PAESTAN KRATER WITH DIONYSOS AND HERAKLES

 

 

S O L D

Measurements: 36 cm - height, 34 cm - width (with handles)

 

Description: An immaculate Paestan red-figure krater attributed to the Python Painter, whose workshop was the leading production centre of Paestan vase painting in the second half of the fourth century BC. This particular krater, with its elongated shape, is characteristic for the area of and around Paestum.

 

On side A we observe a youthful looking Dionysos on the left, with long locks of hair. He is depicted nude from the waist up, wearing ornate drapery and a string of beads over his right shoulder. This youthful, handsome and more effeminate rendition of the wine god can be paralleled on many 4th century BC examples of Greek and South Italian vase painting. His festivities and entourage, consisting of Satyrs and Maenads, were the most frequent subject depicted. In Dionysos's left hand he holds a thyrsos with a tainia tied round it, and in his outstretched right hand he holds a cake, extending it to Herakles who is standing on the right. The hero, fully nude, holds a thyrsos in his left hand with a tainia tied around it and an ivy wreath in his lowered right hand, with a string of beads over his right shoulder. Nudity was a characteristic reserved for artistic depictions of gods and heroes (Herakles was both) in ancient Greece. Ivy wreaths crown both figures. Both Dionysos and Herakles have connections to the Underworld and the afterlife. Dionysos descended into the Underworld to bring his mother Semele back from the dead, as described in Hesiod's Theogony. Eurystheus tasked Herakles with descending into the Underworld and fetching the hound of Hades, Kerberos, as his Twelfth Labour, an impossible task from which no mortal returned alive. Yet, Herakles did, after he was initiated to Eleusinian Mysteries prior to his descent to Hades.

 

On side B we observe two ephebi, both wrapped in himatia with borders of dots. The one on the left has short curly hair, crowned by an ivy wreath, wears sandals and holds a staff in his left hand; his right hand is obscured. The one on the right has short curly hair, crowned by an ivy wreath, wears sandals and holds a staff in his left hand and an ivy branch in his right hand. Below the rim is a band of laurel leaves; at the base of the scenes is a wave-pattern found on other examples from Python's workshop. Palmettes divide the scenes.

 

Provenance: Jon Lawton collection (by descent), Surrey.

 

Reference: Los Angeles County Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

University of Canterbury

 

Period: 360-320 BC

 

Condition: Extremely fine, complete and intact, with some crazing to the surface glaze.

 

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