Greek Attic Black-Figured Kylix with Gorgon Attributed to the Leafless group, 500 BC
A Kylix was a type of vessel, similar to a goblet or chalice, with two handles so that it could be held with both hands. These vessels were usually intended for Greek festivities, and were therefore used for drinking wine. Gorgon face peers out from the tondo – its visage presenting wide open eyes, arched brows, an open mouth revealing a wagging tongue, and a curly coiffure. The external surface likely displays a Dionysus scene, with male figures and satyrs. Leaves and vine trellises, rendered in a stylized way through a series of dots, enrich the background of the scene depicted.
Gorgons are hideous, beast-like female creatures that were already seen in Homer’s time and continued to be used as a monstrous symbol throughout the Roman period. The Gorgon was one of the three mythological sisters of the ancient Greek world whose hideous faces embodied the most frightening aspects of death and the supernatural, with wide-open eyes, a pointed, protruding nose, an eerie smile with teeth and fangs, and a curly hairstyle, as seen in this example.
The Leafless Group A group of late Athenian black-figure vases (mostly cups) named for the denuded branches that fill the background. Many of the painted scenes are Dionysian.