This miniature vessel is a spherical aryballos widely used as a container for oil in the Late Archaic and Early Classical Periods of Greek history. It was doubtless mould made and relies upon two different hues of blue faience for its visual impact. In keeping with Greek aesthetic concerns, this aryballos is divided into distinctive zones which emphasize the tectonic shape of the vessel itself. The thick, disk-shaped mouth rises up from a narrow neck. Its top surface is concave and pierced with a small, central opening, both of which were intentionally designed to control the flow of oil. The mouth is attached to a strap handle exhibiting a scored,
design. The body of the aryballos itself is divided into two zones, separated from one another by a double, sculptural band. The pattern above on the shoulder zone is a frieze of lancelet-like leaves raised up from the background in such as way that they appear as sculptural elements. Below, is a tongue-pattern of alternating lighter and darker blue forms.
Such vessels are indebted to forms created earlier in terracotta by Corinthian potteries who introduced the spherical shape in imitation of fruit. The lancelet-like leaves and tongue patterning on our example are certainly evocative of the stylized skins of fruit which are peeled before eating. Ceramicists from East Greek city-states in Ionia then adopted the Egyptian technology of faience for the manufacture of such vessels. These aryballoi not only held precious unguents and balms used as cosmetics by wealthy Greeks, but also pure olive oil with which athletes in the Olympic and other games bathed.
For a discussion of the type and very good parallels for our aryballos, see Virginia Webb, Archaic Greek Faience (Warminster 1978), plate XVII, nos. 747 and 751; and plate XVIII, no. 755.