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Cypriot Terracotta Zoomorphic Rhyton
Geneva | Animals
Date:  2500 BC - 1900 BC
Culture:  Cypriot
Category:  AnimalsVessels
Medium:  Terracotta
Dimension: H: 14 cm
Price: $14,000.00
Provenance: Ex- European private collection, 1994
Serial No: 23207

This rhyton was hand-modeled and its surface is covered with a reddish brown slip: the legs, the neck and the handle were made separately and attached before firing. The smooth, lustrous appearance of the vessel results from a careful polishing.

The figure represented here is only generically zoomorphic: it is, in fact, an abstract and indefinable animal, characterized by an egg-shaped body supported by three small legs. The long neck has a wide filling opening, extending in a hollow cylinder pierced at the end to allow the pouring of the liquid. The upper part is decorated with a prominent forehead and a pair of ears; the eyes are indicated by concentric circles. The handle resembles an arched leg provided with the hoof and pierced by a small hole (suspension, decoration?). At the center of the body, two pierced protrusions recall the breast of contemporary Cypriot terracotta “idols”.

The decoration is limited to a series of linear incisions that emphasize the various parts of the body, without being linked to the anatomy: made before the firing process on the still soft clay, they were then filled with white plaster to create a chromatic contrast with the red background.

Stylistically, this rhyton belongs to the Red Polished Ware, a type of ceramics widely spread on the island of Cyprus between the last centuries of the 3rd millennium B.C. and the first centuries of the following millennium. Along with many forms of containers such as bowls, beaker jugs or pyxides, the contemporary potters have produced an extensive range of zoomorphic vessels. They are most often rhyta, vaguely corresponding to birds or horned quadrupeds, which were probably used during different rituals. Despite a certain stylistic and formal naivety, they are a very good example of the creativity and skill of Cypriot artists at that time.