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Terracotta vase in the form of a ketos (sea monster)

Period:
Archaic
Date:
2nd half of the 7th century B.C.
Culture:
Greek, Cretan or South Italian
Medium:
Terracotta
Dimensions:
Overall: 3 1/16 x 3 15/16 in. (7.7 x 10 cm)
Classification:
Vases
Credit Line:
Gift of Ariel Herrmann, in memory of Brian T. Aitken, 2009
Accession Number:
2009.529
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 152
This spirited sculptural vase is among the earliest extant representations of a Greek ketos, or sea monster. The creature has a formidable leonine head with big eyes and a goatee, a striped belly, scales, and two flipperlike fins. With its long, furry ears pressed back and its large, prominent teeth bared, it gestures menacingly. A hole in the top of the head would have been used to fill the vase, and liquid would have poured out through the hole in the tongue between the large fangs. Except for the loss of the end of the body and tail, the vase is remarkably well preserved, with much added red paint on the ears, face, and alternating scales.
The iconography of the Greek ketos was established in the Archaic period (ca. 600–480 B.C.) and remained amazingly consistent for centuries, long into Roman Imperial times. It is one of the creatures that after the conquests of Alexander the Great (r. 331–323 B.C.) traveled to the East, where it appeared in Gandharan art and influenced representations of monsters from Afghanistan to India. The ketos has even been suggested as a partial inspiration for the Chinese dragon.
1969, purchased through Münzen und Medaillen AG, Basel, by John J. and Ariel Herrmann; 1969-2009, collection of Ariel Herrmann, New York; acquired in 2009, gift of Ariel Herrmann.
Münzen und Medaillen A.G. 1969. Kunstwerke der Antike. Auktion 40 der Münzen und Medaillen. December 13, 1969. no. 47.

Matz, Friedrich. 1970. Dädalische Kunst auf Kreta im 7. Jahrhundert v. Chr pp. 115-116, E5, pl. 50a, Mainz am Rhein: Verlag Philipp von Zabern.

Boardman, John. 1987. "Very Like a Whale – Classical Sea Monsters." Monsters and Demons in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds: Papers Presented in Honor of Edith Porada, Anne E. Farkas, Dr. Prudence O. Harper, and Evelyn B. Harrison, eds. p. 80, fig. 13, pl. XXIV, Mainz on Rhine: P. von Zabern.

Kossatz-Deissmann, Anneliese, Brigitte Servais-Soyez, Fulvio Canciani, Giovannangelo Camporeale, Hans Peter Isler, Ingrid Krauskopf, Odette Touchefeu-Meynier, Marcel Le Glay, and Dr. Jean-Charles Balty. 1992. Kentauroi-Oiax, Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae, Vol. 6. no. 16, p. 732, Zürich: Artemis Verlag Zurich und Munchen.

Hemingway, Seán Dr. 2010. "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 2008-2010." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 68(2): p. 6.

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