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Work Miniature Attic Red-Figure Oinochoe

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Classical Greek Art (5th-4th centuries BC)

Oenochoé "des Anthestéries"

© 1991 RMN / Gérard Blot

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Classical Greek Art (5th-4th centuries BC)

Kardianou-Michel Alexandra

The "khoes," a type of flat-bottomed trefoil-lipped oinochoe, lent its name to the second day of the Anthesteria, one of the three major festivals in honor of Dionysus, during which a drinking contest was held.
Numerous minature khoes have been found in children's graves. The decoration of the jars often refers to this festival, though it is not always possible to distinguish scenes of worship from scenes of games.

The Anthesteria oinochoes

The khoes, a type of flat-bottomed, trefoil-lipped oinochoe, lent its name to the second day of the Anthesteria festival. It contained up to several liters of wine.
These wine jars of varying sizes were made almost exclusively in Attic workshops, and most were found in Attica. Among these are numerous minature khoes, which were often placed in children's graves.
The various types of oinochoe developed continously from the black-figure-vase period to the latter years of production of red-figure vases. This form of jar, a type-3 oinochoe, already existed in the Geometric period. It became commonplace in Athens circa 550 BC. The oldest models have a small convex mouth and a vertical neck. In the fourth century, the jars became more slender, with a wide, flared mouth.
The subjects of their decoration, which often referred to the Anthesteria festival, included Dionysian themes, scenes of "komos" (revelry), worship, games, Erotes and Nikes, and scenes of children with toys and animals. Most of the decoration is red-figure. In the late fifth century and the early fourth century BC, the jars often featured an added colour. White used for women and children, yellow and gilded slip used for certain details, and the yellow-brown tones of the varnish applied over the orange clay produced a polychrome effect.

The Anthesteria festival

The Anthesteria were one of the three major celebrations in honor of Dionysus and, with the Lenaia festival, among the oldest. They lasted three days, from the 11th to the 13th days of the month of Anthesterion (late February), which owed its name to the festival. Each of the days had a name: Pithoigia, the Khoes, and the Khytroi. They were related to Dionysus's admission to the city and consisted in somewhat complex rites and celebrations. The Pithoigia, or wine-jar opening, was a domestic and family celebration. The Khytroi were primarily of a funerary nature. The Khoes was the most important day, and its name was used to designate the festival as a whole. It was a drinking contest, which originated in the legend of Orestes. The king Damophon, wishing to offer hospitality to the parricide Orestes without admitting him to the religious ceremonies before the court's judgement, invented a new type of banquet. It was a public event, led by the priest of Dionysus, in which each person brought his own food and wine jar (khoes). The first to finish his unmixed wine to the sound of the trumpet received a wineskin from the chief archon.
The Khoes day was very important in the life of young children. All the boys aged three were crowned with flowers and received cakes, ivy-wreathed khoes, and toys - terra-cottas in the form of small carts and dolls. The decoration of these small Attic khoes often refers to this festival, though it is not always possible to distinguish scenes of worship from scenes of games. On the Louvre khoes, a small boy pulling a cart behind him stands before an altar and a Hermaic pillar. The painter has placed a jar behind the pillar, which, unusually, perhaps alluding to the context of the scene, bears the features of a young boy.


Hamilton R., Choes and Anthesteria, 1992.
Parke Herbert W., Athenische Feste, 1987.
Simon Erika, Festivals of Attica, 1983.
Van Hoorn Gerardus, Choes and Anthesteria, 1951.
Villanueva-Puig Marie-Christine, Images de la vie quotidienne en Grèce dans l'antiquité, 1992.

Technical description

  • Oenochoé "des Anthestéries"

    Vers 430 avant J.-C.

    Provenance : Grèce


  • H. : 9 cm. ; D. : 7,20 cm.

  • Acquisition, 1906 , 1906

    Anthesteria Festival Oinochoe

    CA 1683

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Galerie Campana IV
    Room 652
    Vitrine 17 : Oenochoés "des Anthestéries"

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