Mid-fourth century BCE
Height: 23.5 cm
Rim: 4 cm
Base: 5.5 cm
Recovered by the Guardia di Finanza in 2001
The upper part of the vase is intact. The lower part, which was broken into many fragments, has been pieced back together. A section of the vase’s lower belly has been restored with evidence of ancient repainting. The fabric of the vessel is a pinkish-orange clay with inclusions of quartz and calcium carbonate. The vase is painted with good-quality black slip that has not been distributed very evenly: denser strokes outline the figures, while the background wash is sometimes diluted. There is over-painting in yellow and white. The vase has a flared lip glazed in black, a thin neck decorated with a band composed of black tongues, an egg-shaped body on a glazed foot, and a partially-glazed vertical handle attached to the neck. The body is decorated with vegetal and figural motifs. A palmette with a triangular “heart” and fifteen petals occupies the area under the handle. It is framed on both sides by a plant form from which two volutes spiral outwards, alternating with two half-palmettes. To the left, a volute is capped by a lanceolate leaf. This motif frames the front of the vase’s belly, which is completely occupied by the figure of a young, nude, and winged seated male adorned with rich jewels: a crown and golden bracelets (over-painted in yellow) and two ‘necklaces’ or baltei, rendered as strings of dots over-painted in white. One is worn across the youth’s torso and the other on his left thigh. The figure holds a sphere topped by a series of lined dots, from which hangs a sash or, perhaps, a stylized bow. The wing closest to the viewer is decorated with over-painted dots. Black paint emphasizes the top of the wing while long, vertical, parallel feathers hang from the bottom. Damage to the bottom of the vase obscures the figure’s seat, but presumably it was some kind of rock. Likewise, the object held in the man’s left hand seems to be a sash, but it could also be a handle, which could, for example, belong to a situla, an elaborate bucket-shaped vessel. The subject is identified as an adult Eros, a popular figure in Apulian and Campanian pottery. The vase was produced in the Greek colony of Paestum. More precisely, the style of the figure and the ancillary decorations suggest an attribution to Python, one of the principal collaborators of Asteas’ important workshop. Python’s signature is found on a neck-amphora that depicts a seated Dionysus styled the same way as our Eros: Dionysus’ face has an intense expression, the torso is shown in a three-quarters view, the picture emphasizes only the essential anatomical particularities without insisting on musculature, the legs are parallel, and the jewelry corresponds by number and execution technique. The same scheme is repeated on a krater conserved at the Vatican. Both of these vases are examples of Python’s best work. His less accurate work is exemplified in the figures presented on a krater conserved at the Louvre and on an oinochoe now in Boston, on which the painter included a smaller number of details and accessorial decorations. For this very reason they are closer to our lekythos. The vegetal motif, characteristic of the painter, is identical to those found on other vases, such as on three bell kraters conserved at the Louvre.