Minoan Octopus Jar

This replica Minoan octopus jar is part of our Classics Centre collection.

This particular style is called a "stirrup" jar, because of the inverted stirrup-shape of the handles. Its fluid octopus design is typical of the Late Minoan period (1500BC). 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.

The Late Minoan period reached a high point in foreign expansion and vigorous economic activity. The pottery of this period is characterised by an exuberant joy in nature; the motifs are naturalistic and there is a great sense of movement. There is no three-dimensional illusionism; the impact of the painting comes from the shapes of the motifs and their relationship to the vessel’s shape and contours. The marine style is also characterised by the desire to fill every available space with some ornamentation.

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.