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Kylix with Sirens
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Kylix with Sirens

Description Conservation Exhibitions Provenance Credit
Description Homer does not describe the physical appearance of the Sirens, but their tantalizing beauty and alluring song captured the interest of commentators throughout antiquity. The Sirens are depicted as composite creatures as early as the 8th century BC, a motif perhaps derived from Egyptian sources. The earliest types, such as those seen here, are shown simply with women's heads and birds' bodies, without arms or hands. Sirens occur not only in narrative scenes with Odysseus and his men, but also as decorative motifs (as do sphinxes); during the Classical period they come to have associations with funerary iconography. The two-handled vase shown here is a type of kylix known as an eye cup, which would resemble a mask when raised to the lips during the symposium. The simple, black-slip interior reveals several small holes around the handles that were used for repairs in antiquity. On the exterior, a similar composition dominates each side of the vase in a single band. Between two large eyes stands a siren; on one side, the siren faces frontally to the right, on the other side, she turns her head, looking back. Their full wings are simply drawn, with bands of added red pigment. Beneath their feet runs a simple ground line of black glaze. Above each siren are traces of an inscription, perhaps the signature of the potter or painter, though it is no longer readable.
Date Description Narrative
5/19/1976Treatmentcleaned; technical study; loss compensation
12/16/1977Examinationx-ray fluorescence
  • Things With Wings: Mythological Figures in Ancient Greek Art. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. 2005-2006.
  • Things With Wings: Mythological Figures in Ancient Greek Art. Ward Museum, Salisbury. 2009.
  • Heroes: Mortals and Myths in Ancient Greece. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville; San Diego Museum Of Art, San Diego; Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation (USA), New York. 2009-2011.
Provenance Don Marcello Massarenti Collection, Rome, before 1897 [mode of acquisition unknown]; Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1902, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters with the Massarenti Collection, 1902

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6th century BCE (Archaic)
terracotta, wheel made; black figure
Accession Number
H: 4 1/2 x W: 11 13/16 x Diam at rim: 9 1/16 in. (11.5 x 30 x 23 cm)
Location Within Museum
Not On View

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