Early Classical Period
about 470–460 B.C.
the Syracuse Painter
Place of Manufacture: Greece, Attica, Athens
Caskey-Beazley, Attic Vase Paintings (MFA), no. 147.
Height: 38.1 cm (15 in.); diameter of mouth: 20.8 cm (8 3/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Ceramic, Red Figure
Krupp Gallery (Gallery 215A)
Side A: Bearded Hermes Psychopompos (Psychostasia) holding kerykeion and scales in which are two warriors. A woman on either side of him.
Side B: A youth and two bearded men, all draped in himatia. Palmettes under the handles.
Hermes’ role as messenger of the gods is well-known. He also served as the guide of the souls to the underworld and was called Hermes Psychopompos when he performed this task. The depiction of Hermes on this vase is unusual, however, because he is not only the guide of the souls, but he weighs them to decide their fate. This duty usually falls to Zeus, who uses a balance to measure a person’s spirit and to decide if the time is right to send the individual to Hades. On this vase, Hermes carries a kerykeion, a magic wand, rather than his usual cadeceus. The two women flanking Hermes are the mothers of the warriors whose fates are being decided by Hermes and his scales. The woman at the left frowns, as it is her son’s soul that is heavier; he is the one who will be sent to Hades. This kind of scene, described by Homer in Book 22 of the Iliad in reference to Achilles and Hektor, has been depicted on painted pottery and can also be seen on the three-sided relief nearby.
By 1910: with Edward Perry Warren (bought in Sicily; said to come from Cumae); purchased by MFA from Edward Perry Warren, June 2, 1910, for $4,000.00 (this figure is the total price for MFA 10.159-10.230)
Julia Bradford Huntington James Fund and Museum purchase with funds donated by contribution