Pelike

Greek
Classical Period
450–440 B.C.
Workshop of the Niobid Painter


Place of Manufacture: Greece, Attica, Athens

Dimensions

Height: 44 cm (17 5/16 in.); diameter: 32 cm (12 5/8 in.)

Accession Number

63.2663

Medium or Technique

Ceramic, Red Figure

On View

Greek Classical Gallery (Gallery 215C)

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Vessels

Side A: The tying of Andromeda
Side B: Cepheus and an African porter. Palmette cluster under handles. Africans in white outline technique, with added red and white. White also on the hair and beard of Cepheus. Intact.
[Label text]:
The scene on this vase illustrates a portion of the myth/play of the Ethiopian royal family of Cepehus, Cassiopeia, and Andromeda. The queen Cassiopeia, in boasting that she was more beautiful than the Nereids (sea-nymphs), had offended Poseidon. The sea god punished Cassiopeia by flooding her country of Ethiopia and dispatching a sea monster to terrorize the region. The only way to appease the monster was to sacrifice the princess Andromeda to the creature. The preparation for this sacrifice is depicted on the vase. The king Cepheus watches as slaves bind Andromeda to a pole and carry her possessions to be offered to the sea monster as well. Cepheus is depicted as an old man of mixed race. He has the thick lips, upturned nose, and curly hair of an Ethiopian, but the complexion of a European. His African slaves are rendered in an outline technique that emphasizes their dark skin. Andromeda has curly hair, but has a complexion like the Greeks represented on other vases in this case. All the figures on this pelike wear costumes that would have indicated to the ancient Greek viewer that they were foreigners. The tight-fitting garments with zigzag designs worn by Andromeda and her father were used commonly in antiquity to differentiate between Greeks and “barbarians.” The vase is one of four extant that are believed to illustrate Sophocles’ lost play, Andromeda, for which only a few fragments remain.

Provenance

By 1963: with Robert E. Hecht, Jr.; purchased by MFA from Robert E. Hecht, Jr., December 11, 1963

Credit Line

Arthur Tracy Cabot Fund