Skyphos (cup)

Greek, Sicilian
Classical Period
about 400 B.C.

Place of Manufacture: Italy, Sicily

Catalogue Raisonné

Vase-Painting in Italy (MFA), no. 107.


21.2 cm (8 3/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Ceramic, Red Figure

Not On View


Europe, The Ancient World



Side A: Agave, with head of Pentheus and sword, rushes to right preceded by a maenad holding a vine-branch.
Side B: Two maenads with thyrsos, swinging a kid between them. white accessories.
Label text:
Front: Agave carrying the head of Pentheus and a sword; another maenad holds a vine branch
Back: two maenads swinging a kid
Pentheus, King of Thebes, intruded upon the worship of Dionysos, whose divinity Pentheus did not recognize. Mistaking him for an animal in their religious frenzy, the maenads, led by his mother Agave, tore the impious Pentheus to pieces.

Attributed to the Chequer Paianter
about 400 B.C., or slightly earlier

A: Death of Pentheus. A maenad, probably Agave, carries the head of her son Pentheus in her left hand and a yellow and white sword in her right. She advances to the right, preceded by a maenad holding in her right hand a straight vine branch resembling a thyrsos, rendered in white. Both women wear belted peploi with black borders, their breasts indicated by circular swirls. Agave’s hair is tied in a bun with a white fillet. The hair of the maenad and of the decapitated and beardless Pentheus is wild and windblown.
B: Two maenads, dressed like those on side A, move to the left and the right, their heads raised and their drapery swirling about them. Each wears a white wreath and holds a thyrsos in one hand, while with the other they support a kid, which they are about to tear apart.
There is a band of dotted-egg pattern around the rim. The groundline circling the lower body consists of groups of three linked maeanders to left alternating with saltire-squares. Below the handles are large palmettes with buds and coiling endrils. Like the shape, the ornament is strongly Atticizing; the checker pattern that gives the artist his name is not employed.
The Chequer Painter was active in Sicily at the end of the fifth century and in the early years of the fourth. Like this vase, several of his works have been found in Campania, where he may have emigrated later in his career; this early work may be an import from Sicily. For recent comments on the painter, see A.D. Trendall, in Kotinos: Festschrift für Erika Simon (Mainz, 1992), pp. 301-305; among the new works listed by Trendall, compare the maenads on a calyx-krater formerly in the Frieburg market (p. 301, no. I, pl. 66, 1).


By 1903: with Edward Perry Warren (according to Warren's records: The following objects [MFA 03.805-03.833, 03.836-03.837, 03.906] were found in one cemetery in Campania.); purchased by MFA from Edward Perry Warren, March 24, 1903

Credit Line

Francis Bartlett Donation of 1900