Trick amphora

Italic, Etruscan
Classical Period
370–350 B.C.
Related to Clusium Group of Northern Etruria

Catalogue Raisonné

Vase-Painting in Italy (MFA), no. 176.


15.1 cm (5 15/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Ceramic, Red Figure

Not On View


The Ancient World



“Trick” Amphora-Rhyton
Related to the Clusium Broup
370-350 B.C.
On either side of the neck, an owl stands frontally between stacks of dotted chevrons, There are two tiers of animals on either side of the body, those on the shoulder lacking a groundline.
A: On the shoulder, a dog chases two hares to the right; the hare in the middle has shorter ears than the one in front, and were it not for its short tail, it might also be taken for a dog. In the lower tier, two boars square off for combat, oblivious to the lion (?) approaching from the right.
B: On the shoulder, two spotted rams are butting heads. In the lower tier, a bull falls to the left between a lion and a lioness with pendulous teats.
On both handles are applied reliefs of a frontal female head above a larger profile head of a goose, both of which were coated with a red wash. A band of stopt maeanders to the right circles the shoulder below the neck. On either side of the rim is a band of egg-pattern, and below this is a molding opainted with bead-and-reel. Red wash was applied to the handle reliefs, the bead-and-reel, and the reserved band above the bottom knob. The other reserved areas were given a brown wash, with the exception of the rim, which remains in the original pale tan clay.
The fine quality of the applied reliefs recalls the plastic vases of the Clusium Group in general, but the strongest analogies are with a duck-askos in the Villa Giulia where the head of the genius riding on each wing is shown frontally and in a similar scale (50581: Harari, Gruppo Clusium, pp. 61[no.36], 154-155, pl. 4-, 1-2). Harari does not think that the askos was made in Chiusi. The trick amphora can hardly be from the northern Etruscan workshop, either, since its painted decoration has loose, sketch forms quite unlike the emphatically patterned figure painting characteristic of the Clusium Group. The animals are modeled with harsh, curved lines, which recall the modeling lines on the stamnos by the Painter of the Oxford Ganymede (cat. no. 167). The vase’s ornament is limited but unusual. The simple disconnected maeanders on the shoulder are seen on the Phuipa cup from Vulci, where the large eyes and rough modeling of figures are also comparable (Vatican B 112: Beazley, EVP, pop. 55-56, pl. 12l; Martelli, Ceramica, no. 167). The black bead-and-reel on the neck is a rare form that appears on the bell-krater of the Argonauat Group in Florence (4026: Beazley,EVP, pp. 33-35, pl. 9, 1). An astragal with incomplete reels appears on the groundline of a kylix of the Clusium Group (cat. no. 169). The stacks of diamonds flanking the owls on the neck are also highly unusual. They recall the checkerboards of elongated diamonds on Athenian cups of the Saint-Valentin class ( S. Howard and F.P. Johnson, AJA 58 [1954], pp. 191-207, pls. 32-33).
In spite of the Boston rhyton’s connections with the Clusium Group, which is usually dated in the second half of the century, several points argue in favor of a date for it in the first half of the century. First, it makes use of relief line, a relatively early technique, and, second, the owls on the neck make it clear that it was influenced by fifth-century Athenian glaukes (see discussion of cat. no. 161); both considerations make it desirable to place the rhyton as early as possible. This argument is also supported by the stacks of elongated diamonds flanking the owls since they could well have been inspired by the ornament of the fifth-century Saint-Valentin vases.
The rows of animals on this rhyton are somewhat unusual in fourth-century Italic vase-painting. On the other hand, animals are a principal theme in contemporary Scythian metalwork, including the great Chertomlykamphora-rhyton (Piotrovsky, Galanina, and Grach, Scythian, figs. 188-195, 265-268). They may have been used on the Boston vase to reinforce the barbaric associations of the rhyton structure.


By 1869: William Henry Forman (b. 1794 - d. 1869), Pippbrook House, Surrey, England; by descent, through Mrs. Burt, to Forman's nephew, A. H. Browne, Callaly Castle, Northumberland; 1899: with Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge, 13 Wellington Street, Strand, London, W.C. (auction of the Forman Collection, June 19-22, 1899, lot 347 [said to have come from the De Bammeville Collection]); by 1900: with Edward Perry Warren; purchased by MFA from Edward Perry Warren, February 1900

Credit Line

Henry Lillie Pierce Fund