Water Jar with a Woman
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Greek, about 460 B.C.
18 1/2 x 11 1/8 in.

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Spreading her arms around the rim, a woman looks over the edge of this Greek bronze hydria. Large attachment plates with palmettes form the bases of the two side handles and the lower base of the rear handle. The most prominent feature of the vessel, however, is the woman's bust at the top of the rear handle. Her outstretched arms end in ornamental disks, called rotelles. Stylistic features of the woman, as well as the overall heavy form of the hydria, indicate that the vessel probably dates to about 460 B.C.

Human busts, especially female, were added over the mouths of several types of vessels at this time. The precise reason for this decoration is not known, but it is probably connected with the belief that these figures served a protective role. In Greek thought, frontal faces and eyes had apotropaic powers--the ability to ward off evil.

Although designed to carry water, hydriai were often used or recycled for other purposes, especially as cinerary urns. When found, this hydria contained bone fragments of a two-year-old child, along with ashes, fiber, and glass beads.