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The Grimani Jug
||ca. 450 BC
||bronze, lead, gold and silver
||from the Fejérváry-Pulszky Collection
The Grimani Jug
Gábor Fejérváry, with his nephew Ferenc Pulszky, created Hungary's most important private collection of ancient art. He bought this bronze jug, dating from the classical period of Greek art, from the collection of the Grimani family of Venice in 1833. Judging by the shape, the Grimani jug was used at banquets for decanting wine. The body of bronze vessels had formerly been cast, but by the fifth century BC they were hammered from sheet metal, and thus in spite of the use of common decorative motifs each piece was individual.
The tongue pattern running around the foot, the pearlstring-like ribbing following the arc of the handle and the palmette which closes it merely complement the two figures intended as the main adornments of this graceful jug. On the edge of the lip sits a bearded figure with pointed ears, holding drinking horns. This is Silenos, a companion to Dionysos, god of wine. Behind him, at the base of the handle, is a siren with wings spread. The ancient Greeks believed these woman-headed birds awaited those entering the Underworld, that with their enticing song they might soften the bitterness of death.
The linking of wild revelry and death may seem odd, but it was not alien to Greek thought. They believed they would have parties in the beyond too, so the necessary vessels were often placed next to the dead. The Grimani jug, which is completely intact, was probably placed in the depths of a tomb shortly after it was made, to accompany its owner on his or her journey to the realm of Hades.