As an intern in the ancient art department in 2008, I grew attached to a few artifacts in the Greek collection that have enchanted me with their beauty. Now that I’ve returned to volunteer in the department and the ancient art galleries are open, I have an opportunity to once again work closely with the objects I’ve come to love. Out of the entire collection, there is perhaps one tiny item that I admire more than any other: the aryballos in the shape of a warrior’s head from Rhodes.
An aryballos is a vessel for holding oil or perfume, and this particular object has so much personality. At once, I can imagine the man who owned it. Perhaps he himself was a warrior, perhaps it was a gift, perhaps it was a small purchase from the agora in Rhodes; maybe he chose this particular mustachioed one because he himself wore a mustache. I can picture someone using it after an athletic contest or a bath, picking it up and remembering something personal about it as one does with household objects. Just imagine any random object in your home and picture your own personal story behind it, and you can understand how I feel about this aryballos.
By no means a brilliant work of craftsmanship (the potter probably made dozens of similar warrior-headed vessels every day), I still appreciate the minor details like the wispy flourish on the helmet front, the floral accents on the cheeks, the well-trimmed, manly ‘stache, and the steely gaze of the eyes. Objects like this remind me of how we have so much in common with the ancient world.
–Michael Moore, VMFA Curatorial volunteer