Kopfgefäß Charun

Staatliche Antikensammlungen und Glyptothek


The Etruscan death-demon, Charun, looks fearsome on this head vessel, which is one of a kind. He has tattoos, ear and nose rings, a crooked nose, deep wrinkles and hair that stands up vertically from his forehead. The nose ring is made of carnelian (classical?). The nose is extremely large and hooked. His weather-beaten face is covered in wrinkles. The bushy eyebrows are close together, while the mouth is framed by what was once a pointed beard. On the back of this unique head vessel, below the handle, sits a silvery hybrid creature, one of the companions of the Greek god of wine, Dionysus.

The name of the demon Charun has links with the Greek ferryman Charon, who ferried the dead across the rivers Styx and Acheron in the underworld. Unlike him, Charun is a fierce winged demon who was said to smash people with his hammer. He could perform the role of ferryman or, like Hermes, guide souls to the underworld.

The vessel combines an Etruscan theme with a Greek type of vase that was popular in Athens in the 5th century BC. It may have been used as a burial gift or as a memento mori (Latin for "remember that you will die") at banquets.

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