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Kylix facts for kids

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Black-figure terracotta kylix (wine cup), Greece. late 6th century BCE, Honolulu Academy of Arts
Double view of a late 6th-century kylix

In the pottery of ancient Greece, a kylix is the most common type of wine-drinking cup. It has a broad, relatively shallow, body raised on a stem from a foot and usually two horizontal handles disposed symmetrically. The main alternative wine-cup shape was the kantharos, with a narrower and deeper cup and high vertical handles.

The almost flat interior circle of the base of the cup, called the tondo, was generally the primary surface for painted decoration in the black-figure or red-figure pottery styles of the 6th and 5th century BC, and the outside was also often painted. As the representations would be covered with wine, the scenes would only be revealed in stages as the wine was drained. They were often designed with this in mind, with scenes created so that they would surprise or titillate the drinker as they were revealed.

The word comes from the Greek kylix "cup," which is cognate with Latin calix, the source of the English word "chalice" but not related to the similar Greek word calyx which means "husk" or "pod". The term seems to have been rather more generally used in ancient Greece. Individual examples and the many named sub-varieties of kylix are often called names just using "cup". Like all other types of Greek pottery vessels, they are also covered by the general term of "vase".

Famous pieces

Individual kylixes with articles include:

  • Arkesilas Cup, very unusual because it shows a living political figure, Arkesilaos II, king of Kyrene (d. 550 BC). It is dated to about 565/560 BC, and is now in Paris.
  • Dionysus Cup, famous for its painting, 540–530 BC. It is one of the masterpieces of the Attic Black-figure potter Exekias and one of the most significant works in the Staatliche Antikensammlungen in Munich.
  • Berlin Foundry Cup, a red-figure kylix from the early 5th century BC. It is the name vase of the Attic vase painter known conventionally as the Foundry Painter. Its most striking feature is the exterior depiction of activities in an Athenian bronze workshop or foundry. It is an important source on ancient Greek metal-working technology.
  • Brygos Cup of Würzburg, an Attic red-figure kylix from about 480 BC. It was made by the Brygos potter and painted by the man known as the Brygos Painter. Its symposium scenes are some of the best-known images of Greek pottery.
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