This rhyton (wine vessel) was made with two different molds, combining the right side of a ram’s head with the left side of a donkey’s head. Rhyta such as this one were used in drinking parties, and their lack of a base meant that their contents had to be consumed before the vessel could be put down. The maker would have employed existing two-piece molds that would have made a complete head of a ram and a complete head of a donkey; one side of each of these molds was used to create the head for this rhyton, which was then attached to the wheel-thrown neck prior to firing. The mold used to create the ram half of the vessel was already decades old when it was used for this piece. The juxtaposition of the ram and braying donkey may have been made to contrast the positive and negative attributes ascribed to the animals respectively, and the donkey had close associations with the wine god Dionysus (Bacchus), often acting as one of the god’s preferred mounts. The scene on the neck of the rhyton, where three satyrs participate in an outdoor drinking party, alludes to the use of this type of cup. Two older satyrs, one perched on a rock and the other crouching at attention, focus on the center of the composition where a younger satyr is about to drink directly from a large amphora (storage jar) of wine. This rhyton was first published in 1837 (see O. M. Baron von Stackelberg, Die Graeber der Hellenen: 20-21, pl. 25), but the Ashmolean Museum recently acquired a watercolor of it dated to 1821 (see M. Vickers, 2005, "Nelson's Greek Pot?" The Ashmolean 49).
Christie’s, London, 21 December 1949, pls. 8.1-2 and 9.1; Nicolas Koutoulakis, Galerie Segredakis, Paris, by 1951; Walters Art Museum, 1952, by purchase.