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  • Eretria Painter: Pyxis


    Greek (Attica)
    Pyxis, about 430 B.C.
    Slip decorated earthenware
    Museum purchase

    Copyright Notice

    During much of the age of the great statesman Perikles (the later fifth century B.C.), Athens was embroiled in a long and bitter civil war. Weary of fighting, Athenians increasingly rejected the depictions of battle scenes on pottery in favor of peaceful motifs of heavenly gardens with young, playful divinities. Most popular was Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty and the antithesis of war. Very common at this time were pyxides, small containers for perfume and cosmetics, whose use might transform the average Athenian housewife into the love goddess herself.

    On the lid of this pyxis are depicted two pairs of playful Erotes, the companions of Aphrodite at play. One pair holds roosters in preparation for a fight, while the other displays a leashed rabbit (symbol of erotic love) to a potential lover. Around the cylindrical body are three vignettes of an aristocratic woman at leisure in her home with a maidservant in attendance. The so-called Eretria Painter was an accomplished artist whose interest centered on charming, intimate scenes, displaying the fashions and pastimes of the rich. These portrayals, replete with intriguing details of costume, hairstyle, and furnishings, represent an idealized stereotype of daily life for Athenian upper-class women who lived isolated at home.