Pyxis and Exaleiptron

Drawing of pyxisThe pyxis (pl. pyxides) is a small round box, probably used for storing trinkets, ointments or cosmetics. The type can be traced back to Geometric examples, which are often topped by horses, but the most common black-figure shape seems to have been borrowed from Corinth. In red-figure, pyxides are regularly decorated with scenes of female activity, and the shape is shown in feminine contexts. Contemporary references to vessels of this sort use the word kylichnis, and the term pyxis is found mainly after the fourth century B.C. However, its connection with the Greek pyxos - boxwood, may reveal something about the shape's material origins, and examples of the shape can be found in other media, such as stone.

Another type of container is the exaleiptron (pl. exaleiptra) which may have been used primarily for liquids (compare the Greek exaleipho, - wash over, anoint). It is not entirely clear to which specific shape, if any, the term refers, and in modern literature other Greek names such as kothon or plemochoe may be used.Typical however is the cylindrical form of the body and an incurving lip that would prevent spillage of the contents whilst carrying. In the sixth century, some may have three (often decorated) feet, but later examples tend to have a high splaying foot. They are carried by women as they approach the grave on white-ground lekythoi.

Athenian pyxis ht. 11cm
  • Athenian pyxis ht. 11cm
Athenian pyxis ht. 14.5cm
  • Athenian pyxis ht. 14.5cm
Athenian pyxis
  • Athenian pyxis
Exaleiptron
  • Exaleiptron