Cup (skyphos) with Orestes slaying Aegisthos (?)

Italic, Latin, Faliscan
Late Classical to Early Hellenistic Period
350–310 B.C.

Catalogue Raisonné

Vase-Painting in Italy (MFA), no. 173.


Height: 38.5 cm (15 3/16 in.); diameter: 38.1 cm (15 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Ceramic, Red Figure

Not On View


The Ancient World



Affinities with the Fluid Group (Beazley); related to the Berlin Funnel Group Painter (Del Chiaro)
2nd half of 4th century B.C.
A: A bearded man is taking leave of his wife. If Beazley was correct in identifying them as Admetos and Alcestis, the winged death-daemon with a hooked nose and snaky hair who flies in behind them has come to take Alcestis to the Underworld in place of her husband. Though lacking a hammer, his usual attribute, the daemon must be Charun, the monstrous Etruscan version of Charon, ferryman of Hades; see E. Mavleev and I. Krauskopf, LIMC, III, 1,pop.225-236; III, 2, pls. 174-185. Admetos wears a tabenna, the rounded Etruscan cloak, and boots; the daemon a belted tunic; Alcestis a peplos,himation, shoes, a tall headdress, earrings, and a necklace. As on side B, many details of musculature are rendered with dotted lines. At the left is a funerary monument in the form of a column topped by a cone-shaped finial. Beside it at left, a tympanum or patera floats in the field. The altar at the right has pedimental parapets decorated with crude black palmettes.
B: A young man killing an older man. The murder takes place before a closed door of a palace, the roof-tiles of which are visible above. Both figures wear cloaks. The victim has been knocked to the ground and looks up at his murderer, who is about to swing down the sword in his right hand. A large horn painted with stripes and zigzags floats in the field at right.
Below each handle is a large complex of palmettes and flowering tendrils. The continuous goundline consists of groups of stopt maeanders to right alternating with saltire-squares with chevrons in the interstices.
Beazley identified the scene on side B as Orestes taking revenge on Aigisthos. Del Chiaro, arguing that the out-of-doors setting and unheroic mood did not suit the Greek saga, opted for a local Italic interpretation such as the assassination of Servius Tullius, sixth king of Rome. Servius was slain near his house by servants of Arruns Tarquinius (Livy 1.48). For the scene on side A compare a vase from Vulci with Alcestis and Admetos embracing between Charun and a snake-wielding death-angel (Paris, Cabinet des Mèdailles 918: Beazley, EVP, pl. 30, 1-2; Martelli, Ceramica, p. 222, pl. 170).
This is an extraordinary and beautiful vase, one of the great works of Etruscan vase-painting. There are no relief lines or sketch lines. The drawing is unusually fine and precise. The dotted lines of the musculature on side B are very unusual, perhaps experimental,. Although the vase does not fit perfectly into the Funnel Group, it displays analogous subject matter (similar murder scenes) and several similar subsidiary ornaments, as Del Chiaro has pointed out. Cristofani does not accept Del Chiaro’s effort to place the Funnel Group, workshop at Tarquinia and instead prefers Vulci. If the (distant) association with the Funnel Group is to be accepted, this vase should probably also be referred to Vulci. Warren’s report of a probable provenance from Falerii, on the other hand, seems to favor Beazley’s association of the vase with the Faliscan Fluid Group.


By date unknown: with Edward Perry Warren (according to Warren's records: Probably from Falerii.); 1897: purchased by MFA from Edward Perry Warren for $ 25,000.00 (this figure is the total price for MFA 97.285-97.442 and 97.1104)

Credit Line

Catharine Page Perkins Fund