Collection Highlight: Amphora Depicting “Shrine with warrior paying respects to deceased man”


Amphora depicting “Shrine with warrior paying respects to deceased man” Gioa del Colle Group, Greek, Apulia, Southern Italy, 340-330 BCE, Terracotta, lead glaze, and polychrome pigments, Gift of Elmer Davy, conserved with funds from the Ann K. Stewart Docent and Volunteer Conservation Fund. Additional Funding from Hayden H. Huston Antiquities Memorial Fund, 1970.006.153

All museum objects have a story. Sometimes we know their story and sometimes we don’t. One object in the UMFA’s collection has two special stories: the amphora depicting “Shrine with warrior paying respects to deceased man”. The first story is that the Amphora is a funerary piece that was created over 2300 years ago to honor someone who died. We know the deceased was important by the very existence of such a large piece of pottery, but the decoration on the amphora re-emphasizes his importance by having a warrior paying his respects and eight other figures bringing gifts and offerings for the dead man.

The amphora’s other story is how it finally came to be on display after being in the UMFA’s collection for 40 years. The amphora came to the UMFA’s in pieces. The top portion of the vase existed as a few dozen pieces. The bottom half was still assembled, but a past restoration using unsuitable adhesives was causing more harm than good. In 2006 it was suggested that the broken amphora could be restored using funds from the Ann K. Stewart Docent and Volunteer Conservation Fund. This fund was created by the UMFA’s docents and volunteers to assist the museum in conserving objects within the collection. Conservation is costly, and often a museum’s tight budget is not able to stretch to include as much conservation as is needed in a given year.  The docents and volunteers vote annually on which object or objects they want their fund to conserve.

individual pottery shards

The conservation of the amphora was complicated and took several years to complete. The entire vase was deconstructed to reverse the previous restoration attempts. Missing pieces were replaced with modern fills and joined to the ancient pieces to make the amphora stable and able to support its own weight. The result is this amazing (and large!) work of art now on display in the Greek and Roman galleries.


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