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Scenes at the Grave

If judging from the frequency of women appearing at graves on Attic polychrome white ground lekythoi versus men, it appears that women visited the graves of the deceased more often than men in Classical Athens. The earliest depiction of a visit to a tomb comes from the neck of a black-figure loutrophoros by the Sappho painter at the end 6th century BCE. Even on this vessel, it is two women that flank the grave of the deceased. According to John H. Oakley in his 2004 Picturing Death in Classical Athens, scenes involving visits to the grave are by far the most popular scene on Attic white ground lekythoi, appearing on approximately 85% of the several thousand known lekythoi of this style (p. 485). This type of scene dominated lekythoi especially after the mid-5th century, even surpassing the popularity of scenes in domestic settings. In fact, by this time, the production of lekythoi reached their peak, resulting in more variety with respect to the images shown as well as the number of lekythoi found as grave goods.

Figures at these scenes can be: living visitors, the deceased shown dead or alive, or ambiguous figures that are difficult to label as living or deceased. The visiting figures most often mourn and/or bring offerings to the dead. Two women bracketing the grave is the most common motif.

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.


"Elderly     Non-Greek Girl     Complex Stele and Two Lekythoi     Grave Visit with Bird
Elderly Man and Deceased Son             Non-Greek Girl                Complex Stele and Two Lekythoi          Grave Visit with Bird  

"Sarcophagus     Youth Epiphany, Tutor, and Wrestling Scene     Woman Visiting and Soldier Epiphany     Woman Pouring Libation

Sarcophagus on top of Stele       Youth Epiphany and Tutor     Woman and Soldier Epiphany      Woman Pouring Libation  


"Grave     Red and Yellow Color Preservation     Fugitive Colors, Underdrawings Revealed     Somber Ephipany

   Red Color Preservation       Red/Yellow Color Preservation Fugitive Colors and Underdrawings     Somber Epiphany  


"Lots     Grave with Many Deposits     Eidolon and Epiphany     Tymbos and Tall Stele

Many Ribbons at Grave Visit        Grave with Many Deposits          Eidolon and Epiphany                Tymbos and Talle Stele