Greek pots: the naughty bits
One of my favourite "Greek Pot" stories is about this satyr -- who features on a psykter (or wine cooler) decorated, as these pots usually are, around its bulbous body.The idea was, you put the wine in the cooler, and then plunged the whole thing into cold water in an even bigger vessel (a krater, or mixing dish) and waited till the wine was nicely chilled.
This one is by Douris, who worked in Athens in the early fifth century, and it's in the British Museum. It shows the wild drunken, goaty satyrs having a characteristically good time... the sort of over the top, out of control partying that the human users of the psykter would fantasize about, but not actually engage in (being civilised men not wild goaty satyrs, if you see what I mean).
Anyway for many years the scene that I have put at the top of this post was completely incomprehensible, as some bowdlerising curator had carefully painted out the willy. So instead of the satyr balancing a cup on his erect penis (an amazing enough feat in itself), he appeared to be leaning back expectantly, while the cup hovered miraculously above him, in mid air.
The painting has now been removed, many years ago in fact, and if you go to the British Museum to see the pot today, these satyrical japes make some sense again (at least the pot has something to balance on).
You would have though that the days of such expurgation were over, but it seems they are not. This week our archaeology seminar had a paper on "Ionian Art and Identity" given by a colleague from Liverpool. Now I must confess that I couldn't go to the seminar, so I rely on second hand accounts (including the husband's). But it seems that the most memorable aspect of the occasion for some of those who did go was the expurgated slide. One of the images shown was of a similarly raunchy Greek pot: it had a concealing 'star' over the genitals (and the husband thought that the eyes had had similar treatment, like in a modern newspaper, but couldn't be sure). The speaker said that his university demanded this for student lectures. To protect the young.
Was this a joke? (That was my instinct when I heard the story...) Or could it really be true -- another bit of University administration gone completely mad.