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A Laconian fish bowl

A Laconian fish bowl
550 BC
Black figure ceramic
12 x 26 x 19.3 cm

Narrated by Dr Isabelle Tassignon, curator of the Classical Archaeology collection

This black-figure cup, typical of the Laconian production of the mid-6th century BC, consists in a deep bowl with a high foot. Its outer decoration is simple: it shows a series of stripes above a radiating row of barbs and several horizontal lines, as well as small palmettes highlighting the joint of the handles.

The whole liveliness is concentrated inside the bowl, where fishes, cuttlefishes and a dolphin, depicted as silhouettes, turn around a tiny central figure: a cute crested newt, whose presence here is totally unexpected, as it is the only freshwater animal in the composition –  which also provides its very first appearance in Western art!

These widely exported cups were uncovered partly in tombs, notably in Etruria, and partly in sanctuaries, like the one devoted to Hera in Samos.