The lekythos depicts a young draped woman holding a large cista, with large ornate palmettes to either side. There is an unusual red-figure frieze above, consisting of two lines of half pomegranates. Strokes and rays decorate the neck.
With Holger Termer, Hamburg, acquired before 1987 With Herbert A. Cahn, Basel, circa 1989 German private collection P.C., acquired from the above Gorny & Mosch, Munich, 13 December 2017, lot 42
Attributed by Michael Padgett to the Carlsruhe Painter. Named after a vase attributed to him now in a museum in Carlsruhe, Germany, the painter was known for his lekythoi, both in the red-figure technique and in outline on white-ground vases such as this example. These vases, filled with a small amount of precious oil, were placed on graves as offerings to the deceased. For a vase also attributed to the Carlsruhe Painter showing a similar draped woman with a cista, cf. J. Boardman, Red-figure Vases from Athens. The Classical Period, 1991, fig. 63, (Beazley Archive Pottery Database no. 203128).
Such vessels of female subjects holding caskets are thought to depict marriage gifts and preparations as the cista was usually a container for a dowry. For further discussion see E. Brümmer, Griechische Truhenbehälter, Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, vol. 100, 1985, p. 107 ff.
The frieze of half pomegranates is a very unusual decorative motif on Attic vases, but one which is linked to fertility so an apt motif for a wedding vessel. At her wedding, an Athenian bride would be given a ripe fruit symbolising her fruitfulness and readiness to accept her role in society as a mother. However, a connection with Persephone eating the pomegranate from Hades has also been suggested and the change from a young girl living at home with her parents, to moving to her husband's household. A similar style frieze can be seen on the neck of a white-ground lekythos attributed to the Icarus Painter (Beazley Archive Pottery Database no. 208396).
This lekythos is rare and interesting, demonstrating a distinctive combination of white-ground vessel but with a band of red-figure decoration beneath the shoulder. For further examples and discussion of the use of red-figure shoulder decoration on white-ground lekythoi, see D.C. Kurtz, Athenian White Lekythoi, 1975, p. 27.