Mixing bowl (volute-krater)
Greek, South Italian
Late Classical Period
about 365–355 B.C.
The Iliupersis Painter
Place of Manufacture: Italy, Apulia
Vase-Painting in Italy (MFA), no. 021.
Height with handles: 61 cm (24 in.); diameter body: 33.7 cm (13 1/4 in.)
Medium or Technique
Ceramic, Red Figure
Not On View
A: A group of divine or mythological beings is assembled in a garden setting. In the center a woman wearing a chiton, himation, and sphendone is seated to the left by a “reflecting pool” with a white border. She holds up a mirror in her right hand, as a wreathed youth with a cloak about his lower body and left arm leans on the staff in his left hand and offers her a necklace dangling from his right hand. The staff and necklace are white, as are the shoes, bracelets, earrings, and necklace worn by the woman. Below the woman and the youth, the terrain is indicated by groundlines of white dots. At the youth’s side is the diminutive Eros, wearing a wreath and carrying a phiale full of offerings in his left hand. A second woman holding a white and yellow hydria in her left hand stands to the right; she is dressed and adorned like the seated woman, but her shoes are not white. A tree with round, white leaves grows in the center. In the upper register, seated at left and right, are a woman with a dove on her knee and a youth holding a laurel branch; their position and attributes suggest Aphrodite and Apollo. The goddess wears a chiton and himation, shoes with white detailing, white bracelets and necklace, and a fillet partly covered by her hair. With her right hand she holds the veil behind her head. Apollo wears shoes and a himation; a white wreath is in his hair. A white disk quartered with yellow chevrons floats in the field by Apollo’s head, and there are rosettes above the tree and at the upper left.
The necklace recalls the bribing of Eriphyle by Polyneikes, who in Attic and Lucanian representations is normally shown leaning on his staff (see LIMC, III, 2, pls. 606-608). Paris and Helen are perhaps less likely possibilities, although the two gods observing the couple were Trojan partisans, and the presence of Eros suggests a love interest. E. Vermeule (in Festschrift Hanfmann, p. 181, note 18) was reminded of the Garden of the Hesperides, but neither Herakles nor the serpent is present.
B: A female stands in the center holding a wreath in her right hand and a cista in her left. On either side of her are two nude youths, the left one seated. Rows of white dots mark the ground below each figure. The woman wears a chiton, white bracelets and earrings, a necklace with white pendants, and a sphendone with radiate white leaves. The youths carry white staffs and wear white fillets. The seated one leans on his cloak, which wraps around to cover his loins. The one at the right has a fillet draped over his extended right hand and his cloak wrapped around his left arm. In the field above are a fillet and other filling ornaments: a “window”, a quadrated disk, and a phiale. On the ground by the woman’s feet is a cista decorated with maeanders and chevrons and holding their eggs.
On the obverse neck is a female head in three-quarter view, growing from acanthus. She wears a white radiate diadem and earrings. Spiraling yellow tendrils and flowers spring from the white-high-lighted acanthus to frame the head. The neck on the reverse is decorated with a complex of palmettes and tendrils. The volutes have mold-made masks representing wide-eyed female heads: white, with features in red-brown dilute glaze. The handles terminate in plastic swan’s heads on the shoulders. The palmettes below the handles are particularly rich in conception and execution and are linked by tendrils that enclose the palmettes framing both scenes. There is dotted egg-pattern on the outer rim between the handles.
Below the obverse rim, on the upper register, is a red-figure ivy vine; on the lower register is a laurel wreath with berries. On the reverse, the ivy is black on a reserved ground, and the laurel wreath is of a different and less fine variety (one-dimensional). A band consisting of groups of linked maeanders to left alternating with saltire-squares circles the lower body. On the shoulders between the handles is a broad band of tongues; on the obverse, these surmount a band of egg-pattern.
The Iliupersis Painter was a prolific and innovative artist, active just before midcentury, whose work set the standard for the large, Ornate-style vases of the second half of the century: volute-kraters with plastic masks on the volutes, increased polychromy, complex floral ornament, multilevel compositions, mourners surrounding funerary naiskoi and stelei. The female head in a floral setting on the neck of this vase is one of the earliest examples of this motif, common on volute-kraters of the second half of the century. See the extensive discussion by Trendall and Cambitoglou; RVAp, II, 646-649. In RVAp, Suppl. II, p. 46, they compare the drawing of this face to that of a male head, perhaps Orpheus, on a volute-krater in Antibes (ibid., p. 47, no. 8/11a). For the Iliupersis painter, see A .D. Trendall and A. Cambitoglou, in Etudes et Travaux 13 (1983), pp. 405-413. For the masks on the handles, see L. Giuliani, in M. Schmidt, ed., Kanon: Festschrift Ernst Berger (AntK, Beiheft 15, Basel, 1988), pp. 159-165. Elaborate floral work like that around the head on the neck has been associated with the Sicyonian painter Pausias, who flourished in the second quarter of the fourth century and was said to have developed the art of flower painting (Pliny, Natural History, 35.123-125); see RVAp, I, pp. 189-190).
(text from Vase-Painting in Italy, catalogue entry no. 21)
By date unknown: Robert E. Hecht, Jr. Collection; gift to MFA from Robert E. Hecht, Jr., March 11, 1970
Gift of Robert E. Hecht, Jr.