Terracotta pyxis (box with lid)

Period: Geometric

Date: mid-8th century B.C.

Culture: Greek, Attic

Medium: Terracotta

Dimensions: Overall: 4 1/8 x 11 1/4 in. (10.5 x 28.5 cm)
H. with cover 9 15/16 in. (25.2 cm)

Classification: Vases

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1948

Accession Number: 48.11.5a, b


This type of pyxis is an innovation in Athens around 850 B.C., based on influences from Mycenaean and Protogeometric pyxides and wooden boxes. It features a strongly curving body and a lid smaller in diameter than the box itself. The handle of the lid consists of a ridged shaft surmounted by a small reproduction of the pyxis, including a sort of conical handle often found on pyxides of this type.
The artist of this pyxis has carefully organized the painted designs to highlight the vase's construction. A hatched meander, to which all other patterns are subordinated, designates the widest part of the vessel. It recalls the tradition of early Attic Geometric pottery that featured a single, large motif. Concentric bands of dogtooth, zigzag, and dots fill the remaining space on the body and lid. The miniature pyxis on the knob features a chevron frieze and a series of concentric bands.
Although most pyxides are found in graves, ancient repairs on many of these vessels indicate their use during an owner's lifetime. This pyxis may have served as a container for small objects, such as jewelry and toiletries. Its lid and rim are perforated for a string so that the vessel could have been suspended from a shelf, for example.