Lekythoi with a bistre background
These two little lekythoi with their unusual shape and original decoration, created by the same potter and decorated by a single painter, form a pair, which is also very rare. They belong to the small group of vases known as “anacreontic”.
In the archaic period, the Greek elite were looking to the East for new models. Writers such as Sappho, Alkaios, Mimnermos and Anacreon, to name but a few, vied with each other in praising the life of luxury and finery of eastern aristocrats whom they claimed rightly combined the twin privileges of birth and politics. Lydians were the perfect embodiment of this way of life and thought. Therefore Anacreon, the first exponent of this ideal, declared himself to be “Lydopatheis”, afflicted with acute “Lydopathy”, as we might say today. This Lydopath wore long flowing robes, favoured gold jewellery and elaborate hairstyles. He used copious amounts of perfume, drank wine, enjoyed music and everything that stimulated the senses.
The decoration of “anacreontic” vases refers to this world. Produced approximately between 530 and 470, they depict men in long, unbelted robes, wearing earrings and a type of turban known as the mitra. They wear either boots made of soft skin or sandals. They often carry a parasol and a Lydian lyre, the barbiton. At a first glance this attire appears to be feminine. Moreover three vases of this type bear the name of the poet Anacreon. They were therefore thought to represent Anacreon and his merry companions. In actual fact, the costume is not effeminate, but Lydian. The dress and accessories hark back to an eastern aristocratic ideal which Anacreon championed and which the Greeks aped at their banquets.