Hydria

Greek, second quarter of the 4th c. BC
Bronze
2001.12.1
Carlos Collection of Ancient Art

The hydria, as its name implies (compare our word "hydraulics"), was used to fetch water from the well, a task entrusted to women. Two lateral handles enabled lifting; the vertical one, pouring. The austere appearance conceals the complexity of the vessel's manufacture: the body was hammered from sheet metal, the handles and foot cast from nine pieces, and the plaque below the vertical handle hammered from both sides (repoussé) for sharp definition. Metallurgical analysis has revealed significantly higher lead content in the cast elements (in order to make the molten metal flow into the mold) than in the hammered (where crispness and strength rather than fluidity was important). The parts were assembled using lead solder.

The plaque below the pouring handle shows Aphrodite with her arm over the shoulder of her son, Eros. She adjusts her veil in a bridal gesture. Since her husband in mythology was the god of war, Ares, this scene may be read as a symbolic celebration of love.

During recent conservation, crystallised scraps of a funeral shroud for the ashes of the deceased were identified inside the vessel. One could conjecture, therefore, that the vessel was created as a bride's dowry, and later consigned to a grave.