Although it may look like just a piece of sculpture, this dog’s head is actually a drinking cup from 5th century Athens. It is thought to have been created by the Brygos Painter, who has over 200 pots and cups attributed to him in museums worldwide.
This drinking cup, or ‘rhyton’, was made with very close attention to detail: tiny whiskers are incised on the dog’s snout, and visible tendons bulge on the throat. The red band around the neck represents a collar, and on the rim of the cup is a painted scene from Greek mythology of pygmies battling cranes.
The rhyton probably belonged to a high-class Greek citizen, since dogs in ancient Greece were mostly kept as hunting companions. The cup itself would have likely been used to drink wine at men’s drinking parties, called ‘symposiums’. When the cup was empty, it would be turned upside-down to show the dog’s head, displaying the craftsmanship and allowing the vessel to have two functions: for practical use as a cup, and for aesthetic use as a piece of art.
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Tomorrow: 9000 year old wine, was that a good year?