Mixing bowl (bell krater)
Greek, South Italian
about 400–385 B.C.
the Tarporley Painter
Place of Manufacture: Italy, Apulia
Vase-Painting in Italy (MFA), no. 010.
Height: 30.5 cm (12 in.)
Medium or Technique
Ceramic, Red Figure
Not On View
A: Athena holds up the head of Medusa, which is reflected in her shield (quite correctly, upside down). Her left hand rests on the vertical shaft of her long spear, the bronze butt of which is at bottom, the point out of sight at top. The goddess wears a belted chiton embroidered with palmettes, a necklace, earrings, and a sphendone. Her aegis is not in evidence. Perseus, in winged boots, chlamys, and elaborate Phrygian helmet, stands before her, leaning on a spear in his left hand; the helmet is presumably the one that magically confers invisibility. Hermes, a chlamys around his shoulders, leans on a barren tree at the right, his legs crossed, his right hand resting on his caduceus. Perseus will soon return the god’s winged boots. All three figures look down to avoid gazing at Medusa’a head, and Perseus takes the opportunity to study the reflection of his victim’s visage. The reflection presages Athena’s attachment of the head to the shield ( Apollodorus 2.4.3).
B: A nude youth, with a strigil in the right hand and a staff in the left, stands between two companions wearing shoes and draped in himatia that cover their arms. The strigil suggests an assignation in the palaestra.
A laurel wreath circles the vase under the rim. Rays partly surround the roots of the handles. The groundlines on either side consist of groups of linked maeanders to left alternating with saltire-squares.
Like the Ariadne Painter, the Tarporley Painter was a close follower of the Sisyphus painter, active in the first quarter of the fourth century. He was an influential practitioner of the Plain style and had several followers and pupils including the Adolphseck, Hoppin, Truro, Lecce, and Dijon Painters, and the Painter of the Long Overfalls. The Tarporley Painter painted mostly bell-kraters, favoring Dionysiac and genre scenes over mythology.
For Trendall’s most recent comments on the Tarporley Painter, see Festschrift Cambitoglou, pp. 211-215. The closest parallel to the main scene is the painter’s pelike in a Taranto private collection, with Perseus, Hermes, and the seated Athena reflecting the head of Medusa in her shield (RVAp, I, p.51, no. 3/44); compare also the version on the calyx-krater Gotha 72, on which Athena reflects the head in a pool, although the shield is still present (RVAp, I, p. 51 no. 3/39).
(Text from Vase-Painting in Italy, catalogue entry no. 10)
1969: published by A. Cambitoglou and A. D. Trendall, American Journal of Archaeology 73 (1969), p. 426, no. 3 bis, as: Swiss Market; by 1969: Robert E. Hecht, Jr. Collection; gift to MFA from Robert E. Hecht, Jr., March 11, 1970
Gift of Robert E. Hecht, Jr.