Scenes of domestic activity are part of the initial emergence of Attic polychrome white ground lekythoi. These scenes made their first appearance circa 470 BCE, a date that relatively follows the close of the Persian Wars. The Demosion Sema, which is the state burial ground established for deceased warriors, and the establishment of Athenian democracy in 507 BCE signaled a significant change in Athenian funerary customs and focus in society. No longer was the male-centric concept of the polis—the public, city-sphere--emphasized on funerary art, but rather the oikos—the household--, traditionally the domain of women.
Domestic scenes, but especially those depicting women, dominated the figural decoration of the early group of white ground lekythoi (ca. 470-450 BCE). Scenes depicting women actively making preparations for funerary rites and preparing to visit the dead with an assemblage of offerings is the most common type of scene. However it is also typical to see a pair of women involved with day-to-day activities like childrearing, playing with games and with pets, making music, and wool working, although scenes such as these play secondary roles to scenes centered on death. The imagery emphasizes the importance of women in caring for both the living and the dead, even long after the deceased has been interred. Men do appear on Attic polychrome white ground lekythoi, but are most commonly seen as travelers and/or as soldiers departing on a journey.
Please select a lekythos by clicking on its thumbnail image, then hover over the scene for its iconographic analysis. Below the image of each individual lekythos, you will find more information about it including its artist, date of production, and a description. Feel free to zoom in and out and drag the images after you select a thumbnail.
Baskets and Alabastron Mistress and Maid with Box Mistress and Maid with Basket Childrearing Fragment
Mistress, Maid, and Inscription Women with Funerary Baskets