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Ewer with Humans and Animals


Late Byzantine
13th century
26 cm (10 1/4 in.)
ceramic
BZ.1958.92

On view


Permalink: http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info/27285

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Description
The wide bellied ewer is decorated in the two most common techniques of pottery in the middle and late Byzantine periods (tenth-1fifth centuries). One is the sgrafitto technique, where the design is drawn (“scratched” in Italian) through a layer of white slip exposing the dark clay of the body; the other is daubing the slip covered object with yellow, purple, and green slip to create a vibrant, colorful effect. Here the artist used the colors to fill in the many sgrafitto drawn animals, humans, plants, flowers, and decorative motifs across the vessel. The alternating colors create a lively surface and encourage the viewer to turn the ewer to see all the figures on both sides.

The topmost register has a guilloche, or braid, while the bottom is covered with mostly diagonal strokes, perhaps to suggest basketry. Of the animals in the two middle registers, some are realistic, while others are fantastic or mythical. Two human figures seem to be generic types rather than characters from history or legend, and two figures, only part-human, may derive from Greek or Roman mythology or from Byzantine legend.

- J. Hanson


Bibliography
D. Talbot Rice, "Late Byzantine Pottery at Dumbarton Oaks," Dumbarton Oaks Papers 20 (1966): 207-19, no. 5.

Handbook of the Byzantine Collection (Washington, D.C., 1967), 89, no. 307, pl. 307.

I. Kalavrezou and A. E. Laiou, Byzantine Women and their World, exhibition catalogue, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard University, October 25, 2002-April 28, 2003 (Cambridge and New Haven, 2003), 188, no. 302.


Exhibition History
Cambridge, MA, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, "Byzantine Women and Their World," Oct. 26, 2002 - Apr. 28, 2003.


Acquisition History
Purchased from George Zacos (dealer), Istanbul, by Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C., September 1958.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Byzantine Collection, Washington, D.C.

(Fragment BZ.1961.2, now attached, acquired in Feb. 1961).