Grecian Formula

By Ray Schultz

Frank Johnson once joked that nobody, not even the editors, could define the mission of Horizon magazine. And it followed that they could not explain Horizon Books.

But they tried. Here’s a letter written in the 1960s by Johnson himself—for the HORIZON Book of Ancient Greece, offering a replica of a Greek “kylix.” It seems understandable enough.

Dear Reader:

The Greeks had a way with them.

For example, I don’t believe you can read your copy of The HORIZON Book of Ancient Greece without feeling again a strong sense of kinship with those long-gone people. Their ideas of reason and freedom and art are still, across the long years, ours.

We hope and believe you’ll thoroughly enjoy the book. All of us here who worked on it became happily immerse in our topic, and rather regret its completion. So saying, here is pictured a somewhat unexpected result of our own emotional involvement.

If you never saw a Greek “kylix” … now you have.

And If you would like to own one, in perfect facsimile … now you can. At quite a bargain.

Let me explain: In the course of our researches on Greek art for the book, we arrived at a carefully guarded storage room in the cavernous basement of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. There, acquired through the Rogers Fund I 1908, were some of the contents of a nameless warrior’s tomb, discovered in 1895 at Montefortino, near Arcevia in Northern Italy.

He was buried around 400-300 N.C. And whether he was Greek or Etruscan, his cherished wine-drinking equipment certainly was of Greek design and manufacture. With him, among other objects, were a silver pitcher (oninochoe), badly deteriorated; a handsome silver ladle; a big, flat-bottom drinking vessel (skyphos), also deteriorated; an two beautiful preserved silver drinking bowls – – “kylites,” in the plural. Quite possibly these treasures were war booty.

I don’t know how to explain why the kylix made such an impression on several of us, except to say that it’s one of those small things you have seen on occasion in museums and wanted to own – – not because it’s “priceless,” but because it’s perfection of a sort…It’s a two-handled bowl, 5-3/8” in diameter, 7-1/2” across the handles.

You’ll find the handles were utilitarian as well as graceful. One’s thumbs fit solidly across them, we’d guess for two-fisted wine drinking. The intaglio design at the center is fern leaves, fish-net weights, and honeysuckle. No one quite knows why the small nipple is there. Perhaps it’s just that the Greeks were anthropomorphic on occasion.

As with many archaeological objects, your guess about the details is as good as anyone’s. Since the Greeks often mixed water with their wine before drinking it, one of us non-archaeologists thinks the little bead served as a jigger. Cover it with wine, fill to the brim with water?

I do know the design is so good that it richly deserves emulation. With the Metropolitan Museum’s consent and cooperation, we asked the Gorham Company of Providence – – “America’s Leading Silversmiths since 1813” is their proud slogan – – to reproduce the kylix.

The cross-section…is from one of Gorham’s blueprints, made under the close supervision of Mr. J. Russell Price, their Director of Design. Since all of us wanted it to be an exact copy, not an approximation – – as are most reproductions – – the task challenged even Gorham’s silversmiths. They have followed the exact curve of the original walls, a painstaking job because of the varying camber and thickness and the undercut at the rim; and have made a dental-wax impression of the original intaglio, to get it precisely right without harming the original.

…At any rate, we thought you and some of the other owners of our book might like to own a superb copy of this rare and little-known classic Greek object. To us, it says a lot about the Green artists’ unmatched simplicity of design and facility of proportion.

The kylix seems to us to be primarily an art object. But of course it can be “used” for anything from candy to olives to ashes to – if you will – wine and water. It can make a most original gift, for Christmas or a wedding or a thank-you.

But the kylix has been costly to reproduce. So we will have less than 2,000 available this year, to be ready in a few weeks. Quite possibly, that’s all there will ever be. And it will never be generally available. The three names stamped inside its base bespeak its quality: The Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Gorham hallmark; and the HORIZON logotype.

This is the only notice about the kylix we can send you. It goes only to owners of The HORIZON Book of Ancient Greece. We are advised that both its quality and cost call for a price of $25 to $30. But our business is publishing. If the cost of such an amiable diversion detracts from the pleasure of it for you, we shouldn’t bother.

So until they are gone, you may have a kylix, boxed and postpaid, for $17.95. See the enclosed form and envelope. If you’d like one, it’s best you mail your order quickly We must ask for your check with your order, but of course the kylix is returnable. (Once you see it, I can’t believe you won’t want to keep it.)

Sincerely,

Darby Perry

For American Heritage

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