Sometimes it is the little things that impress people the most, even when it comes to antiquity and ancient representations of art. This bronze lekane from the Vasil Bojkov Collection is an example of how simplicity can adorn and beautifully complement the shape and design of a single piece. What is known to only a few, is that another name for a lekane is a podanipterion. According to some online sources, this is a “basin, normally of brass, which was used for washing the feet before a symposium.” There are two distinct details on this piece that catch the eye of both the experienced historian and the general culture lover, almost in an instant.
The first one, following the very structure of the bronze lekane from top to bottom, is the beautiful row of beading and the hanging Ionic kymation which gently embellishes the rim. The meaning of the word ‘kymation’ is not known by many. Speaking in general, this is used as a term for an ornament that has the form of a strip or a ribbon. Such ornamentation can be seen in all the plastic arts from antiquity, especially when it comes to relief sculptures, architectural sculptures, vase painting, and toreutics. An interesting fact is that Scholars have classified three distinct kymations. The Doric kymation usually has a double band of orthogonal elements similar to the maeander (another ancient ornament which has a long continuous tradition). Another kymation is the Ionian kymation (or Ionic kymation) that is just the one we see on the bronze lekane from Vassil Bojkov Collection. What’s typical for this type is the sequence of egg and dart moulding. Lastly, there is the Lesbian kymation, distinguished with its heart-shaped leaves, separatedby lance-like darts.
Bronze Lekane with Ionic kymation on the rim
The Ionic kymation continues on the outer edges of the handles, represented as horizontal trapezoid plaques. Being the other interesting element of this particular piece, the trapezoidal handles are further decorated with even more nicely shaped details. There is an arch which binds together two round-sectioned parts of the handle’s grip just under the plaques. Each round-sectioned component is joined to the bowl by a disc that is also stunningly decorated – an incomplete rosette with hollowed petals.
In terms of its origin and distribution, it is the details and the overall shape of the piece that gives this away. The rim and handles highlighted by a kymation, the shallow bowl, as well as the simple plain foot with some chased details are said to be typical elements that were exclusively distributed in the Thracian era. To be precise, following conclusions after thorough observations by experts, the Vasil Bojkov Collection exemple is said to be produced in an Attic workshop existing and operating in the third quarter of the 5th century BC. The very same workshop is suggested to have been exporting its pieces to Thracian culture.
The bronze lekane dates back to 450-430 BC. Considered as an object of domestic use, it is supposed to have been used with different functions – from containing and serving food to having been used as a basin for water.