13.8.17

Loutrophoros

Pottery of Ancient Greece

Lebes Gamikos | Loutrophoros | Epinetron | Alabastron | Aryballos | Lekythos | Pyxis

The Loutrophoros (loutron phero) means bring a bath is a tall vase with a high, funnel-shaped neck, a slender body and a flaring mouth. It was used for carrying water for a bride's ceremonial bath. It was placed in the grave of an individual who died before marriage.

A loutrophoros (Ancient Greek: λουτροφόρος; Greek etymology: λουτρόν/loutron and φέρω/pherō, English translation: "bathwater" and "carry") is a distinctive type of Greek pottery vessel characterized by an elongated neck with two handles. The loutrophoros was used to carry water for a bride's pre-nuptial ritual bath, and in funeral rituals, and was placed in the tombs of the unmarried. The loutrophoros itself is a motif for Greek tombstones, either as a relief (for instance, the lekythos on the Stele of Panaetius) or as a stone vessel. There are many in the funeral area at the Kerameikon in Athens, some of which are now preserved in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

It is a tall, slender-bodied variety of neck amphora used for ritual purposes.
Shape: It is a very tall vessel with a funnel-shaped neck, set on a slender, elongated body. The foot is spreading and sometimes has no bottom. The handles reach from the shoulder to just below the lip, forming a large loop. These handles may be filled and pierced or just a plain strap. This vessel also appears in a hydria form with a third handle also reaching from the shoulder to the lip zone.

History: This vase recalls both Late Geometric amphorae and the Early Protoattic vases by the Analatos Painter. A steady series continues from the late sixth century until the late fourth century B.C. It becomes very spindly as time progresses. It is a shape that is confined to Attic and South-Italian red-figure.

In the early black-figure it is a shape reserved for funerary purposes, being used mainly as a grave marker. During the fifth century its purpose seems to have been confined to ritual uses, such as weddings (where it was frequently used to carry the water for the bridal bath) or the funeral of an unmarried person. Vases of this shape are commonly decorated with scenes of mourners or wedding processions.

For a depiction of a loutrophoros on a pyxis : British Museum no. E. 774

Term: The name may be convincingly applied to vessels of this shape.

Dem. 44.18: "Archiades died unmarried. And the proof? A loutrophoros stands on his tomb."
Harpokration defines the loutrophoros: "It was the custom at marriage to send for a bath on the wedding day, for this purpose they sent the boy who was the nearest relative and these boys brought the bath. And it was the custom to put the loutrophoros on the tomb of those who died unwed."

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