Hem: 41 cm
Foot: 16 cm
This bell krater has an enlarged rim, an inverted lip, rod-shaped handles that curve up, and a molded disc-foot. The piece is restored from numerous fragments.
The secondary decoration consists of a continuous band of olive branches below the lip. Below the figurative space is a meander pattern interspersed with geometric figures, divided into four parts with dots. At the same height of the two handles is an open floral pattern with palmettes framed by volutes; the attachment of the handles is decorated with a ribbing on an unglazed band.
The scene depicts one of the hallmarks of the ancient Greek society, the symposium, a private event for males and hired females in ancient Greece.
Most of the Attic ceramic production is used in the symposium, and every ceramic shape had its own specific function. The krater certainly played a primary role being that it was the container intended to hold the mixture of water and wine from which people could draw their drink during social gatherings. It is undoubtedly the cornerstone of the symposium, around which the convivial space is located.
On this krater, we can see a group of figures reclining on the klinai, which are similar to small beds. The male figure at right has a naked torso; a cloak covers his hips and falls softly from the left arm, which is supported with a pillow. The right arm is raised above the shoulders; the hand is pointed at his face while the head is slightly tilted upward. The neck is adorned with a necklace made with a speckled over-painted in white. His gesture expresses a declamatory act and depicts the moment when one of the guests at the banquet recites a poem.
Next to him is a woman, dressed in a chiton that exposes her shoulders and arms, which are depicted, along with the face, with a white over-paint; the head is encircled by a band made with a white speckling of over-paint. The posture is similar to the aforementioned one, with the difference that, in this case, the woman is looking behind her.
The third figure reclining on the kline, is a man; he also has a naked torso, but in this case he is adorned with a dots in over-paint made to resemble a piece of jewelry or accessory which, descending from the neck, converges towards the chest and then wraps behind the torso. This figure is also portrayed as reclining and looking behind, in a posture that suggests he is listening.
A final female figure is at the left and turns her back at the diners; she wears a long robe and her hair is pulled back in a decorated headband; she holds an object in her right hand, perhaps a bud brought to her face to be sniffed.
Two circular discs complete the scene at the sides of the banqueting scene, and below the klinai is a table, up on which the food rests.
The other side depicts a procession of cloaked female figures with their hair gathered into pony-tails with a wide, decorated band. They walk composedly from right to left. Among them are some decorative elements in over-painting. On the sides, we see circular elements.
From a typological point of view, this vessel is part of a widespread category and is dated between 400 and 300 BC.
However, from an iconographical point of view, it presents some elements that are worthy of further studies.
The posture of the male figure recalls a declamatory performance in which the symposium attendee is depicted singing. Throughout the archaic and classical periods, in fact, the recitation of Greek literature, music, and the symposium coincide. Alcaeus Sappho (seventh – sixth century BC) and Anacreon (sixth century BC), the most famous Greek lyric poets, wrote and recited their poems during the symposia.
The activities that we nowadays identify with modern music, dance, and poetry, were regarded among the Greeks as different expressions of a single artistic manifestation, the Mousiké, the art of the Muses. Knowing how to communicate was one of the most important qualities of the educated or cultivated man, known as the Mousikos aner. In this sense, the role of the “poet”, besides denoting a particular technical skill in the field of “music”, took on a deeper implication of moral order. Wine and music are definitely constituent elements of the symposium, and they coexist in the archaic Greek literary production. When the term symposium is mentioned for the first time by Alcaeus, it was already associated with the act of drinking and with music, as to emphasize a unity between the symposium ritual and these artistic expressions.
In regards to the female figure, however, her presence within the banquet scenes is anything but unusual, but females often play a secondary role. The symposium is, in fact, a masculine a setting in which a female figure appears as auletrís (aulos player), hetaira, or as part of the slave staff: when there is a scene with figures reclining, she is almost always represented standing. In this case, however, she seems to play a particularly important role, well versed in the symposium to assume attitudes and postures in line with those that characterize the male characters.
In this regard, it should be emphasized that in Etruscan society, where the symposium was also celebrated, women were present with a new role compared to the Greek tradition: an example of this is the sarcophagus of the couple at the Villa Giulia (Rome), which depicts a man and a woman reclining on the kline next to each other; or the paintings in the Tomb Leopards at Tarquinia (fifth century BCE), where a woman is reclining on a kline exactly like a man. The presence of women at the symposium, as on this krater, can be viewed as reflecting the local Etruscan culture and as establishing a completely original and innovative iconographic theme, compared to traditional Greek symposium images. Indeed, this krater does not seem to find similarities with Attic vase production.
For these reasons, if the authenticity of the piece is confirmed, the vase could be dated to 400-300 BC and be placed inside a production of pots in the Greek tradition of symposium, but reinterpreted according for an Etruscan commission in one of the workshops that operated in the area around the main Etruscan cities of northern Lazio (mainly between Falerii Veteres – Civita Castellana, Vulci and Caere).