Nikosthenes, Attic, active ca. 550-ca. 505 BCE
Chalcidizing Eye Cup with Silen Ears, 530-525 BCE
Inscribed: Nikosthenes made [this].
Archaic Period
Greece, probably Athens
3 ¾ × 14 1/8 × 10 7/8 in. (9.5 × 35.9 × 27.6 cm)
3-D Object/Sculpture
1970-050 DJ

1970 050 dj 20220421 v07 m
1970 050 dj 20220421 v03 m
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This vessel belongs to a subtype known as an “eye cup” for the distinctive large pair of eyes on either side of the exterior. Sometimes, such as on this example, there is also a nose between the eyes. An unusual feature for eye cups is the inclusion of the horselike ears framing the face. These ears turn the depicted face into a representation of a silen, also known as a satyr. Appropriately, silens are followers of Dionysos, the Greek god of wine. Drinking from these types of cups, meant to hold wine, would transform the holder into a silen in the view of others in the room.  

One of two vessels in the Menil Collection signed by Nikosthenes, this cup is inscribed on the foot by the artist. The cup’s shape is atypical for Athenian ceramics as it directly imitates the shape of Greek Chalcidian cups, produced either in Chalkis, Greece, or its colony in southern Italy. This imitation is most evident in the style of the foot, which is much shorter and wider than those seen on other cups (such as 1970-048 DJ). Nikosthenes and his workshop are known for imitating foreign pottery and shapes. The workshop potentially targeted the export market for Athenian vases, producing Chalcidizing cups, kyathoi (a type of ladle-like cup), and the eponymous Nikosthenic amphorai that follow the shape of Etruscan jars.