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Work Protocorinthian ovoid aryballos with neck in the form of a head

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


© 1996 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

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

Kardianou-Michel Alexandra

The Louvre's Protocorinthian aryballos stands out among the thousands of small vases that have been found because of its neck, which is molded in the shape of a woman's head. This flask is one of the most elegant of the vases produced in the workshops of Corinth and circulated all over the Mediterranean. They contained perfume oils used by men to anoint their bodies after exercising at the palaestra. A large number of them have been found in tombs, which is why they are so well preserved.

Protocorinthian vases

These vases were made in Corinth between the late 8th and 7th centuries (720-630 BC). They were mostly perfume vases, different types of aryballoi, and, later, alabastra. These vases were widely circulated in the Greek world because of their small size, making them easy to transport, cheap, and also convenient for exporting perfumes.
When they founded Syracuse in 733, the Corinthians opened up trade routes toward the west which dominated the markets. Thanks to the large quantity of Corinthian pottery found across the entire Mediterranean region, it is possible to precisely date the archaeological occupational strata from sculpture. This system of dating by means of the painted decoration allows the sculpture of the period, known as Daedalic, to be dated more precisely by comparison.

The Chigi Group

The vases in this group, so called after the name of an oenochoe formerly in the Chigi Collection, are painted in a painstaking miniaturist style, with a decoration divided into zones. The background is filled with dotted rosettes characteristic of this period. It is important to note that the central, and therefore the widest, zone spans no more than 2.5 cm, while the narrowest (the hare-hunting zone) spans 0.5 cm. The animal frieze or hunting decoration of the kind seen here reveals the eastern influence, while the war scene, a characteristic and highly popular subject, emphasizes the fact that the oil in these vases was used by men after exercising at the palaestra. On the Louvre aryballos, two duels are taking place on the central zone of the vase. A wounded hoplite lies stretched out on the ground still holding his weapons.
The Protocorinthian painters used the black-figure technique with fine incisions and highlights, creating the polychrome style. Sometimes they would mold the entire vase, like the small owl in the Louvre (CA 1737), or just one part, as we have here, sculpting it into a woman's head or an animal, for example.

The Daedalic style

During the 7th century, the Daedalic style appeared. It was named after the mythical sculptor Daedalus who, according to tradition, made outstanding statues and was the first to show the eyes open, the legs apart taking a step, and the arms and hands detached from the body. This genre proliferated and was adopted in all workshops and across all media, in parallel with techniques imported from the east. The same statuette model, in a frontal position with a triangular, elongated head, large almond-shaped eyes, and wiglike hair in relief, can be found on stone statues and also our vase. Corinthian potters and bronzemakers adopted the same themes when fashioning figures to decorate vases or cauldrons.


Payne H.G.G., Protokorinthische Vasenmalerei, 1933.
Benson J.L., Earlier Corinthian Workshops. A Study of Corinthian Geometric and Protocorinthian, 1989.
Cook R.M., Greek Painted Pottery, 1997.
Boardman John, Aux origines de la peinture sur vase en Grèce, 1999.
Martinez J.-L., la Dame d'Auxerre, 2000.

Technical description

  • Attributed to the Chigi Group


    Protocorinthien Récent (vers 650 - 630 avant J.-C.)

    Provenance : Thèbes

    Fabrication : Corinthe

  • Terre cuite

    H. : 7,20 cm. ; D. : 3,90 cm.

  • Acquisition 1898 , 1898

    CA 931

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Denon wing
    Lower ground floor
    Pre-Classical Greece
    Room 1, temporarily closed to the public
    Vitrine 28

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