The black-figure drinking bowl, created by the potter and vase painter Exekias around 530 BC, is one of the most famous ancient vessels of all time.
Inside you can see Dionysus, the god of wine, lying on a ship with a swelled white sail. Along the mast, vines climb up and dolphins dance around the ship. With this picture, the beholder is to be reminded of a well-known myth about the god: Dionysus had been captured by Etruscan pirates and abducted aboard their ship. On the high seas, however, the god appeared to the men in his true form, after which they were seized with panic and they plunged into the sea where Dionysus transformed them into dolphins.
Whoever drank from this bowl had a rather peculiar experience: for him, the god emerged from the sea of red wine, he floated on the waves for a brief moment and then he sailed his ship into the drinker’s open mouth. The bowl was therefore much more than just an extravagant drinking vessel. Through each sip, the user came closer to the god Dionysus, as it were.
Exekias was well aware of the outstanding quality of the vessel he had created. He signed his work on the outside on the edge of the foot of the vessel:"Exekias epoese" - Exekias made it.