Terracotta oinochoe: chous (jug)

Attributed to the Meidias Painter

Period: Classical

Date: ca. 420–410 B.C.

Culture: Greek, Attic

Medium: Terracotta; red-figure

Dimensions: H. 8 7/16 in. (21.4 cm)
diameter 7 1/16 in. (17.9 cm)

Classification: Vases

Credit Line: Gift of Samuel G. Ward, 1875

Accession Number: 75.2.11


The scene on this red-figured oinochoe depicts two women in festive dress perfuming garments stacked on the hanging stool between them. Smoke rises from a pile of wood shavings and twigs on the ground below. The woman at left carefully empties an oinochoe onto the fire, while the other woman, surveying the scene, gestures toward her. At the far right is a stately chair, called a klismos, piled with more clothes. At the far left stands a boy wearing a himation and a wreath of ivy around his head.
The garments of the two women are especially rich in detail. The woman at right wears a pleated chiton and a himation with a decorative hem. Her companion also wears a chiton, as well as a tunic that resembles the astrochiton often worn by the goddess Artemis. Unlike the goddess' garment, which was covered with a pattern of stars, this tunic is decorated with pictographs alternating with meanders, bands of keylike designs. The same designs appear on the folded clothes on the chair. Both women wear their hair tied up with scarves, which are also decorated with meanders.
The shape of the vase facilitates the association of the scene with the Anthesteria, a three-day festival held in January/February to celebrate the new wine with the special inclusion of young children, an epiphany of Dionysos. An alternative interpretation of the scene, however, suggests that the women are preparing for a civic festival in celebration of the dead, one that included the purification and perfuming of garments.