Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Dipylon Vase

Designers of these pots would feel them with their hands, measure them carefully at every elevation, caress their spacious curves with abstract ornamentation in meanders and keys so that the circular space acquires a kind of perpetual motion we perceive as our eyes travel up and down the keyhole shape and around and around each separate band.
The pots themselves, made about the same time Homer was making his epics, are gigantic, but their decorative elements are quite small, setting up elaborate rhythms in both horizontal and vertical dimensions over the entire surface. Patterns of light and dark express the shape of the vessel in subtle articulations, and their determined geometry of horizontals and verticals sets up a splendid contrast with the curvilinear contours of the body.
Here are the parts, which you can find for yourself:

Offset lip

Cylindrical neck

Sweeping shoulder

Broad belly

Tapering foot

You will have noticed that each of these parts is named for a part of the body. The vase is around 5 feet tall or so, and can be compared to freestanding sculpture.

Through this vessel - many believe, on account of the holes broken into their base- oils and libations would flow, eventually to the body beneath. That is, they are funeral markers, not tombs; bodies were not stored within. Instead, if this interpretation is correct, the vase acts as a kind of conduit between our world of the living and the world of the dead. Other scholars believe that the holes found in the bottom of vases like these were simply used to keep the grave markers from toppling down. I prefer the notion of mourners pouring libations through the vessel to their lost loved one, maintaining some sort of reassurance.