In celebration of National Olive Day (June 1), we’re taking a closer look at an object associated with olive oil storage – the lekythos!

Object: JI1724
JIAAW Collection

With a narrow neck and a single handle, the lekythos is a small vessel that stores perfumed olive oils or other balms. Associated with death and funerals in the Greek world, lekythoi were typically left near the burials sites of unmarried women, allowing women to partake in the common wedding practice of smearing themselves with oil as they prepared for marriage in the afterlife. Lekythoi commonly depicted images of either daily activities and rituals or funerary art like parting scenes, moments of loss, or burial practices.

-Elaina Kim ‘21, JIAAW Records and Collections Assistant 2017/18

See other examples of lekythoi:

Attributed to the Amasis Painter | Terracotta lekythos (oil flask) | Greek, Attic | Archaic | The Met

Redmond, Roland L. and Dudley T. Easby Jr. 1956. “Report of the Trustees for the Fiscal Year 1955-1956.” Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 15(2): p. 54. Richter, Gisela M. A. 1970. “The Department of Greek and Roman Art: Triumphs and Tribulations.” Metropolitan Museum Journal, 3: pp. 84, 86-87, fig.


Penn Museum Object MS5463 – Lekythos

From the Harvard Art Museums’ collections Lekythos (oil flask): Visit to the Grave

Identification and Creation Object Number 1925.30.54 People Attributed to The Bird Painter Title Lekythos (oil flask): Visit to the Grave Classification Vessels Work Type vessel Date c. 430 BCE Places Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Attica Period Classical period, High Culture Greek Persistent Link https://hvrd.art/o/291597 Physical Descriptions Medium Terracotta with polychrome decoration Technique White-ground Dimensions H.