Bird Jug



Bird Jug


ca. 700 BC


Cypro-Archaic I
Cypriot Bichrome IV


6 1/2 x 5 in. (16.5 x 12.7 cm)

Object Number



Starkly isolated against a background without any subsidiary ornament, a bird hovers beside a foliate spray. The freshness and the pictorial character of the painting seem a deliberate reaction against aesthetic traditions that promoted patternwork. This so-called "free field" style was adopted by a small group of vase-painters working mostly in Southern and Eastern Cyprus at the end of the eighth century and beginning of the seventh. Their subject matter was restricted: bulls, gazelles, but above all birds. The rich use of black and red glaze on a cream ground has given rise to the term "bichrome".

The association between birds and jugs on Cyprus can be traced back into the Bronze Age on duck-askoi, and on a series of jugs (sometimes decorated with birds) the shape of whose body, neck, and mouth seem to be inspired by birds singing. Birds in the ancient Greek world were considered divinely inspired, oracular; they were also sometimes kept as pets. Migrating birds, particularly the swallow and its appearance in spring, regularly caught the imagination of both poet and artist. It is not known what the associations (if any) between birds and wine-jugs may have been. They may have included spring-time, when the birds returned and the new wine was first opened and not necessarily articulate song-as the symposiast drank more, he became more voluble.

Today, it is customary to speak of vessels in anthropomorphic terms: they have handles, mouths, lips, shoulders, feet. The eyes on the spout of this one are among the earliest examples known of this tradition. Here they may also have been considered apotropaic, warding off the evil eye and guiding the liquid without spillage into its new container.

Credit Line

Museum purchase


From Pharaohs to Emperors: New Egyptian and Classical Antiquities at Emory, Michael C. Carlos Museum, January 14 - April 2, 2006|
MCCM Permanent Collection Reinstallation, July 2014 - Present
MCCM Newsletter, December 2005 - February 2006.|
Peter Lacovara and Jasper Gaunt, "From Pharaohs to Emperors: Egyptian, Near Eastern & Classical Antiquities at Emory," Minerva 17 (January/February 2006): 9-16.|
Michael C. Carlos Museum: Highlights of the Collections (Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, 2011), 43.


© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White, 2005.
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On View



“Bird Jug,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed September 18, 2020,

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