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Work Attic red-figure cup

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

Coupe à figures rouges

© Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN / Philippe Fuzeau

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

Author(s):
Marmois-Sicsic Sophie

The subject of this cup, whose exceptional size suggests a ceremonial vase, is Theseus. It is signed in the medallion by Euphronios, a master of a workshop that specialized in cups during the latter half of his career, in around 500-470 BC. Onesimos has painted an ambitious decoration, featuring the encounter between Theseus and Amphitrite inside the bowl, and the exploits of Theseus on the road from Troezen to Athens on the outside.

Theseus

The wide medallion, bordered by a meander, depicts the presentation of a crown, proof of the divine ascendance of Theseus, by the goddess Amphitrite in the presence of Athena. The presence of Triton holding up the young Theseus, accompanied by dolphins, indicates that the scene is taking place at the bottom of the sea. The hero, represented as an adolescent, is naked beneath a delicate, transparent chiton, and is carrying his sword in a baldric. Amphitrite, seated on an ornate throne, wearing a finely pleated chiton, a himation as a veil over her head, and sandals painted in red, is gesturing to Theseus. In the center, the goddess Athena is standing, facing the front, holding her spear and an owl, the symbol of Athens. She is looking toward Amphitrite in an attitude that accentuates the solemnity of the scene. As with Amphitrite, her clothing and attributes-the scales of her helmet and aegis, the feathers of the owl, the folds of her chiton-are drawn with painstaking attention to detail.
On the outside of the bowl, Onesimos has completed the cycle of Theseus by representing four of the hero's deeds on the road from Troezen to Athens. They appear above a meander and are separated by trees from which the hero's attributes (himation and sword) are hanging. Beside a bronze pool, Theseus is picking up the bandit Sciron in order to throw him into the sea. His head tipped back, his eyes bulging, and hair shaggy, Sciron is trying to cling on to the rock to avoid falling. Next to this scene, Theseus is seizing Procrustes by the hair and preparing to kill him with his sword. On the other side, Theseus is fighting with Kerkyon, whose look of fear is accentuated by the frontal positioning of his face. In Theseus's final exploit, he manages to hobble the bull of Marathon.

Euphronios

In approximately 500 BC, Euphronios stopped painting to become head of a workshop of potters who specialized in the production of cups. Brygos, Hieron, and Python, three other famous potters, founded similar workshops in the early part of the 5th century BC.
The cup in the Louvre is of exceptional size. It is signed "Euphronios, potter" in the medallion, and was attributed by J. D. Beazley to the painter Onesimos, the pupil and successor of Euphronios. The two artists worked together on around a dozen cups.

Onesimos

The name Onesimos is known to us through a signature painted in red on another cup in the Louvre (G 105), on which the signature of Euphronios the potter also appears, in the medallion.
Onesimos was an inventive draftsman who trained with the Attic red-figure Pioneers. He explored ways of representing the body in movement and was very interested in the male anatomy. The decoration on the outside of the cup, with the different postures of the figures, testifies to his studies in this sphere.

Bibliography

Neils J., The Youthful Deeds of Theseus, 1987, pp. 58-61, n 15.
Euphronios, Peintre à Athènes au VIe siècle av. J.-C., catalogue d'exposition, Paris, 1990, pp. 214-218, n 55.
Carpenter T.H., Les mythes dans l'art grec, 1994, p. 162, fig. 237 et 244.

Technical description

  • Onésimos

    Coupe à figures rouges

    Vers 500 - 490 avant J.-C.

    Provenance : Cerveteri (Caeré)

    Athènes

  • H. : 9,60 cm. ; L. : 49 cm. ; D. : 39,90 cm.

  • Acquisition, 1871

    G 104

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Galerie Campana IV
    Room 43
    Vitrine 22

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Additional information about the work

Potter's signature (in the medallion): "Euphronios"Legends: "Theseus, Athena, Amphitrite, Triton, Sciron, Procrustes, and Kerkyon"