Cypriot very large jug with 2 stags, 2 (goats ?) and snakes: Early Cypriot III (2100 - 2000 BC)

very large jug with 2 stags, 2 (goats ?) and snakes

A very large, twice restored Cypriot red polished ware flagon, the front of the cut-away spout decorated with a horned quadruped in relief (stag, goat or bull?), with two applied wavy lines (probably stylised undulating snakes) along each edge. Another quadruped with straight horns, below the spout, on the body which is ovoid but tapering at the bottom to a tiny flat base).  A strap handle runs from below the spout cut-away to the shoulder. On each side of the top attachment is an applied disc, with three more around the bottom attachment, and on each side two applied stags with branching horns, facing inwards. The jug would have been intended for feasts, possibly a particular funeral feast, after which it was put in the tomb.  However the paler slip on the handle might indicate wear from repeated use. Possibly from Vounous.

For a large flagon with applied 'snake' motifs see D. Morris, The Art of Ancient Cyprus, Oxford, 1985, p. 230, pl. 261, and for similar applied stag decoration see p. 271. pl. 298. Morris notes that the deer of ancient Cyprus were fallow deer, dama mesopotamica, which in the Early Bronze Age became a popular motif on pottery. These along with other horned animals, principally bulls and some goats, are thought to have been male fertility symbols. He also observes that although the undulating 'snake' decorations on Bronze Age pots never depict a head it seems likely that they do indeed represent snakes. Snakes are thought to have been a chthonic sybol due to their living in holes in the earth. Cyprus is home to the highly venomous Levant viper, which can grow up to one and a half meters long. 

When I bought the piece it was uneven and completely covered with a thick layer of acrylic paint. I have had the paint stripped off.   It covered a botched restoration from about 150 pieces pieces, with a few restored patches. Some of the red slip near joins had been lost in attempting to conceal the mends.  The acrylic paint has now been removed, and the jug taken apart and remade. Some of the areas of lost red glaze and restoration on the body were touched up but can be discerned. The decorations and figures are not restored and most of the glossy red slip is original. 

cf Vounous Tomb 39 item 8Diakos P 1938

Size: 57cm high x 36cm

(Ex Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 21 May 1984, lot 184. then with La Reine Margot, Paris. Private collection UK, acquired from the above in 1985.)

(Aquired Bonhams auction (London))

DJ 171