Water jar (hydria) depicting a warrior and a woman making a libation
Late Archaic Period
about 500–490 B.C.
Place of Manufacture: Greece, Attica, Athens
Caskey-Beazley, Attic Vase Paintings (MFA), no. 068.
Overall: 59 x 41 x 34.5 cm (23 1/4 x 16 1/8 x 13 9/16 in.) Height (To the top of the rim): 53 cm (20 7/8 in.)
Medium or Technique
Ceramic, Red Figure technique
This hydria depicts a young warrior and woman facing each other and pouring a libation as a ritual offering for his protection in battle. The woman wears a chiton and himation, bracelets, and a head covering, and she holds an oenochoe with floral decoration in her right hand, probably for carrying the wine which was used in the offering. The primary role of women in departure scenes seems to have been to assist with the libation. She is certainly a family member of the hoplite, perhaps his mother or wife. The warrior holds a spear in his left hand between the two, and he has donned an elaborate set of armor with greaves, a scaled Type IV cuirass, and a Chalcidian helmet with a horsehair crest. A sword and scabbard are attached the shoulder strap hanging from his right shoulder, and his shield leans against his right knee. One of the straps (epomydes) of this hoplite’s cuirass is untied and juts out over his proper right shoulder. This aspect of this painting, along with the raised cheek protector on the helmet, indicate that although the soldier is armed, he is still preparing for the battlefield and has not reached it yet. He is pouring a libation at the center with the phiale in his right hand. The religious offerings made before battle were an essential aspect of warfare preparation, since it was necessary in Greece to ensure the gods looked favorably upon any undertaking during life.
The shoulder is occupied with two lions attacking a bull. One of the most common subjects in ancient art, the contest between beasts is present on many vases, but here it perhaps reflects the battle which this libation precedes. A Greek kalos appears between the figures: “Lykos is handsome.”
Condition: Repaired with some restoration. Foot modern.
"Lykos is handsome" ([L]UK[O]S [K]A[L]OS)
By 1898: sold by Paul Hartwig (b. 1850 - d. 1919), Rome, to Edward Perry Warren (b. 1860 - d. 1928), London (according to Warren's records, this was bought in Rome; according to Caskey-Beazley, it was acquired by Warren from Hartwig); September 20, 1898: sold by Warren to the MFA for $69,618.13 [total price for MFA 98.641-98.940].
Henry Lillie Pierce Fund