The Attic type skyphos was developed in the mid-sixth century BC, but it was not until the start of the fifth century BC that it took its canonical form. It has sturdier and more straight-sided walls and thicker, stronger handles than the Corinthian type, a torus foot, and it lacks the reserved zone. Earlier examples had a glazed underside, but this was soon discarded for the more fashionable reserved base with black-glazed concentric circles. The handles of these types followed those of the Corinthian, starting as bell- shaped, then horseshoe and finally triangular. However, they were thicker, out of necessity to support the larger density of the bowl. The popularity of this shape made for a long-lived production and a wide distribution.
The skyphos (pl. skyphoi) was the most commonly used plain drinking cup in Athens and was manufactured from the mid-sixth to the fourth centuries BC. It is thought that the shape derives from a wooden vessel used as a milking pail. The body and foot of the skyphos were formed together in one piece on the potter’s wheel, removed and left in the sun. Just before it reached the leather-hard stage, the vessel was returned to the wheel, placed upside down, and the underside of the foot was hollowed out. The skyphos has a deep body, plain rim and low foot. The distinctively small handles on these cups were primarily used as thumb rests whilst the hand held the body of the cup. It has been suggested that they were also used for hanging the cup when not in use, much like one sees today with coffee mugs. The shape of these handles developed over time from bell to horseshoe and finally triangular. In this catalogue we present two of the main varieties; the Attic and Corinthian.
ProvenanceSir Charles Alfred William Rycroft (1839-1884), London, UK
Charles Ede, London, UK; acquired June 1977
Private collection, New Jersey, USA; acquired from the above 1979
Compare Brian A. Sparkes and Lucy Talcott, The Athenian Agora, Vol.XII, Black and Plain Pottery of the 6th, 5th and 4th centuries BC, Part 2 (Princeton, 1970), pl.16, nos.347-348. Also compare Florian S Knauss and Jörg Gebauer, Black is Beautiful, Griechische Glanztonkeramik (Munich, 2019), p.148, cat. no. 81