Local copy of a 'Hadra' Hydria used as a cinerary urn - ROM2018_16917_174


Local copy of a 'Hadra' Hydria used as a cinerary urn

Maker: Attributed to the Painter of the Twigless Laurel Leaves
Medium:Wheel-thrown earthenware, slip-painted
Geography: Made in Alexandria, Egypt; found in Alexandria, Egypt
Date: about 250/240-225 BC
Period: Hellenistic period
Object number: 919X13.25
Credit Line: Gift of Sigmund Samuel
On view
Gallery Location:Gallery of Greece

Although this shape (hydria), was originally used as a water-jar, in the Hellenistic period a particular group of painted hydriai were used as containers for cremated remains. They have been named ‘Hadra’ hydriai after the cemetery in Alexandria where many of them were first discovered, although they have since been found in the other cemeteries of Alexandria and in small quantities in cemeteries in Athens, Eretria, Thera, Rhodes, Cyprus and Ukraine. Clay analysis has shown that these vases were generally made in Central Crete, where they have also been found in domestic contexts.  In Alexandria these vases sometimes have an inscription scratched onto the vase or written in ink, which includes the name, rank, and origin of the dead person, and the date of burial. As well as helping date the vase, these inscriptions indicate that the people buried in this manner were Greek ambassadors or mercenaries who received state funerals.

This particular hydria is made of Alexandrian clay and is therefore a local imitation of the Cretan vase-type. It is decorated with a spray of leaves in a frieze on the neck and a spray of flowers on the belly. Beneath these is a frieze of bucraniai (bull’s skulls) alternating with floral motifs.  The vase painter has been identified by Enklaar as the “Peintre du Laurier sans Branche”, who was part of the Alexandrian workshop of the Group of Twigless Laurel Leaves. This vase does not have any inscriptions, but is three-quarters full of cremated bones.

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