Private Collection (Switzerland)
Leon Lévy, 1926 - 2003 (New York, New York), donated to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1983.
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Currently on view at: Getty Villa, Gallery 104, Archaic and Classical Greece
East Greece (Place Created)
11 × 5 × 4 cm (4 5/16 × 1 15/16 × 1 9/16 in.)
Gift of Leon Levy
This mold-made aryballos (oil flask) takes the shape of the head of the Minotaur, a composite creature from Greek mythology with a bull's head and a human body. The Minotaur was the son of the Cretan queen Pasiphae and a beautiful white bull, for which she developed an irresistible passion. The fearsome monster was imprisoned in a labyrinth on Crete, where he devoured human sacrifices. On this mold-made East Greek aryballos (oil flask), however, the Minotaur wears a tunic with a patterned collar and stitched seams and looks quite docile.
Vessels in the shapes of humans, animals, or mythical beings were especially popular in the Greek world from about 650 to 550 B.C. Rhodes, off the coast of Asia Minor (present-day western Turkey), was a leading production center, but these vases were widely distributed and imitated by other cities. They typically held perfumed oil, and the vessels' narrow openings were designed to restrict the flow of this precious commodity. The mouth of this example is added to the back of the Minotaur’s head.
Archaeologisches Institut der Universitaet Zurich. Das Tier in der Antike. Exh. cat., September 21-November 17, 1974. (Zurich: 1974), cat. no. 276.
"Acquisitions/1983." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 12 (1984), p. 240, no. 44.
Woodford, Susan. "Kerkopes." In Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae VI (1992), pp. 32-35, p. 577, no. 36.
Rizzo, Maria Antonietta. "Gli scavi clandestini a Cerveteri (1982-94)." In Antichità senza provenienza: atti della Tavola Rotonda, American Academy in Rome, 18 febbraio 1995. Pelagatti, Paola and Malcolm Bell III, eds. Bollettino d'Arte 89-90, supplement (January-April, 1995), p. 47.