This stirrup jar (so-called because of the inverted stirrup-shape of the handles) with its fluid octopus design is typical of the Late Minoan period. Marine motifs, like the octopus, work well on a variety of vase shapes, because their shapes are simple, irregular and sinuous and translate well to two-dimensional representation. This 'marine style' is also characterised by 'horror vacui' (a need to fill every available space with some ornamentation). Here, as in many other similar vessels, the octopus swims diagonally, with rockwork, coral, seaweed and shells filling the space between the tentacles.
The original of this piece, found in the palace at Knossos, is in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum in Heraklion on Crete and dates to ca 1500 BC. There is a similar one in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
Minoan octopus stirrup jar (large)
- Height: 20cm