VIEW LARGER

Artist: In the Manner of the Lysippides Painter
Title: Black-Figure Vessel (Amphora) with Scenes of Apollo Entertaining Dionysus and Hermes, and Theseus Killing the Minotaur (Attic | Greek, 530-520 BCE, Terracotta | Slip-decorated, 16 1/2 in., Gift of the Mowbray Arch Society, 2003.18a-b)

 

Image A shows one side of the vessel, image B the other.

 

Looking Questions

Vessels are often described as having a neck, arms and a foot.  Can you find these on this vessel?

How is this container decorated?

How might this have been used?  What details suggest this?

About the Art

A vessel, or vase, shaped with a long neck and two handles is called an amphora, a Greek word meaning “carried on both sides”.  Used to store oil and wine, amphorae were often made with small bases.  Because of their small bases, amphorae were often set into soft dirt to keep them upright.  This vessel has a foot, and therefore would not have been buried.  Some amphorae, such as this one, were decorated with gods and heroes to be given as prizes.  Side A tells the story of an ancient Greek Athenian hero named Theseus.  Here he fights the Minotaur, a creature that was half-man and half-bull.  On the opposite side of the amphora is Apollo, god of the sun and the arts, playing his lyre. The lyre is a gift from Hermes, the messenger of the gods who can be identified by the wings attached to his shins. To the left sits Dionysus, the god of fertility and wine, who was saved as an infant by Hermes.   These scenes were created by painting with thin layers of watery clay that changed from red to black when the finished vase was fired.

Theseus and the Minotaur

According to Greek legend, King Minos lived on the island of Crete with his many daughters.  Regularly, the King attacked the neighboring town of Athens.  Wishing to end these battles, the ruler of Athens, Aegeus, offered to send seven Athenian boys and girls to Crete every nine years.  Sent as a sacrifice, they were sent to be eaten by King Minos' Minotaur who lived in a labyrinth.   After the agreement was made, nine years passed and the young Athenians were sent.  Theseus, son of the Athenian king, volunteered to be among the fourteen to be sacrificed.  He offered to go because he had other plans in mind - slaying the Minotaur.  Upon his arrival in Crete, King Minos’ daughter, Ariadne, fell in love with Theseus and offered to help him kill the Minotaur.  She provided a sword and a golden thread to help Theseus find his way through the maze.  Theseus killed the beast, followed the golden thread out of the maze, and saved his fellow Athenians.

Discussion Questions

Look closely at side A of the vessel.  Which part of the story of Theseus is shown?  If the next scene were to be painted, what would it look like?  Draw it!

What ancient Greek story or hero would you paint on an amphora?  Why?