18th Century Decorative Arts - Great Hall Costume Corridor Level 2, NGV International
Large vase with ovoid body, thick neck, flaring rim, and two handles with swans' heads at the base and "volutes" on the rim, with masks of Io as applied decoration. On Side A a naiskos scene, surrounded by four mourners on two levels, within the naiskos a bearded man, armour and young boy bringing situla. On the neck of A, a woman's head rising from a flower, surrounded by flowers and vegetal scrolls an added white and yellow. On Side B, a stela flanked by four mourners on two levels; on the neck an elaborate palmette.
The masks on the volute handles of this vase represent Io, a priestess of the goddess Hera, at Argos, and one of the mortal lovers of Zeus. She is identified by the horns of the heifer into which she was transformed by the jealous Hera, wife of Zeus. Such elaborate volute handles, with modelled swans’ heads at their base, would have required enormous skill to make and fire successfully. This vase would have been used as part of offerings to the dead and been placed in a tomb. It is not known why the mask of Io was chosen to ornament the volute handles.