Attic Red-Figure Bell-Krater


SKU: TT14-C006 Tag:

380-360 BC
Height: 36.5 cm
Ø Rim 37 cm
Ø Foot 15 cm
Recovered by the Guardia di Finanza in 2003

Photos by Foto Boys di Riccardo Ragazzi – Courtesy by DeBooks LLC

This krater has a swollen, rounded rim, a lip that flexes outward and rod-shaped handles bent upwards and attached halfway down the body. It is in the shape of an upside-down bell and tapers near the bottom. The truncated, upside-down foot has a double molding: a groove at the top; and a torus at the bottom. The upper part, which is separated by an unglazed band, is decorated in relief. Similar to the Type 1, the Type 2 (to which the object at hand belongs) supposedly originates in the Oriental zone of Greece; it is notably diffused beginning in the second half of the fifth century BC. It eventually replaces nearly entirely the first Type. The secondary decoration consists of a continuous band of laurel branches below the lip, framed by a continuous, unglazed line that is present also in the internal portion of the lip. In correspondence with the handles, the lower part of the branch is without leaves. Below the graft, on the body, two bands of ovules are perched on two diverging volutes above a palmette with sixteen leaves. The lower portion is framed by a continuous band with meanders. This band constitutes the planking level on which the figures move.

Side A
The figurative apparatus features a female figure in the foreground, in the center of the scene. She is perhaps a maenad, or more likely, Ariadne. The figure, in fact, stands out thanks to a white over-painting that emphasizes her role in the narrative fabric of the representation. She is seated on a stool, scarcely sketched with a white over-painting. Her face is turned to the left. She holds a thyrsus in her hand and wears a peplos. Her head is encircled by a crown of flowers that are over-painted in white and her hair descends down her shoulders in an ample pony-tail, rendered with thin, zigzagging lines on an unglazed band. A female figure stands immediately to her left and wears an ample dress, richly decorated and tied at the waist with a small belt rendered with a line of black glaze. On her head she wears a crown of flowers decorated with fine dots over-painted in white. Both her earrings and her necklace are over-painted. Her left arm is extended and rests alongside her body while the right arm is raised above her shoulder to grab a piece of fabric, from the peplos worn by the figure standing beside her. The figure is a bearded satyr with a garland on his head. In his left hand he holds a plate of flower garlands. His left arm is bent forwards and gives the maenad the piece of fabric. The maenad looks as if she intends to wrap herself up with the fabric. Between the two figures is a potorio vase in the shape of a horn. At the satyr’s shoulders, in the upper part of the representation, the highest part is framed by a column ending in an Ionic capital. This column and the one immediately behind Ariadne represent a figurative artifice that locates the scene inside a closed environment or in a monumental garden. The right part of the representation also features a satyr-maenad couple. The satyr crowns the maenad and holds a plate on which flowers are rendered with over-painted dots. The maenad is seated and faces the satyr. She holds in her left hand a garland, while her right hand is extended in front of her to caress the satyr’s face. In its entirety, the representation features a theme that is rather common in the repertoire of this kind of vessel, or rather scenes that describe the marriage of Ariadne and Dionysus as well as all of the preparations for the bride’s initiation to the Dionysian ritual. The references to the god are, in fact, various, beginning with the potorio vase and ending with the thyrsus in the bride’s hand.

Side B
Three cloaked figures are dressed in himatia. The second and third figures from the left face each other; the last one holds in his hand a strigil. The first holds a timpanon or a mirror. Above the altar (or column) and in front of the first figure is an element identifiable as an aryballos, a container for perfumes and scented essences that were used for personal hygiene. The element is rendered with a circular, unglazed area in which is an ample dotting of black glaze. The hair of all three figures appears as a solid mass of black glaze, while the faces are rendered without much care and with few brushstrokes; the lower borders of the dresses are distinguished by an ample line of black glaze while the drapery is rendered in a hurried manner and with many thin lines. The frequency of such representations (see bibliography) and their resemblances lead us to suppose the presence of a rather diffused and common model with various productions. These similarities are seen from both an iconographic point of view and from the arrangement of the composition, reproduced faithfully or with very few variations on numerous vases of different Types.

This krater can be compared to a calyx-krater dating from 370 BC. It is attributed to the Retorted Painter. The same figurative theme is rendered with white over-painting on the female figure seated in the center of the representation. This figure is also identifiable as Ariadne, intent on being initiated to the Dionysian ritual. More comparisons are possible with a bell-krater conserved in the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, dating to 360-340 BC.
However, as for the particular treatment of the cloaked figures depicted on Side B of this krater, the most direct comparison is provided by a bell-krater attributed to the Black Thyrsus Painter and dated to 380 BC.
For this reason, if its authenticity is confirmed, the artifact at hand is datable to 380-360 BC and is attributable to this same production.

Tiziano Cinti – Mauro Lo Castro


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