From the Sentinel:

I would like to know the present value of the two Greek pottery Lekythos that date to 600 B.C. They were purchased from a reputable Greek dealer years ago, and they came with a certificate from Greek customs. Thanks for your help,


Dear S.H.:

I have no doubt whatsoever that these pieces are authentic and around 2,500 years old. But in reading the certificate I find some small discrepancies with the research I did. This leads me to suggest that you have these two pieces independently authenticated by a specialist in the field.

First, perhaps I should explain what a Lekythos is. A Lekythos is generally defined as a cylindrical vessel with a slender neck that has a single handle attached from the top of the shoulder to below the flaring mouth.

These vessels are ancient Greek in origin but some were made in the Greek colonies in Italy. The original use for these items was religious or decorative; most feel they were used mainly for funeral rituals.

Lekythoi vary in size from pieces that are almost 3 feet tall to examples that are less than 8 inches tall. Most were meant to hold oil and occasionally perfume for funerary purposes. Many have been found tossed into graves after the anointing of the deceased's body was completed.

Contrary to what the certificate says, this type of decoration originated in Corinth in the 7th century B.C. (circa 620) and spread to other Greek city states including Sparta and Athens. In fact the artists of Athens created many beautiful black-figure pieces considered by many to be the pinnacle of this art form.

I checked extensive records for the past few years (about 100 pieces) and came to the conclusion that this black-figure Lekythos is circa 550 B.C. and is probably worth $1,500 to $1,800. That sum, however, depends very much on how collectors react to the extensive chipping of the decoration balanced with the interest of the subject matter that features Penelope, Odysseus and their dog.

The other piece is Athenian circa 450 B.C. and is worth a bit less. This is a white ground piece with floral decorations and should be valued for about $1,000 to $1,200. It, too, has extensive, but less unsightly damage to the painting.

... sounds like someone bough something on eBay ... a photo of the (rather grotty) piece accompanies the original article.