Perfume flask (alabastron) depicting Menelaos and Helen as bride and groom

Greek, South Italian, Apulian
Late Classical Period
about 350–340 B.C.


Place of Manufacture: Italy, Apulia

Catalogue Raisonné

Vase-Painting in Italy (MFA), no. 028.

Dimensions

Height x diameter: 26.4 x 7.6 cm (10 3/8 x 3 in.)

Accession Number

00.360

Medium or Technique

Ceramic, Red Figure

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Vessels

Side A: Menelaos, (Add Greek), Helen, (add Greek), Eros.
Side B: Woman holding two trays, stands facing a seated youth.
Neck of vase somewhat restored. Mouth alien.

ITALIAN VASE PAINTING in ITALY, #28 (00.360)
Alabastron
Related to th V. and A. Group
about 350-340 B.C.
A. Menelaos and Helen. Eros flies down to crown the nude Menelaos, who is seated on a diphros at the center, his white staff propped against the cloak under his left arm. Menelaos wears laced boots, and Eros has yellow and white shoes and white anklets, a kekryphalos, and a thigh band of white beads. The feathers of his wings are white. Below the yellow stool, on the dotted groundline, are a white bird and a white quadrated disk, perhaps a ball of wool. Menelaos turns to gesture at Helen, who stands at the right wearing a chiton, white shoes, diadem, and a himation that is pulled up over her head like a veil. The bordered himation is sprinkled with white dots, and the chiton has a long, central panel decorated with a white-dotted, crosshatched design. Helen holds a yellow mirror in her right hand and rests her left hand on her hip. Her jewelry consists of earrings, bracelets, and a necklace, all in yellow. There is a rosette in the field above her head. Both Menelaos (add Greek) and Helen (add Greek) are identified by incised inscriptions. To the left of Menelaos, a woman in a chiton, himation, sakkos, and radiate fillet is playing a harp, elaborately decorated in added white. Her left foot rests on a low white Ionic column with yellow details. She wears earrings, necklace, and bracelets, all in white.
Judging by the youth of Menelaos, the scene should be set near the time of his wedding to Helen, before her elopement with Paris, although in apulian vase-painting he is sometimes represented as a beardless youth while at Troy; compare the young Menelaos on cat. no. 38. The crowning by Eros represents the young prince’s fiery desire for his bride. Eros repeats his action in many scenes of Helen’s reclamation at the Sack of Troy, when Menelaos is dissuaded from killing his unfaithful wife by the rekindling of this old flame. If the inspiration for this scene was Euripides’ Helena, the setting should be Egypt.
B: A woman, holding two stacked phialai in her left hand and a fan (?) in her right, stands to the right next to a flowering plant. She wears shoes, a chiton, kekryphalos, white bracelets, and a necklace with white pendants. Facing her at the right is a youth seated on a box, decorated with bands of pattern-work, and holding a white staff in his right hand. The youth is nude, save for a cloak around one shoulder and over his legs, and has what appears to be a yellow horn on the side of his head, indicating that he may be a Pan. There is a rosette with yellow center and yellow-tipped petals in the field above.
Bands of dotted egg-pattern circle the upper and lower body; the eggs in the lower band have white cores, and there is a band of yellow pendants below the upper band on side B.

Provenance

By 1900: with Edward Perry Warren (according to Warren's records: From South Italy); purchased by MFA from Edward Perry Warren, February 1900

Credit Line

Henry Lillie Pierce Fund