In the form of an Amazon wearing a Phrygian cap with ear flaps and a headband, with a prominent chin, parted lips and an aquiline nose, the Phrygian cap and vessel neck are black glazed.
of Spencer Compton, Second Marquess of Northampton, (1790-1851), Castle Ashby, Northamptonshire
called the collection of Greek vases ‘the richest private collection in Great
Britain and one of the richest in the world’. (J.D. Beazley, ‘Notes in the
Vases in Castle Ashby’, Papers of the British School at Rome, vol. 11,
1929, pp. 1-29). From 1820 to 1830 the Second Marquess lived in Italy, where he
acquired most of his collection of over 160 ancient vases, including 52
black-figure amphorae, Eduard Gerhard was the first archaeologist to describe
some of the vases in Northampton's collection, while on a visit to Rome: Vasen
des Lord Northampton, Archäologische Zeitung, 4, Col. 340-342, Berlin, 1848.
After the Marquess’s return to England, the vases were placed at one of his
residences, Castle Ashby in Northamptonshire.
A rare type, this oinochoe is in the form of an Amazon's head. The subject is distinctive due to the Phrygian style head wear, a soft conical cap with characteristic earflaps and a loose fold bent over at the apex. Greek vases depict Eastern 'barbarians' such as Amazons and Scythian archers wearing such headwear.
The Castle Ashby Amazon belongs to a small group of Greek vases in the form of heads that begin to appear circa 400 BC when the head vase as a form revives in ancient Greece. There is also a red-figure head vase in the Ashmolean depicting a woman with black painted skin and wearing a Persian cap or kidaris: BAPD 218693; CVA: Oxford, Ashmolean Museum 1, 10, pl.(96) 4.7-8. It has been suggested that she depicts an Eastern princess such as Andromeda. She is part of a group of Attic red-figure head vases attributed to Class W, The Persian Class, by Beazley as they all depict heads wearing Persian headgear. This also includes a vase in the British Museum (inv, no. 1849.0620.12), which is the form of a head of a Persian man wearing a Persian cap.
J. Boardman and M. Robertson, Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum, Great Britain, fascicule 15: Castle Ashby, Northampton, Oxford, 1979, no. 109, p. 39, pls. 60.1 and 60.2
Christie's, London, The Castle Ashby Vases, 2 July 1980, lot 4