The Greek and Hellenistic Period

Choes and the Athenian Anthesteria

A chous is a bulbous wine jug with a trefoil mouth used as part of the annual Anthesteria, the celebration of new wine. On the second day known as Choes after the jug, everybody from adults to the very young drank wine, providing their own wine in their own jugs. These choes could be employed to pour diluted wine into drinking vessels, but perhaps on this occasion Athenians drank directly from them.

A special market was set up to buy choes for the festival and their size varied depending on the user. They may have only been used once and so they often show quick and relatively simple decoration. Colours were superimposed upon a black background and in the 5th century a thick red-ochre was used. These mirror the effect of red-figure pottery but often the figures themselves were placed in a rather ill-defined frame with lines crossing at the corners. Late examples also included white painted forms and even imitation gilding in yellow.

At the Bedford Water Festival Graham from was selling a very simple unfinished chous. I have always fancied trying my hand at painting a Greek pot albeit using modern materials, and this proved a relatively cheap opportunity. The nature of choes decoration made applying paint as relatively simple decoration an almost authentic process.

I could not resist using the figure of a cavalryman in typical Thessalian clothing with his horse. I suspect this would be rather too time consuming for the average chous but it would allow me to experiment and have some fun. I used a simple black satin enamel to paint the surface of the jug, and another satin enamel for the figure itself. I covered the whole jug with a satin enamel varnish and waterproofed the chous using beeswax. All in all a fun few hours and an amusing result.