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Animal-Shaped Vessels from the Ancient World: Feasting with Gods, Heroes, and Kings

Animal-Shaped Vessels from the Ancient World: Feasting with Gods, Heroes, and Kings

$ 55.00

The first comprehensive and cross-disciplinary look at these unique vessels—important symbols of artistic ingenuity, social life, and cultural exchange in ancient times.

Edited by Susanne Ebbinghaus

With contributions by A. Cassandra Albinson, Angela Chang, Henry P. Colburn, Michael Dietler, Susanne Ebbinghaus, Katherine Eremin, Janling Fu, Robert B. Koehl, Paul Kosmin, Barbara Kowalzig, Ethan W. Lasser, Judith A. Lerner, François Louis, Patrick McGovern, Mary McWilliams, Thomas S. Michie, Elizabeth Molacek, Melissa Moy, Gregory Nagy, Carol Neuman de Vegvar, Kimberley C. Patton, Joanne Pillsbury, Jeffrey Quilter, and Mark Weeden

Published in 2018

ISBN: 9780300237030
404 pages; 9 x 11 in.
335 (approx.) color & b/w illustrations

Published by Harvard Art Museums
Distributed by Yale University Press

While the songs, speeches, and prayers that enlivened ancient feasts are now largely lost to us, the vessels used to drink or pour liquids at these festive occasions have survived. And many—for reasons not always entirely clear—were made in the shape of animals: bulls and rams, lions and deer, graceful birds and braying donkeys, among others. What is more, the tradition of crafting animal-shaped vessels is not unique to one culture or geographic locale; the affinity for this type of object spans ancient civilizations in the Mediterranean, the Near and Far East, and South America. This comprehensive volume delves into the rich cross-cultural story of these entertaining and often extremely lifelike objects, offering a picture of how they spurred artistic exchange and innovation.      

The world of ancient feasting and ritual practice comes into focus through the lively questions taken up in the book. How exactly could one drink from and hold these sometimes unwieldly objects? Could they double as masks? Which beverages would have filled them? What does the preference for these shapes say about the human/animal relationship? How do they relate to social standing? These questions and more, illuminated by a standout lineup of international contributors, help us not only to better understand this unique form of drinking vessel, but also to appreciate the experiences of the individuals and communities who raised up these one-of-a-kind objects in pleasure and in praise.

The related exhibition, Animal-Shaped Vessels from the Ancient World: Feasting with Gods, Heroes, and Kings, is on display at the Harvard Art Museums from September 7, 2018 to January 6, 2019.  

Susanne Ebbinghaus is the George M.A. Hanfmann Curator of Ancient Art and head of the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at the Harvard Art Museums.

Crucial support for this project came in the form of a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. In addition, the Harvard Art Museums are deeply grateful to the anonymous donor of a gift in memory of Melvin R. Seiden and to Malcolm H. Wiener (Harvard A.B. ’57, J.D. ’63) and Michael and Helen Lehmann for enabling us to mount this exhibition and to pursue the related research. This work was also made possible in part by the following endowed funds: the David M. Robinson Fund; the Andrew W. Mellon Publication Funds, including the Henry P. McIlhenny Fund; and the M. Victor Leventritt Fund, which brings outstanding scholars of the history and theory of art to the Harvard and Greater Boston communities through the generosity of the wife, children, and friends of the late M. Victor Leventritt, Harvard Class of 1935.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this book and exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.


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