Last quarter of the fifth century BC
This cup is made of purified nut-brown clay. It is decorated with opaque slip over-painting both inside and outside the vase. It has an inverted lip, a flared body that tapers above the belly, and a disc foot. Its vertical strap handles attach below the rim and on the body. The piece is intact, but some chipping is present at the level of the rim, on the lugs, and in the upper part of the body.
The decoration, which is replicated on both sides, consists, of a frame that contains a series of bands. From the top we see a pattern of short black tongues set against an orange background; two contour lines; a net, not perfectly centered, of small, light-orange diamonds alternating with black diamonds marked with white over-painted rhombs; a laurel branch with alternating leaves and berries rendered in white slip over black; and finally, a comb pattern of light orange and black.
The distinctive over-painted decoration identifies this kantharos as belonging to the “Saint-Valentin Class,” which was first recognized by John Beazley. This pottery, represented by kantharoi and skyphoi with black paint, was made first in Attic workshops and later imitated in Italy. They are decorated with geometric and floral motifs, over-painted, and arranged in metopes and panels of different height on both faces of the vase. On vessels produced in Attica, the faces feature identical decorations and the wider bands are filled with diamond patterns or drawings of feathers overlapped like a scales. The narrowest bands of the oldest examples depict plants and ivy branches. Laurel branches, like the ones found on this cup, are introduced in the last quarter of the fifth century BCE. The final phase (at the end of the fifth century BCE) sees the introduction of taller decoration divided into vertical panels. Italian versions of the vases imitate the ornamental Greek motifs, though they may vary the patterns on the two sides of the same vase or include metopes that are not bounded below by the band of small tabs. Eventually, the decoration becomes simplified and new elements are introduced.
Turning to our kantharos, its light-colored clay, its lean shape and the accuracy of the drawing argue in favor of a possible Attic origin for the piece. This is supported by its decorative syntax, which can be identified as Type IV, 3 according to the schema of Seymour Howard and Franklin Johnson. The quality of the kantharos does not seem very high. It may, in fact, be among the products of one of those Attic workshops that later, during the fourth century BCE will drown out the production of finest quality.