Attic Black-Figure Neck Amphora

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ATTIC BLACK-FIGURE NECK AMPHORA
Last quarter of the sixth century BCE
Height:26.1 cm
Rim: 14 cm
Foot: 9 cm
Recovered by the Guardia di Finanza in 2003

This neck amphora, of the standard type but of smaller dimensions compared to the average amphora, is recomposed from fragments and reintegrations, and its provenance is unknown.  The amphora has a distinct neck with a reversed, echinus lip, and the cylindrical neck connects to the pronounced shoulder by a collar. The ovoid body tapers near the bottom, with a collar where it attaches to the large disc at the foot. Handles are set on the neck and on the shoulder.  Secondary decoration appears on the neck, a chain bisects a pair of palmettes, each with five leaves, and the palmettes alternate with lotus flowers; at the top of the shoulder is a chain of little black tongues. Secondary decoration also appears underneath the figurative scene: a framed meander pattern and a register with linked lotus buds; at the bottom, at the foot’s attachment, a short crown of rays on an unglazed background. The lip and foot are painted entirely in black.  In the area beneath the handles are two branches of palmettes and lotus flowers.

Side A
Heracles wrestles the Nemean lion.  This scene, rather common in Attic black-figure pottery, is represented according to a pyramidal scheme, in which Heracles, shown nude with the exception of his sword (carried at his side), has his feet planted on the ground with his legs straight and body leaning forward.  With his left arm he clenches the head of the ferocious beast that attempts to free himself from his grip while standing upright on his back paws. The etched lines used for the internal silhouettes of the figures are evident, with red-violet over-painting for the hair and the beard of Heracles and for the stomach and part of the lion’s leg.  The motif of Heracles wrestling against the Nemean lion is prevalent mostly during the decade between 530-520 BCE, appearing in particular on amphorae and cups. It is the moment in which Heracles, the hero par excellence, becomes associated with the hero Pisistratus, and the strangulation of the lion using only the left arm of the hero, without weapons, constitutes a model of courage for young Athenian aristocrats, who were frequently depicted on vases in the likeness of Heracles in the presence of generic figures represented as shrouded bystanders.

Side B
Heracles battles the Triton.  The vase painter rendered, with particular detail, both the tangle of the two bodies and the interlocked hands of Heracles in the act of squeezing the body of the monster:  the representation depicts a suspended moment of the struggle between Heracles and the Triton, not the victory.  On side B the etched lines are used for depicting the internal silhouettes of the figures, the leonté (lion skin) of Heracles and the scales of the Triton, with over-painting in red-violet for the kilt of Heracles and for the nipples, the scales, and the headband of the Triton and over-painting in white for the stomach and tail of the Triton.  Underneath the foot, one notes two etched symbols.  One in the form of an hourglass, preceded by a small horizontal line, is a mercantile mark, made in order to identify the transporter of the vase:  often, in fact, these marks were reserved for vases destined for commerce with the West.  The vase is attributable to the Lysippides Painter or his circle; he is a painter attentive to details, rendered, however, in a rather conventional manner.  His production, which includes large vases and cups, takes place in the last quarter of the sixth century BCE.  His works were discovered mostly in Vulci and Cerveteri.

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