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    Sale 12256


    12 April 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 2


    CIRCA 500 B.C.

    Price Realised  


    CIRCA 500 B.C.
    The obverse with Panathenaic Athena striding to the left, wearing a peplos, her snaky aegis, and a high-crested helmet, a spear in her raised right hand, a circular shield in her left, a Pegasos protome as the blazon, its wing sickle shaped, the goddess framed by two Doric columns each surmounted by a cock; the reverse with a bearded trainer standing to the left watching a competition between two bearded boxers, the trainer wearing a himation over his left shoulder, holding a staff in his left hand and a split cane in his right, the muscular boxers nude, each with the near hand bound in a leather thong (himas), his other hand bare, the boxer to the left lunging forward, that to the right leaning back; rays above the foot, tongues on the shoulders, lotus and palmette chain on the neck; details in added red and white, graffiti under the foot
    16 3/8 in. (41.5 cm.) high

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    The most important festival celebrated in ancient Athens was the Panathenaia, the state festival honoring the city's patron deity, Athena Polias. Every fourth year was the Great Panathenaic festival, which included musical and athletic competitions. The victors were awarded huge prize amphorae containing one metrates (over ten gallons) of oil from the goddess' sacred grove. The obverse of these pottery jars always depicts the goddess between columns, usually surmounted by cocks. The reverse depicts the event for which the vase served as the prize.

    Smaller scale vases of Panathenaic shape and decoration, similar to the example presented here, must have served a different function than the larger prize amphorae. According to J. Neils ("Panathenaic Amphoras: Their Meaning, Makers and Markets," p. 44 in Goddess and Polis, The Panathenaic Festival in Ancient Athens) these small-scale imitations had a capacity of approximately half that of the prize amphorae. "It has been suggested that these are either wine jars for a victory celebration or commemorative vases which functioned as souvenirs for competitors at the Panathenaia." Further, "an alternative explanation is that these jars were made as export containers for the excess olive oil from the sacred trees of Athena, known as the Moriai."

    According to J. Boardman and M. Robertson (op. cit., p. 9), Athena's shield device on the Castle Ashby Panathenaic "recalls the Kleophrades Painter's use of Pegasos in this position but his, and almost all others, have folded, not the earlier sickle wings, as here." However, some Pegasos devices do have sickle wings, and F.G. Lo Porto (Atti e memorie della Società Magna Grecia viii, 1967, pl. 35) considers a Panathenaic vase from Tarentum close to the Kleophrades Painter, and another, from the same find (op.cit., pls. 33,34) has athletes similar in style to the Castle Ashby Panathenaic, but which Boardman and Robinson consider "not close enough for certain attribution."


    The Second Marquess of Northampton (1790-1851).
    The Castle Ashby Vases; Christie's, London, 2 July 1990, lot 88.
    Private Collection, Europe.
    European Private Collection; Antiquities, Christie's, London, 23 September 1998, lot 182.
    with Royal-Athena Galleries, New York, 2006 (Art of the Ancient World, vol. X, 1999, no. 101; and vol. XVII, 2006, no. 98).
    Acquired by the current owner from the above, 2006.

    Pre-Lot Text



    E. Gerhard, "Vasen des Lord Northampton," in Archäologische Zeitung, no. 45, September 1846, pp. 340-342, no. 3.
    J.D. Beazley, "Notes on the Vases at Castle Ashby," in Journal of the British School at Rome, vol. XI, 1929, no. 16, pl. 11.1.
    E.N. Gardiner, Athletics of the Ancient World, Oxford, 1930, fig. 135.
    H. Philippart, "Céramique grecque en Angleterre," in L'Antiquite Classique, vol. IV, 1935, p. 212.
    J. Boardman and M. Robertson, Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum: Castle Ashby, Great Britain, Fasc. 15, Oxford, 1979, no. 12, pl. 16.
    Beazley Archive Database no. 29631.