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Work Attic red-figure calyx-krater

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Archaic Greek Art (7th-6th centuries BC)

Attic red-figure calyx-krater

© Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN / Philippe Fuzeau

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Archaic Greek Art (7th-6th centuries BC)

Author(s):
Alexandra Kardianou-Michel

A masterpiece of Greek pottery, this calyx-krater by Euphronios, known as the "Krater of Antaeus," is one of the most elegant Attic red-figure vases ever produced. The detailed rendering of the muscles of the bodies in combat is precise and original. The realism of Antaeus's face is equally innovative. The monumental group is highlighted by the divergent composition of the women fleeing in the background.

Euphronios and the pioneers

The red-figure technique appeared in Attica in around 530 BC and sounded the death knell of the black-figure technique.
The first ten years were a period of exploration. Then, around the 520s, a group of unique painters known as the "Pioneers" emerged. It included Phintias, Euthymides, and in particular Euphronios. Eclectic, curious, and innovative, they worked with potters like Cachrylion and Euxitheos to form a group of imaginative and audacious precursors who shared their discoveries. Liberated from the rigid frameworks of their predecessors, they filled the space of the vase by painting bodies in more natural postures, giving them volume and introducing foreshortening to create a kind of perspective. The musculature is rendered in precise anatomical detail, thanks to the use of a diluted glaze in light brown tones. The same naturalism characterizes the treatment of the folds of the fabrics. They also invented new vase forms, like the stamnos, the pelike, and the amphora with twisted handles.
Euphronios began his career as a painter around 520 BC and was active for twenty years. During the first three decades of the 5th century BC, he worked as a potter. His final works—some cups painted by the Pistoxenos Painter—date from around 470 BC.

The hero and the giant

Euphronios painted both mythological compositions and scenes from daily life. Both types of decoration coexist on this vase. Side B shows a music competition, with a young man holding an aulos mounting a platform amid his seated companions, while on side A the battle between Heracles and the giant Antaeus is taking place. The hero's weapons—the club, quiver, and lion skin—are suspended in the field. Antaeus, the son of Poseidon and Ge (the Earth), is identified by an inscription. We are at the end of the battle: Antaeus was drawing his strength from contact with the Earth. To weaken him, Heracles has lifted him up before suffocating him. The body of Antaeus is drawn in a position of abandonment. His right hand is already limp, devoid of strength, and his face is marked by the effort. His half-open mouth shows his teeth in a rictus of pain. His iris, in the upper part of his eye, also underlines the fact that the end is near. Heracles, still bent over in a dynamic position, reveals nothing of the effort he is making. The different treatment of their hair and beards emphasizes the opposition between the two figures: Heracles' are neat, with the curls surrounding his face perfectly drawn with beading; Antaeus's are tousled and painted in coarse brushstrokes, while his moustache and eyebrows are heavily accentuated. The painter has done this to highlight the major difference between the hero of the civilized Greek world and the barbarian giant.
The women in the background are drawn on a smaller scale, thereby creating a perspective that accentuates the importance of the two bodies.

Bibliography

Euphronios Peintre. Rencontres à l'École du Louvre, Actes de la journée d'étude organisée par l'École du Louvre et le Département des Antiquités grecques, étrusques et romaines du musée du Louvre, 10 octobre 1990, 1992.
Euphronios, Atti del Seminario Internazionale di Studi, Arezzo 27-28 Maggio 1990, 1992.
Euphronios und seine Zeit, Kolloquium in Berlin 19-20 April 1991, 1992.
Capolavori di Euphronios, un pioniere della ceramografia attica, 1990.

Technical description

  • Signed by Euphronios (painter)Attributed to Euxitheos (potter)

    Attic red-figure calyx-krater

    Archaic period; c. 515–510 BC

    Cerveteri (Italy)

    Athens (Greece)

  • Clay, black figures, gloss paint, line drawing, red detailing, incisions, beading

    H. 44.8 cm; Diam. 55 cm

  • Purchase/Gift. Former Campana Collection; former D. von Bothmer Collection. 1863, 1978

    known as the "Krater of Antaeus"

    G 103

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Galerie Campana IV
    Room 43

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