The Physical Characteristics of an Object


Greek vessels were made in a variety of shapes and are generally grouped by their function. A neck-amphora like this would have been part of a set of vessels used at a symposium (the ancient Greek celebration of food, wine, and song). The symposium honored the god Dionysos as well as heroes and ancestors. Symposium vessels are often found in tombs, where they would have served at banquets for the dead.

A typical set of symposium vessels would have included an amphora, with its lid, for storing wine (very few examples survive with their original lids), a hydria for holding water, and a crater for mixing the wine and water, as well as serving utensils and vessels, ladles or small mugs for dipping the mixture into serving pitchers, and, finally, drinking cups. Typical Greek vessels The neck-amphora was a common shape in the later part of the sixth century. The neck is covered with a mirrored palmette-and-lotus chain. Below this band is a collar of repeated tongue shapes of alternating black, white, and deep red. The body is divided into three registers: the top and largest spreads across the shoulder of the vessel and is reserved for the figural decoration and palmette-lotus crosses under the handles; the lower two registers are given over to vegetal decoration in the form of upright lotus buds and rays. This organization of figural motifs and decoration became standard in the middle of sixth century B.C.E.; for similar arrangements are found on many vessels from the later part of the century such as the neck-amphora now in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA 60.10; below).

VA Museum amphoraGreek (Attic), ca. 510 B.C.
Attributed to the Leagros Group
Black-Figured Neck-Amphora
Terra cotta, 16 1/2" H x 10" Dia.
Photo Courtesy of:
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. The Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund
Photo: Ron Jennings. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.