Copied Steven Goldberg, Ceremonial Urn, 1992, hand-built ceramic, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of MCI, 2001.89.21.1
Ceremonial Urn is one of two hand-built urns by Steven Goldberg in the American Art Museum’s collection. The shape of the urn, with its single handle and elongated body, is similar to a type of ancient Greek vessel known as a lekythos. Such vessels stored oil used to anoint the bodies of unmarried men after death. Goldberg’s vessel, however, lacks the slender neck of the traditional form, and the circular handle—oddly placed and too small to be used for lifting—suggests that it is more decorative than functional. The gritty finish, a result of the firing process, and the intentional chipping around the base and mouth, make Ceremonial Urn seem as if it were created centuries ago.