Oil flask (lekythos) depicting the death of Orpheus
about 450–440 B.C.
Manner of the Achilles Painter
Place of Manufacture: Greece, Attica, Athens
Caskey-Beazley, Attic Vase Paintings (MFA), no. 049.
Height: 40.8 cm (16 1/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Ceramic, Red Figure technique
Greek Classical Gallery (Gallery 215C)
The death of Orpheus. A Thracian woman, tattooed on arms, wearing short chiton and endromides advances to right, holding sword in right hand. With left she seizes right arm of Orpheus who is sinking to the ground holding lyre in raised right hand. His himation falls over left shoulder and right thigh. Blood streams from a wound in his right side. In field between the figures, the inscription “Alkimachos, son of Epicharos is handsome” (ALKIMACHOS KALOS EPICHAROS).
Late severe style.
The mythical musician Orpheus has many myths surrounding his death. One story tells us that he died having looked at his beloved Euridice after rescuing her from the Underworld. The lord of Hades had forbidden him to do so, but Orpheus could not contain himself and gazed at his lover before leaving the realm of the dead. Another myth of the death of Orpheus is depicted on this lekythos. A Thracian woman with tattooed arms and high fur boots bears the sword that has already pierced Orpheus’ side. Blood streams from the wound as Orpheus sinks to the ground, still clutching his lyre.
Above woman’s arm:
Below her arm:
By 1912: with E. P. Warren; purchased by MFA from E. P. Warren, January 2, 1913, for $18,948.70 (this figure is the total price for MFA 13.186-13.245)
Francis Bartlett Donation of 1912