A Century of Giving

Red figure eye cup, by Nikosthene painter

Athenian, c.500BC

clay, height 12.5cm, width 42.1cm, diameter 34cm

The Fitzwilliam Museum: GR.1.1927




This cup came from one of the largest potters' workshops in late 6th c Athens, specializing in red-figure vases on a black ground.

Many Greek vases were designed for use at symposia - or drinking parties - where men met to debate or celebrate special occasions, such as sporting and poetry contests. The wide, flat shape of this kylix made it suitable for drinking in a reclining position, like the banqueter depicted here with a drinking horn.

Symposia often featured entertainments - such as dance, games, music and singing: the object hanging on the left is possibly an instrument case made from animal skin. Two athletes are featured on the outside of the cup - as well as stylised eyes and plant forms.

The Museum Cockerell took over in 1908 had a strong classical bias, with many archaeologists and classicists on the Syndicate. He made some important purchases soon after his appointment, and also used the Friends' fund to strengthen these holdings.

This cup, bought at auction in 1927, was acquired 'through the enterprise' of Winifred Lamb (1894-1963) - a Cambridge graduate with a double first in Classics whom he had first met in the sale rooms in 1918. Impressed by her expertise, Cockerell offered her the Honorary Keepership of Antiquities, a post she held until 1958. During these years of service, Winifred Lamb carried out much groundbreaking research and greatly enriched the collections. She was also a pioneering archaeologist in Greece and Turkey, and donated many objects obtained on her travels to the Fitzwilliam.


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