Mixing bowl (bell-krater) depicting Orestes at the Delphic Omphalos
Greek, South Italian
about 370–360 B.C.
Close to the Judgement Painter
Place of Manufacture: Italy, Apulia
Vase-Painting in Italy (MFA), no. 017.
Height: 36 cm (14 3/16 in.); diameter: 39.3 cm (15 1/2 in.)
Medium or Technique
Ceramic, Red Figure
Greek Classical Gallery (Gallery 215C)
A: Orestes at Delphi. As often in representations of this subject, he clasps the omphalos with one hand and brandishes a sword with the other; one leg is drawn back, and his chlamys swirls behind him to mark his violent agitation. Athena, vertical spear in her right hand, stands at the left, pointing at the young hero with her lowered left hand. She has come to assure Orestes that the Furies will be transformed into beneficient beings, Eumenides. Apollo stands at the right, two yellow arrows in his raised right hand and a laurel branch with white berries in the left. Two Furies sleep in the foreground. A yellow and brown phiale and a bucranium with pendant fillets are in the field above, below a band of dotted egg-pattern and a row of yellow dots that suggest architectural moldings. Athena wears a peplos, a black aegis with white gorgoneion, white scales and yellow snakes, a yellow Attic helmet with two yellow plumes on either side of the crest, white bracelets, and a belt with white spots. Orestes’ chalmys is pinned at the throat with a white brooch. His boots are emblades, with flaps of skin hanging from the tops. Apollo wears a yellow wreath, shoes, and a cloak over one shoulder. The Furies wear short chitons, belts, and crossed bandoleers with white dots. The Fury at the left holds a spear in her left hand and wears emblades, while the one at the right rests her right hand on a spear on the ground and wears different boots; she has yellow snakes entwined in her hair and around her left arm. Groundlines of red and white dots support Athena, Orestes, the omphalos, and the Fury at the left. Three white fillets are draped over the omphalos, which is circled by two wreaths. The scene is believed to relate to one described as the Delphi scene from the EUMENIDES by Aeschylus
B: Dionysos is seated to the right, his cloak folded beneath him; he wears a yellow wreath and holds a stylized plant in his left hand. A maenad with a thyrsos in her left hand stands at the left; she wears a necklace, bracelets, and a radiate stephane, all in yellow, and a belted chiton. Her thyrsos has white dots on the cone and yellow and white chevrons on the staff. A nearly identical figure facing left stands at the right with a palm frond (?) in her left hand.
A wreath of laurel circles the vase below the lip. Tongues partly surround the roots of the handles, below which are palmettes and scrolling tendrils. A band of linked maeanders to right interspersed with a few saltire-squares circles the lower body. Broken, repaired (in antiquity with pins), again and restored with pieces of Side B missing.
Although not clearly attributable to the Judgement Painter, the leading artist of a large Plain-style workshop, the painting is close in style. For the subject, presumably inspired by the Eumenides of Aeschylus, see R. R. Dyer, JHS 89 (1969), pp, 38-56; Kossatz-Deismann, Dramen, pp. 102-117, pls. 19-24; and E. T. Vermeule (in Festschrift von Blanckenhagen, pp. 186-188, pl. 51, 1-2). Vermeule noted that the omphalos and altar are combined in one, compared the Athena and Apollo of sculptural types (Athena Medici and Apollo of Metapontum), and wondered if the “virginal and innocent Artemis-quality” (p. 187) of the sleeping Furies might be connected with the appearance of Artemis in several representations of the subject. Vermeule also noted that the subject was appropriate for funerary painting, “with its statement that the implacable powers of evil from the unseen world of the dead can indeed be transformed into beneficient powers of life and fertility, and that man can be forgiven” (p. 185).
(text from Vase-Painting in Italy, catalogue entry no. 17)
1962: purchased in Switzerland from Hubert Herzfelder by Robert E. Hecht, Jr. ; purchased by MFA from Robert E. Hecht, Jr., June 9, 1976
Frederick Brown Fund