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Work Tall-stemmed kantharos-type cup

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Hellenistic Art (3rd-1st centuries BC)

Coupe-canthare à pied haut

© 1998 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Hellenistic Art (3rd-1st centuries BC)

Astier Marie-Bénédicte

This cup is an example of the luxury tableware produced by Greek bronzesmiths in the late fourth century BCE. Pieces such as this were created in order to satisfy the ambitions of the Macedonian kings to develop a sophisticated court art. The piece takes the unusual form of a chalice-shaped kantharos, with broad handles and a tall stem decorated with moldings. A number of table services have been found in northern Greek tombs, attesting to a desire to amass collections of such wares.

The production of luxury bronze tableware

This bronze cup, recently acquired by the Louvre, is part of the luxury tableware produced by Greek metalworkers in the second half of the fourth century BCE. The item is closer in appearance to a kantharos than a simple cup; its relatively unusual form is already known to us from a small series of similarly-shaped drinking vessels. This example, created c.330-320 BCE, has a chalice-shaped bowl with sides widening out towards the lip, punctuated by alternate concave and convex areas. It features a tall stem decorated with moldings and wide, curved handles formed from double branches attached to the bowl by foliated fixings. The bowl, handles and stem were cast separately, then soldered together and highlighted with incised lines. The entire piece was then wheel-polished in order to give it a metallic sheen and a reflective surface, the original near-gold color of which is still visible in places.

A type of vase found principally in northern Greece

The slender proportions of the neck and the extremely simple outline of the lip associate this vase with a series of utensils discovered primarily in tombs, either in central Greece (in Galaxidi and Corinth) or (more frequently) in northern Greece (at Amphipolis, Nikisiani, Derveni and Vergina). The bronzesmiths used handles and stems of similar forms for different types of vases that might have belonged to the same set of tableware. There are a number of variations, however: certain cups have a short stem and others a tall one, while others again have neither stem nor handles. Produced in both bronze and silver, this type of kantharos with a simple lip seems to be derived from a more complex form, almost certainly created by Corinthian artisans. During the fourth century BCE, northern Greek workshops appear to have copied this form prolifically, while also inventing new ones.

A cup intended for the Macedonian court

As prestigious as it was valuable, this type of work was intended to satisfy the ambitions of the Macedonian kings, keen to foster the development of a sophisticated court art, and to meet the incessant demands of notables of the kingdom. The luxurious nature of this vessel is the result in part of the eastern conquests of Alexander the Great, and the considerable wealth that flowed into the country with the gradual return of both mercenaries (between 330 and 327 BCE) and, a few years later, demobilized veterans. Many of these precious vases have been found in a funerary context, placed in tombs beside the dead. For a number of years beforehand they would have been used at banquets, a phenomenon explained by the well-documented desire among the ruling classes of northern Greece to build up their family fortunes by hoarding.


Catalogue des Nouvelles acquisitions (à paraître)
Descamps-Lequime S., "Acquisitions", Revue du Louvre et des Musées de France 5, 1998, pp. 76-7, n 3.

Technical description

  • Coupe-canthare à pied haut

    Vers 330 - 320 avant J.-C.

    Atelier de Grèce centrale ou de Grèce du nord

  • H. 11.60 cm; W. 19.40 cm

  • Achat, 1997 , 1997

    Br 4787

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    Ground floor
    Venus de Milo gallery
    Room 11
    Vitrine 4: Mobilier funéraire

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