Italic, possibly Latin, Faliscan
The Painter of the Oxford Ganymede
Vase-Painting in Italy (MFA), no. 167.
Height: 36.8 cm (14 1/2 in.)
Medium or Technique
Ceramic, Red Figure
Not On View
Side A: Polydeukes binds Amykos at fountain.
Side B: Hermes, Polydeukes with mattock and holding the Egg containing Helen, satyr with situla and phiale.
Twisted handles ending in heads of hippocamps, all but one of which are lost.
ITALIAN VASE PAINTING in ITALY, #167 (97.862)
Attributed to the Painter of the Oxford Ganymede
1st half of 4th century B.C.
A: Polydeukes is binding Amykos to a tree trunk in front of a fountain, which consists of a stream flowing from the center of a flower into a tub. A plant, a folded cloak, and an alabastron are represented on the ground below. Polydeukes braces himself with one knee against the tree to draw tight the bindings, which themselves consist of young saplings. Like Amykos, he is infibulated and wears leather boxing thongs.
B: Hermes, Polydeukes, and a satyr old and fat enough to be called Silenos are shown in a scene possibly inspired by a satyr play. Hermes stands at the left, his right leg propped on the tendril of an adjacent palmette. He wears high-laced sandals and a winged helmet and carries his caduceus in his left hand. He looks back to the right at Polydeukes, who stands looking at the egg in his left hand that contains his sister Helen. In his other hand is a mattock, with which he will crack open the egg. Approaching from the right is Silenos, wearing shoes and carrying a situla in his right hand and a phiale in his left.
There are elaborate complexes of palmettes, tendrils, and flowers under the handles. The rim is circled by a band of egg-and-dart, and a band of large tongues runs around the shoulder. The groundline is a continuous reserved stripe with a stripe of diluted glaze through its center. Quadrated disks fill spaces within the floral complexes. On the reverse, the areas below Silenos and between the heads of Hermes and Polydeukes are filled with, respectively, a dotted disk and two pendant chevrons.
Amykos, king of the savage Bebrykes of Bithynia compelled all strangers to box with him, otherwise denying them drink from the spring. Polydeukes, a skilled boxer, overcame him and punished his hubris by binding him. Except for the fountain, the composition of side A is very close to that on the bronze Ficoroni Cista in the Villa Giulia; the postures of the figures are nearly identical, and the cloak and alabastron are present at the base of the tree.
For the subject in Etruscan art, see G. Beckel, LIMC,1,1,pp.738-742;I,2,pls. 594-597 (the Ficoroni Cista is p. 739, no. 5, pl. 595); and Beazley, EVP, pp. 58-60. For the cista, see T. Dohrn, “Die Ficoronische Cista in der Villa Giulia in Rom” (Berlin, 1972).
The subject of side B may be unique. Beazley listed two vases and eight mirrors representing either Hermes or Polydeukes delivering the egg of Helen to Leda or Tyndareos or both (EVP, pp. 115-116). Both the god and the hero are present on this vase, but Silenos is a poor substitute for either of the two recipients. Beazley suggested that Polydeukes has just discovered the egg while loosening the soil in the palestra with his mattock, a preparation for exercising on the hard ground (EVP, p. 60). The egg had been hidden there by Hermes, which explains his presence. Silenos comes up with a bucket of water to wash the egg (or perhaps hoping to boil it!). The presence of Silenos suggests the influence of satyric drama; compare the phlyax actor on an Apulian bell-krater, who cracks open Helen’s egg with an axe (Bari 3899: RVAp. I, p. 148, no. 96; LIMC, IV, pl. 291,Helene 5) According to Horace, Polydeukes and his brother Kastor were also born from an egg (Sat,2,1,26). Evidence that this story was known early enough to be parodied by an Apulian vase-painter of the mid-fourth century may be provided by an unpublished Gnathian bell-krater recently in the New York art market, with an actor in female guise watching an egg on an altar give birth to an erect phallus.
By date unknown: with Edward Perry Warren (according to a letter from Edward Perry Warren, dated November 3, 1907, this vase, with 07.863 and 07.864, came from the same Faliscan tomb); purchased from Edward Perry Warren by W. A. Gardner; gift of W. A. Gardner to MFA, December 12, 1907
Gift of W. A. Gardner