Greek, Lydian; Excavated at Sardis
Terracotta with red and black painted decoration; H. 8 1/2 in. (20.51 cm)
Gift of The American Society for the Excavation of Sardis, 1926 (26.164.1)
This brightly painted, mold-made tile is one of many that have been excavated at Sardis, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia, in southern Turkey. In places like Lydia and southern Italy, where native stone was scarce or of poor quality, terracotta served as a substitute for stone in architecture. Tiles such as this one would have originally decorated the rooflines and outer walls of houses and civic buildings. Being both decorative and functional, some are equipped with a protruding spout that helped drain water from the eaves.
The Lydian kingdom was known for its wealth and receptiveness to Greek culture. The motifs on this tile are part of the repertoire in eastern Greek art that eventually became popular throughout the Greek world. Lotus blossoms, like the ones depicted on this tile, also decorate Greek jewelry and vases from this period. Above the lotus blossoms are egg-shaped forms, an early version of the egg-and-dart pattern, one of the most characteristic and long-lived moldings in Classical architecture.