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Work Attic Red-Figure Amphora

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Classical Greek Art (5th-4th centuries BC)

Amphore à figures rouges

© 2007 Musée du Louvre / Peter Harholdt

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Classical Greek Art (5th-4th centuries BC)

Author(s):
Sophie Marmois-Sicsic

Myson, a red-figure painter known by his signature as a potter and painter, has decorated this amphora with a scene that is unique in Attic pottery. On the main side, the painter has represented a historical fact related by the authors of antiquity: Croesus, King of Lydia, who was defeated in 547 BC by Cyrus, mounts his pyre, but a miraculous rain sent by Apollo saves him from the flames. On the other side, Myson has painted the abduction of the Amazon Antiope by Theseus and his friend Pirithous

Croesus on His Pyre

Croesus, King of Lydia, whose sumptuous gifts honored Delphi and Ephesus, was conquered in 547 BC by the Persian Cyrus. Forced to accept his defeat, he mounted a pyre to serve his punishment, but rain sent by Apollo extinguished the flames. Thus, Croesus was pardoned and became chief adviser to Cyrus. This historical episode, told by Pindar, Bacchylides and Herodotus, and illustrated by Myson, is unique in Attic pottery. On one side, Croesus, named by an inscription, is seated on a throne whose posts are decorated with Ionic capitals, his feet supported by a foot-rest decorated with ovums. The bearded king, who is crowned and wearing an elegantly folded chiton, is holding his scepter in one hand while pouring liquid from a vial with the other, in a solemn gesture of libation. The servant, named Eutymos, is lighting the pyre of cris-crossed logs with torches, while receiving the libation from the defeated king.
From a technical point of view the preliminary sketch for the drawing, which was uncovered by oblique light, demonstrates the compositional difficulties the painter encountered. The sections he reworked show us that Myson initially wished to place the king higher, on the neck of the vase; but he rearranged the scene, keeping the height of the pyre to the detriment of the strip of ground. The two scenes represented on the belly of the amphora are not framed, but are arranged on a strip of ground made up of meanders and crosses.

The Abduction of the Amazon Antiope

On the other side of the vase, Myson has represented a mythological, more dynamically composed, scene comprising three figures running: the abduction of the Amazon Antiope by Theseus in the presence of his friend Pirithous. Theseus has his arms around the Amazon Antiope, who is wearing an embroidered Scythian costume and a Phrygian bonnet. With her quiver in a baldric and her ax in hand, she is trying to get away from Theseus. The bearded Pirithous, like Theseus wearing a hoplite garment, is protecting his companion as he flees by brandishing a sumptuous shield decorated with an episemon representing a bull.

Myson

Myson is known by his signature as a painter and potter, which is inscribed on a small krater in Athens. The originality of his draftsmanship lies above all in his choice of subjects, as illustrated in the Louvre Museum by the masterpiece of his career.
He trained with the Attic red-figure Pioneers, and during the early fifth century BC was particularly influenced by his master Phintias who, like him, was developing a special interest in the decoration of large vases (belly amphoras, column kraters and pelikes) and sober, elegant compositions.

Bibliography

Martine Denoyelle, Chefs-d’œuvre de la céramique grecque, 1995, p. 120, Ed. de la Réunion des musées nationaux, n° 55.
A. Pasquier, Hommage au dessin, mélanges offerts à Roseline Bacou, 1996, p. 30-39.
Hommes, dieux, héros de la Grèce Antique, Catalogue de l'exposition de Bruxelles, 1982, p. 167-168, n° 99.

Technical description

  • Myson

    Amphore à figures rouges

    Vers 500 - 490 avant J.-C.

    Provenance : Vulci

    Athènes

  • H. : 59,50 cm.

  • Collection Durand, 1836

    G 197

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Galerie Campana IV
    Room 43
    Vitrine 19

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Additional information about the work

Legends (side A): "Croesus, Eutymos". Legends (side B): "Theseus, Antiope, Pirithous".