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Prometheus Bound Urn

Prometheus Bound Urn, ca. 1867, Ceramic
Victor Etienne Simyan (Modeler, French, 1826-1886), Minton’s Ltd. (English)


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Thomas W. Evans Collection

The Prometheus Vase was produced by Minton's Ltd., England’s most prestigious ceramics firm known for their superb craftsmanship and innovative designs in the mid-19th century. It's massive size and exuberant decoration won accolades from reviewers who wrote of its “superb” design and “bed of rich turquoise blue.”

The vase is made of earthenware ceramic painted in a palette of vivid glazes in the manner known as majolica. This popular 19th century technique imitated the appearance of Italian Renaissance maiolica ceramics. The form was designed by a French sculptor and ceramics modeler named Victor-Etienne Simyan. By placing the figure of Prometheus chained at the summit of the vase, Simyan depicts the punishment of Prometheus for stealing fire from the gods - chained to a mountaintop, he endured the daily torment of an eagle eating his liver, only to find his liver regenerated the following morning.

Several models of the Prometheus Vase were produced. This model was a version likely produced in the mid-1870s. It was displayed at several Worlds Fairs, including the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876 and Paris 1878 Exposition Universelle.