This vase - which is popularly known as a Dipylon Vase - is decorated with precise geometric patterns. These patterns are balanced by highly stylized and abstracted images of figures, making this work a grand example of the Geometric style. The detail of the vase shown above features a scene of human and animal figures. The humans are depicted as warriors, with their "figure eight" shields, while a group of horses stands in a row in front of a chariot.
The name "Dipylon" is especially important in understanding the meaning and significance of this work. In ancient Athens, there was a gate called the Dipylon (the word dipylon, incidentally, means double door). This gate stood near an Athenian cemetery. In this cemetery, mourners placed enormous vases such as this one to mark the graves of their departed loved ones. Ultimately these vases, which were created to serve funerary purposes, became connected in name with the nearby Dipylon gate. Some art historians suggest that in addition to their function as grave markers, occasionally these vases were used to receive libations.
It is worth noting that there are many vases similar to this particular work - it is most certainly not unique. Scholars have attributed several of these massive funerary vases to the so-called Dipylon Master or members of the Dipylon Workshop.
John Boardman, the author of this book, is one of the most respected experts of ancient Greek art. And his work is an excellent introduction to the study of this subject, with images and text that brings Greek sculpture, vase painting, and architecture vividly to life.
This beautifully illustrated book (from the Phaidon Art and Ideas series and written by Nigel Spivey) covers the subject of ancient Greek art brilliantly.