Terracotta lekythos (oil flask)

Attributed to the Brygos Painter

Period: Classical

Date: ca. 480 B.C.

Culture: Greek, Attic

Medium: Terracotta; red-figure

Dimensions: H. 11 3/16 in. (28.4 cm)
Diameter 3 7/8 in. (9.8 cm)

Classification: Vases

Credit Line: Fletcher Fund, 1924

Accession Number: 24.97.28


A solitary figure decorates the elongated body of this small red-figure lekythos, a flask for oil and perfume distinguished by its narrow aperture. Although the single female figure may be considered an excerpt from a symposium scene, it is perfectly satisfactory in itself–partly because it is so masterfully composed. A young woman plays the aulos, a double-reed wind instrument. She wears an Ionic chiton, himation, shoes, a sakkos (scarf), disk earrings, and a spiral bracelet. Behind her hangs a case made of spotted skin and the receptacle for the instrument's mouthpiece. In front of her is a chair with a fringed cushion.
The aulos, commonly mistaken as a flute, was more akin to the oboe or clarinet, as the reed mouthpiece was inserted into a cylindrical pipe. The instrument was constructed of two such pipes, made of reed, wood, bone, or ivory, that were played simultaneously. Each pipe had a range of six possible notes. However, since each pipe had its own mouthpiece, a musician could extend the musical range by playing the pipes separately.