The Lêvy Oinochoe is a terracotta pot that was first produced around 650 BCE and later discovered in Rhodes, Greece in 1891 and purchased along with the rest of the Lêvy Collection for the Louvre in Paris, France. This collection of early Greek art is an example of Oriental influence over early Greek society during the "Orientalizing Period" (c.710-c.600 BCE).
This object and many others that are similar to it are in the Lêvy Collection at the Louvre in Paris and can be viewed by the public on a daily basis. The objects in this collection depict the high influence that Asian and Egyptian cultures had on the cultures of early Greece. This oinochoe is meant for pouring and storing wine for Greek families during symposions, or drinking parties [See Neer 2012, 104]. The Lêvy Oinochoe has intricate designs of wild goats and mythical creatures, as well as Oriental designs such as lotus blossoms and palmettes.
The Lêvy Oinochoe was most likely produced in Miletus, although a definite location of production is unknown because of the many different islands in the Aegean that produced oinochoes during the Orinetalizing Period. According to Alan M. Greaves of the University of Liverpool, "Ionian vase-painters did not sign their work as mainland artists sometimes did [See Greaves 2010, 209].
The Lêvy Oinochoe is made from terracotta , which is a fired clay or ceramic that is glazed over to become waterproof and generally takes on a dull orange or brown color. The Lêvy Oinochoe is an ivory color that was most likely dulled over the more than two and a half millenia that it has been present. The oinochoe has an ivory colored base and is intricately decorated with drawings of wild goats and mythical creatures such as sphinxes and gryphons. The oinochoe was painted with variations of red lead paint and white lead paint that the Greeks contributed to the world of art.
The pictures depicted on the oinochoe are seperated by line sections that divide the pottery into different scenes. The neck of the oinochoe is coated with classic Greek patterns that have oriental plant motifs wrap around the oinochoe. The second section of the oinochoe has mythical creatures and animals painted on it such as gryphons and sphinxes, along with regular animals like peacocks and spotted deer[See Greaves 2010, 212]. From the second section onwards to the bottom, the artist drew wild male goats. This form of drawing on the oinochoe is known as "Rhodian" style because of the vast number of pottery similar to this one that were found on the Greek island of Rhodes [See Greaves 2010, 211]. These Wild Goat pots and vases were not just decorated with goats, but also depicted many other animal scenes [See Pedley 1992, 129]. Goats were used the most in this form but animals that were also used were: dogs, lions, sphinxes, griffins, hares, boars, rams and foxes [See Greaves 2010, 212].
Local Historical ContextEdit
The Ionian Culture produced the Lêvy Oinochoe c.650 BCE. Lydia turned to invade Ionia in 612 BCE, but the Lydian kings treated the Ionian cities very well, which caused their culture to live on unharmed until 546 BCE when the Persian king Cyrus II conquered Ionia. Ionia was not ever one unified state, but instead twelve major cities that were in Anatolia and Asia Minor.
Ionia experienced change in its political power in the 7th and 6th centuries. Power that was once with the rich land-owning aristocrats was now being shifted over to the merchant class. Miletus had become one of the most wealthy cities in ancient Greece, it's merchant class had accumulated enough wealth to loan money to far away enterprises.
In the 6th and 7th centuries BCE, Miletus and Ionia experienced a revolution of thinking that sparked new thoughts into the lives of ancient Greeks. Concepts of laws of nature governing, instead of supernatural beings came into existence. Revolutionary thinkers such as Pythagoras, Anaximenes, and Anaximander came from Ionia during this time period of "Awakening".
The artisans that crafted these kinds of oinochoai were making them for the elite class in Ionia [See Neer 2012, 104]. An oinochoe was a special vase or storage container for wine that was only used by the elite in Ionia [See Neer 2012, 104]. Merchants were the elite class in Ionia from 700-600 BCE, which meant that they were probably the recipients of items such as this. Fine pottery such as the Lêvy Oinochoe was used in ancient Greece and Ionia for ceremonies such as sympoisons, or drinking parties [See Neer 2012, 104]. These sympoisons played an important role in the lives of aristocrats, or ruling class, in the 7th century BCE [See Neer 2012, 104].
World Historical SignificanceEdit
The Lêvy Oinochoe represents the binding of two or more different cultures throughout the ancient world during the 6th and 7th centuries BCE. The Lêvy Oinochoe is significant in world history because it also represents the beginning of leisure drinking in the West [See Neer 2012, 104]. Sympoisons, along with the lotus blossom decorations and other oriental motifs originated in the East such as Mesopotamia and China [See Neer 2012, 104].
Aesthetically, this piece of pottery work is extremely pleasing to look at because of the intricate detail the artist put into the body of the vase, and also the addition of carving work that was done into the terracotta handles. The oinochoe resembles many other pieces of pottery that were created during the Archaic Period in Ancient Greece. The designs on the pottery work determined what region the pot came from and if it had any oriental influence or not. Some oinochoai were made with old Geometric designs, but still contained more innovative engravings and pictures of lotus blossoms as well [See Pedley 1992, 130]. The large number of oinochoai found indicates a popular opinion towards this form of artwork during this specific time period in Greece.
Alan M. Greaves, The Land of Ionia: Society and Economy in the Archaic Period (Chichester, West Sussex, UK; Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), 207-212.
R.T. Neer, Greek Art and Archaeology: A New History, C. 2500-c. 150 BCE (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2012), 104-108.
J.G. Pedley, Greek Art and Archaeology(5th ed.) (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2012), 131-132.
J.G. Pedley, Greek Art and Archaeology (New York: H.N. Abrams, 1992), 129-130.
J.M. Hall, Ethnic Identity in Greek Antiquity (Cambridge, England; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 9
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