Wine Cup with a Boy Dedicating the Mouth Strap of a Wind Instrument
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Attributed to the Brygos Painter
Greek, Athens, about 480 B.C.
3 5/8 x 11 7/8 x 9 1/16 in.

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A youth stands before an altar on the interior of this red-figure kylix or cup. The lyre in one hand and the phorbeia, a face-strap used by flute players, that he holds over the altar identify him as a musician. The act of offering gifts to the gods was an essential element of Greek religion. Although pious worshippers could give animal sacrifices, libations or liquid offerings, or elaborate, expensive gifts, the gods also appreciated small items of great personal importance. Greeks made such offerings when praying for something to occur or in thanks for a good outcome. This scene may represent a youth asking for, or giving thanks for, a victory in one of the frequent musical contests in which well-bred Athenian young men competed.

Although the depiction of a religious ritual on a cup used at a drinking party may seem odd today, the Greeks saw no conflict in this. For the Greeks, the drinking and merriment of the symposion was itself an offering to Dionysos, the god of wine.

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