Mixing bowl (calyx-krater)

Italic, Latin, Faliscan
Classical Period
about 380–360 B.C.
The Nazzano Painter

Catalogue Raisonné

Vase-Painting in Italy (MFA), no. 166.


Height: 49.1 cm (19 5/16 in.); diameter: 53.7 cm (21 1/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Ceramic, Red Figure

Not On View


The Ancient World



Attributed to the Nazzano Painter (Cahn)
about 380-360 B.C.
Side A: Telephos and the infant Orestes. Telephos, the wounded Mysian king, is seated on the altar in the palace at Mycenae with a dagger in his left hand and the infant Orestes in the other. The child is represented with white skin and wearing a wreath. He stretches out his arms imploringly toward his father, Agamemnon, and another man, perhaps Menelaos or Odysseus or the seer Kalchas. Agamemnon rushes toward the altar, his long scepter in his right hand, but is restrained by the second man. The king wears a sleeved tunic, a long chiton, and a himation that trails from his left arm. His garments are richly embroidered with stars, wave-pattern, palmettes, and egg-pattern. The same is true of the chitons of Telephos and “Kalchas,” both of whom also carry himatia and wear embades. At the right, the nurse, raising her arms in panic, has dropped a basket, possibly the baby’s cradle. At her right stands the mantled Clytemnestra, pouring a libation with a phiale in her lowered right hand. Like the nurse, she wears bracelets and a richly embroidered chiton and himation but has the latter pulled over her head. Both women have white skin, as do all the females in the scene except Athena.

In the upper tier, the gods look down on those earthly events; from left to right are Athena, Iris, Apollo, Artemis, Zeus, and Hermes. At either end of the row of gods, above each handle, is a nude, white-skinned Eros. The one at the left places his left hand on Athena’s white, foreshortened shield, and with his right offers the goddess a phiale full of offerings, including two pomegranates. The other Eros stands with his body partly turned to the left, his wings spread out on either side behind him. In his left hand he holds a metal jug, and with his right he reaches toward the tympanum next to Hermes’ left leg. He wears nothing but shoes and a bracelet; his counterpart on the other side wears shoes, anklets, a bandoleer, and a wreath. Athena is seated with her legs to the right but looks back at the fruit offered by the Eros. Her right hand touches her shield, and the left holds her short spear in a vertical position. Her helmet has a long white crest, and her scaly aegis has a white-faced gorgoneion in the center. She wears bracelets, shoes, a necklace of white beads, and a richly embroidered peplos. To the right of Athena, Iris runs to the right toward the central group of Apollo and Artemis. Iris wears a short, embroidered chiton, embades, and bracelets. Her hair is tied in back with a white fillet, and there is a fillet of white beads round her head. She holds her caduceus in her outstretched left hand. Although Apollo is seated with his legs toward Iris, he does not see her approaching, having turned his head to the right to converse with Artemis. The god is seated on his cloak and holds a garlanded laurel branch in his left arm. He wears a wreath of laurel and two crossed bandoleers of white beads. Artemis stands facing Apollo, her bow in her upraised left hand and her right arm across her chest. She wears the same boots, chiton, bracelets, and fillets as Iris and also has a cloak over her left arm. Behind her, at the right, Zeus is seated with his legs to the right but looks back toward Artemis. His right hand is raised in front of his chest, and with his left arm he cradles his striped scepter. There is a wreath in his hair, and his cloak has fallen around his waist. To the right of Zeus, the nude Hermes stands with his right foot resting on an unseen support. He wears boots, a petasos, and a cloak pinned at the throat and holds his caduceus in his right hand. The garments of all the figures are richly embroidered, like those worn by actors.

B: Dionysos and Ariadne stand between two capering satyrs. The god moves to the left atop a low, viny hummock while looking back at his white-skinned consort, who rests one foot upon a low altar. He is nude except for a wreath and the bordered cloak around his shoulders. Ariadne wears an embroidered chiton with a wave-pattern border as well as bracelets, earrings, a necklace, and a white fillet. Both carry thyrsoi in their left hands, and Dionysos also holds his kantharos in his right hand. A fillet trails from his thyrsos. The satyr at the left wears crossed bandoleers of white beads, and the one at the right holds a metal jug in his right hand. Both wear white wreaths. A variety of disks, rosettes, ivy leaves, and phialai float through the field as filling ornaments.

Bands of dotted egg-pattern circle the rim and also frame the enclosed, upright palmettes in the handle-zone of the cul. A wreath of laurel and berries circles the vase below the overhanging rim.

The Nazzano Painter is one of the most clearly defined artistic personalities in Faliscan vase-painting. His robust and somewhat rough, angular style is closely related to that of Athenian artists of the beginning of the fourth century like the Meleager Painter or the Oinomaos Painter. He frequently made use of their two-tiered compositions and ornate draperies, and the elaboration and richness of his work compare favorably with that of many of his Athenian predecessors and contemporaries. His mythological narratives often have an amusing quality because of their energy and vividly concrete detail. Some of his compositions, like this one, are relatively well ordered, while others, which may be later, are almost chaotic. Given that the only two Etruscan vase-painters known have Greek names - Praxias and Sokra(tes), both working in added red - it is possible that the Nazzano Painter too was a Greek, presumably an Athenian.

Cahn (in Art of Ancient Italy, New York, April 4-29, 1970, pp. 32-33, no. 45), followed by Trendall and Webster (Illustrations, p. 104), connected the scene on this vase with the Telephos of Euripides. Keuls (in Festschrift Cambitoglou, pp. 87-94) has developed the Euripidean connections of this and other representations of the Telephos story even further; she points out that Clytemnestra is introduced into the story only by Euripides, who evidently felt the need for dramatic male-female interaction. Neither Clytemnestra nor other females participate in earlier representations of the story. Nonetheless, there is no need to assume a direct theatrical influence. Although Euripides was popular among South Italian Greeks, there is little evidence that he or his fellow playwrights were much performed in Etruria, let alone Falerii. The elaborate costumes are like those worn by actors, but this detail, like the basic conception of the subject and the composition, could have been transmitted from Attica via the channel of vase-painting. A good parallel for both subject and composition is provided by Berlin 3974, a roughly contemporary Attic calyx-krater (Bauchhenss-Thüriedl, Der Mythos von Telephos [Beiträge der Archäologie 3, 1971], pp. 26-28, pl. 2; De Puma, RM 87, 1980, pp. 17-18, pl. 5, 2; J. Boardman, Athenian Red Figure Vases: The Classical Period: A Handbook [London, 1989], fig. 357).

As Richard De Puma has pointed out, the inhabitants of west-central Italy had a special reason to be interested in Telephos; he was regarded as the ancestor of the Etruscans, at least by the Greeks. The connection emerges in the obscure poem Alexandra, written by Lycophron in the third century B.C. Telephos was the father of Tarchon (of Tarquinia) and Tyrsenos (who provided the Greek name for the Etruscans, Tyrsenoi). The literary tradition can probably be traced back to the early third century. Lycophron’s verses in the Alexandra touching on this subject are thought to be derived from a long history by Timaeus of Tauromenium (Alexandra 1245-1259; in Callimachus…Lycophron…Aratus…[Loeb edition], p. 422; J. W. Salomonson, OudMed 38 [1957], pp. 29-30; R. D. De Puma, RM 87 [1980], p. 15). In Roman Imperial times, the tradition was modified slightly, and Telephos became the ancestor of the Latins. Telephos nursed by the hind was often paired with representations of Romulus and Remus and the wolf (Salomonson, OudMed 38 [1957], pp. 20-44; L. de Lachenal in A. Giuliano, ed., Museo Nazionale Romano: Le Sculture, I, 5 [Rome 1983], pp. 1-2, no. 1). This and the other Etruscan vases with Telephos collected by De Puma may provide the earliest evidence for this legend’s taking root in central Italy itself.


1970: Münzen und Medaillen, Basel, and André Emmerich Gallery Inc., 41 East 57th Street, New York 10022 (Art of Ancient Italy, New York, April 4-29, 1970, no. 45); purchased by MFA from Andre Emmerich Gallery, Inc., November 10, 1970

Credit Line

John H. and Ernestine A. Payne Fund