The J. Paul Getty Museum

Mycenaean Sieve Jug

Object Details


Mycenaean Sieve Jug


Attributed to Painter 20 (Mycenaean, active 1250 B.C. - 1225 B.C.)


Greek (Mycenaean)


Greece (Place Created)


1250–1225 B.C.



Object Number:



16.6 × 17.3 × 13 cm (6 9/16 × 6 13/16 × 5 1/8 in.)

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Object Description

A continuous frieze of figures surrounds the body of this Mycenaean sieve jug. A scene of a man grabbing a bull by the horns seems to allude to the idea of bull leaping, a ritual or athletic performance that originated in the Minoan culture on Crete. Bull jumping involved literally grabbing the horns of a bull and flipping over its back (see the engraved Minoan seal depicting a bull leaper). The activity may have been practiced by the elite, perhaps even in rites of passage. On the opposite side of the vessel, just behind the bull, is a winged sphinx—with the head of a woman and body of a lion—who is wearing a pointed headdress and holding a pomegranate branch. The pomegranate was often related to fertility, life, and rebirth, but it could also be associated with death. Although the precise function of this jug is uncertain, the strainer spout suggests that it was designed for a liquid requiring filtering, perhaps beer.

Most decoration on Mycenaean vessels consisted of extremely stylized motifs of marine or floral origin. Around 1400 B.C., however, Mycenaean potters developed a less common figural style, which may have been inspired by fresco painting. This type of pottery, referred to as the “pictorial style,” became progressively more popular, but accounted for only a small percentage of Mycenaean pottery production. Although many pictorial-style vases have been found in Cyprus and the Near East, recent discoveries, along with scientific analysis, suggest that most were manufactured in the Argolid, the broad plain in the Peloponnese that was home to Mycenae, Tyrins, and other important Mycenaean centers.

This particular vase is attributed to Painter 20, who decorated Mycenaean pottery with figural scenes sometime in the period from 1250 to 1225 B.C. Like all artists of this early period, his real name is unknown, and he is identified only by the particular stylistic details of his work. Three vases can be attributed to this artist, all of which depict scenes with bulls.

- 1985

Jonathan Rosen (New York, New York), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1985.

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

"Acquisitions/1985." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 14 (1986), p. 187, no. 22.

Towne Markus, Elana. Masterpieces of the J. Paul Getty Museum: Antiquities. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 18.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection (Los Angeles: 2002), p. 10.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection. Rev. ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010), p. 12.