Krater with warriors

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Bell krater with a scene framed below on the body of the vase by a band of meander and above, by a laurel wreath around the outer rim of the bell.

The obverse, side A, is decorated with three warriors. The central one is naked, is wearing a helmet, and carrying a spear and shield. The warrior on the right is wearing a helmet and a breastplate, and is carrying a spear. The one on the left is wearing a chlamys, sandals and a hat, and is carrying a double spear.

On the reverse, side B, three athletes clothed in himations, can be seen in conversation. The central one holds a sceptre and has a beard. The one on the left is carrying a strigil.

The Persephone Painter, who worked from about 475 to 425 BC, is the pseudonym of an ancient Attic Greek vase painter, given this name by John Beazley after his investigations of red-figure kraters to try to identify the different artists. As in other cases, the name comes from one particular krater that helped him to identify this particular artist, a krater on which is drawn the mythological scene of the return of Persephone from Hades. This piece can be seen in the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York. This painter is known for his close relationship to the Achilles Painter, through whose workshop the Persephone Painter passed.

There are only 26 works attributed to the Persephone Painter. Among them there are both large and small vases. This indicates not only the importance of this piece as an object, but also its rarity as there are so few other pieces of this artist in existence.

The krater is a type of Greek pottery used to mix water and wine and from which cups were filled. It was moved to the space were a meal was to be eaten and was placed either on the ground or on a dais and the steward in charge of drawing the wine used a ladle to pour it into the guests’ cups. Kraters were mostly ceramic but some were made from precious metals, and were made in a variety of shapes according to the taste of the artist, although they did always have a wide mouth. The mostly widely occurring ones are column kraters, calyx kraters, bell kraters and volute ones.

Red-figure pottery was one of the most important figurative styles of Greek production. It developed in Greece around the year 530 BC and was used until the 3rd Century BC. It took the place of the previously dominant style of black-figure pottery within a few decades. The technical base was the same in both cases, but in the red-figure pieces the colour was reversed, so that the figures stood out against a dark background as if they were lit up by theatrical lighting, following a more natural scheme. The painters who worked with black figures were forced to keep motifs clearly separated one from the other and to limit the complexity of the illustration. In contrast, the red-figure technique allowed greater freedom. Each figure was silhouetted against a dark background allowing the painters to render anatomic details with greater exactitude and variety.

The technique consisted of painting motifs on a still moist piece, using a transparent glossy slip which, on firing, took on an intense black coloration. The motifs were therefore invisible before the firing and so painters had to work completely from memory without seeing the result of their work beforehand. Once the piece had been fired the zones not covered by the slip retained the reddish tone of the clay, while those that had been “painted” with the slip took on a dense, brilliant black coloration.

PARALLELS:

Works of the Persephone Painter:

- Bell krater with Helen and Menelaus at the sacking of Troy (440 - 430 BC). Toledo Museum of Art Toledo, Ohio, USA.
- Calyx krater with Odysseus pursuing Cyrene. Inventory Number: 41.83. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA.
- Bell krater with the return of Persephone from Hades. Inventory Number: 28.57.23. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

-BOARDMAN, John. Athenian red figure vases. Thames and Hudson World of Art. 2003.

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