The J. Paul Getty Museum

Plastic Aryballos

Object Details


Plastic Aryballos




East Greek


East Greece (Place Created)


580–560 B.C.



Object Number:



11 × 5 × 4 cm (4 5/16 × 1 15/16 × 1 9/16 in.)

Credit Line:

Gift of Leon Levy

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Object Description

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.

by 1974

Private Collection (Switzerland)

- 1983

Leon Lévy, 1926 - 2003 (New York, New York), donated to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1983.

Ancient Art from the Permanent Collection (March 16, 1999 to May 23, 2004)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 16, 1999 to May 23, 2004

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.

Biers, William R. "The Minotaur in Malibu?", Greek Vases in the J. Paul Getty Museum 4. Occasional Papers on Antiquities 5 (1989), pp. 5-10, figs. 1a-e.

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.