further, including more mythological motifs - hybrid animals, sphinxes, mermaids, centaurs, gryphons, the Gorgons, and Pegasus, the winged horse. The plant motifs already in use were joined by more typically Oriental ones such as the Tree of Life, which forms a pattern of rosettes, rinceaux, and various other intertwining motifs. At the same time, the motifs typical of the geometric style became less rigid and spread over the whole surface. The artisans influenced by the Oriental style used incisions to give more detail to their drawings - a technique already in use for bronze and ivory pieces. The red and white highlights and the shades of brown and black often give a real impression of polychromy against the pale ground of the engobe. The vases are often painted in a miniaturist style with the surface of the vase divided into zones, each with a different type of decoration, while the background is ornamented with dots in rosette patterns. The animal friezes and picturesque hunting scenes are also an indication of the Oriental influence.

The "Wild Goat" style

In Eastern Greece and Egypt, there arose a remarkable, rich style of ornamentation, which spread to the whole Ionian coast of Asia Minor and the Greek isles - Rhodes, Khios, Klazomenes, Naukratis - during the course of the 7th and into the early years of the 6th century BC. The "Wild Goat" style was for many years wrongly thought to have originated in Rhodes because a number of such pieces were found in the Kamiros necropolis on the island. It is now known that the pottery was made in a number of centers, including Miletus and Khios. The Lévy oenochoe, decorated with mythical creatures on the shoulders and five zones of both tame and wild animals on the body, is an extremely delicate piece of work. The light, fluid colors and the precise lines of the drawings are reminiscent of embroidery or silk fabric.


Denoyelle Martine, Chefs-d'oeuvre de la céramique grecque dans les collections du Louvre, 1994, p. 24, n 7.

Technical description

  • Oenochoé ionienne orientalisante

    Vers 640 - 630 avant J.-C.

    Rhodes ? Milet ?

  • H. : 39,50 cm. ; D. : 30 cm.

  • Collection Lévy, 1891 , 1891

    Style des "Chèvres sauvages"

    E 658

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

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