An East Greek Silver Phiale (Libation Bowl), Archaic Period, ca. 6th century BCE
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This fine silver vessel is known as a phiale, an ancient Greek term for such broad, shallow bowls. Its origins lie in Achaemenid Persia, and this bowl demonstrates the interaction between Greek and Achaemenid forms well. Used for drinking or pouring libations, it has a carinated or ridged shoulder, a turned-out rim, and a band of radiating petals on the underside. In the center of the bowl is a shallow raised boss that allowed the phiale to be held more easily in one hand.
Usually referred to by the Greek term omphalos, it represented the navel of the world, believed to be a large sacred hemispherical stone located at the sanctuary of Delphi. The vessel was made by raising and sinking a single sheet of metal, then adding chased details, a method employed for most Achaemenid metalware. Previously largely unknown in the archaic Greek tradition, it is possibly the most long-lived contribution of Achaemenid toreutic to the Greek repertoire, thus becoming a permanent, if not a universal, component.
For a related example, see The Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession number 1980.11.13.
Dimensions: Diameter: 6 3/8 inches (16.19 cm)
Condition: Two cracks at the shoulder, with slight denting and overall surface wear, otherwise the vessel is intact and in very good condition.
Provenance: Private London collection, acquired on the London Art Market in 1990.