High-handled drinking cup (kantharos)

Archaic Period
about 520–510 B.C.
the Nikosthenes Painter, Potter Nikosthenes

Place of Manufacture: Greece, Attica, Athens

Catalogue Raisonné

Caskey-Beazley, Attic Vase Paintings (MFA), no. 118.


Height: 23 cm (9 1/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Ceramic, Red Figure

On View

Greek Classical Gallery (Gallery 215B)


The Ancient World



This kantharos is decorated in four areas: the front and back of the flare of the cup, and the front and back of the lower bowl of the cup.
Upper side A: Here the god of wine, Dionysus, is shown reclining on the ground, bracing himself on two striped cushions. He wears a headdress (sakkos), and his cloak (himation) is pulled down to his waist. He holds an ivy branch in one hand and a drinking-horn (rhyton) in the other. He appears to be conversing with the satyr on the right, who carries a wine bag. The satyr on the left carries a garlanded pointed amphora. An animal skin flute-case hangs on the left.

Lower side A: This panel shows the often depicted scene of Herakles’ first labor: the fight with the Nemean lion. Herakles is shown as a beardless youth. The lion reaches out with a hind leg to scratch his opponent’s face. The action occurs in front of two trees. Herakles’ companion, Iolaos, stands on the right, and gestures towards the conflict. Herakles’ bow and quiver hang on a tree on the right. His cloak hangs on the left.

Upper Side B: Dionysus and three maenads perform a liquid sacrifice at an altar. Dionysos stands, setting one foot forward, at a lighted altar, over which he pours wine from his kantharos. A woman, a maenad, stands facing him, looking down and stretching her arms straight downwards, with the hands open - she may be tossing handfuls of groats (olai) on the altar. A flat basket with scooped-out side (kanoun) stands on the ground at her feet. To left of this pair, a maenad dances; to right of them, another, less vigorously. Behind the left-hand maenad is a thyrsus.

Lower Side B: Herakles fighting the Cretan bull. Herakles kneels, holding the bull by one horn. The binding is nearly completed. On the right are his bow and quiver, suspended. To right of them, under the handle, is a tree, with the hero’s mantle spread out on it.

Painted Greek inscription on foot contains the signature of the potter. “Nikosthenes made [it]” (NIKOSTHENESEPOIESEN) The painter has therefore been attributed to the “Nikosthenese Painter”.


"Nikosthenes made [it]" (NIKOSTHENESEPOIESEN)


Signed by the potter: "Nikosthenes made [it]" (NIKOSTHENESEPOIESEN)


By 1888: Bruschi Collection, Tarquinia; by 1900: with Edward Perry Warren (according to Warren's records: Bruschi Collection); purchased by MFA from Edward Perry Warren, February 1900

Credit Line

Henry Lillie Pierce Fund