Etruscan Vase

Italic, Etruscan
Late Classical to Early Hellenistic Period
350–300 B.C.

Catalogue Raisonné

Vase-Painting in Italy (MFA), no. 162.


Height: 9.6 cm (3 3/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Ceramic; Superposed Color

Not On View


The Ancient World



Vase formed of four jars, welded together, with a basket handle.
Greenish black glaze. A yellow and white vine encircling the middle of each, with rays and lines above and below.

Four-Part Food or Condiment Server
2nd half of 4th century B.C.
Shape: Formed of four small jars, joined together, with a basket handle. The jars have flaring collars, carinated shoulders, tapering lower bodies, and disk feet.
Around the outer body of each jar is a yellow and white grapevine framed by stripes. The shoulder of each jar is decorated with white rays, carelessly executed.
A virtually identical multibodied vase is in the Tarquinia Museum (Pianu, Sovradipinte, pl. 103, no. 244).
The use of added color in these vases is perhaps less a holdover from earlier Etruscan vases in this technique than a conscious imitation of contemporary Apulian Gnathian ware.
In a modern setting, very similar four-part metal containers are used to serve chutney and other sauces in Indian restaurants. The Etruscan ceramic products may have played a similar role at ancient banquets. . Franz Messerschmidt has collected several second-century Etruscan vessels made up of a cluster of four jars and concluded that they were for serving food; they were placed in tombs to provide furnishings for eternity (RM 46[1931], pp. 48-53, pls. 3-6). One example found in a tomb in Vulci (now in the British Museum) contained four swan’s eggs, while another had lids on each of the jars, which therefore must have been intended for some different sort of nourishment. A Teano Ware cluster vase from Teano itself in the Metropolital Museum of Art, New York (09.22146f) also has lids on its four jars (RM 46[1931], p. 52, pl. 5c; called Gnathian. The attribution to Teano and information on its provenance are due to Dietrich von Bothmer; private communication, Elizabeth Milleker.). Other Italic cluster vases, perhaps of the earlier third century, have been found in Ruvo and in Constanza on the Black Sea (J.-P. Morel, “Cèramique campanienne: Les formes [Bibliothèque des Écoles Françaises d’Athènes et de Rome 244, 1981], p. 436, nos. 9311-9312, pl. 217). Another Teano Ware cluster vase is in the Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Missiouri, Columbia (92.74).


1877: loaned to MFA by William Sturgis Bigelow; gift of William Sturgis Bigelow to MFA, January 2, 1913

Credit Line

William Sturgis Bigelow Collection