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Work Attic Red-Figure Cup known as the "Iliupersis Cup"

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

Attic Red-Figure Cup known as the "Iliupersis Cup"

© 1994 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

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

Author(s):
Sophie Padel-Imbaud

During the first quarter of the fifth century BC, an impressive number of important artists were active, including the Brygos Painter, who specialized in cup decoration. Here, he offers us an ambitious work, in terms of his iconographic program, centered around the sack of Troy, the complexity of his spatial organization and the expressivity of his figures.

The Trojan War

The decoration of this cup is wholly given over to the Trojan War. The interior medallion evokes Achilles, the most valiant of the Greeks. Here we see his captive, Briseis, offering a libation to her teacher, Phoenix, while his weapons hang on the wall. The decoration of the bowl illustrates scenes from the sack of Troy, which is known by the term "Iliupersis". Lastly, numerous inscriptions, including the potter's signature, give us the names of the various protagonists.

Scenes from the Iliupersis

On side A, Orsimes the Greek is finishing off a Trojan who is lying on the ground, his body covered in wounds. To the left, a disheveled woman – most certainly Cassandra, one of Priam's daughters – is running away. To the right, Andromache, armed with a staff, is desperately trying to protect Astyanax, her son with Hector. The other side shows the climax of that night: the massacre of King Priam by Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles. Neoptolemus is preparing to beat him to death with Astyanax's cadaver, which he is using as a club. The almost simultaneous deaths of the young heir and the old sovereign symbolize the definitive ruin of Troy. To the left, Acamas is carrying off Polyxena, another of Priam's daughters, who is destined to be sacrificed on the tomb of Achilles.

The Brygos Painter

The Brygos Painter, who is remarkable for his vigorously drawn lines, owes his name to the potter who signed the majority of his vases. Along with Douris, he is the finest cup painter of the first quarter of the fifth century BC. Here, he has managed to perfectly recreate an atmosphere of violence and fear, by means of the energetic attitudes of the figures and the superposed planes.
His work is also characterized by the significant use he made of diluted paint, whose shades go from brown, to yellow, to red, depending on whether he wants to highlight pilosity, hair or wounds. Similarly, he likes to represent the different ages of man: childhood with Astyanax, and old age with Phoenix and Priam (white highlights for the beards and hair).

Bibliography

Martine Denoyelle, Chefs-d’œuvre de la céramique grecque, 1994, p. 122, Ed. de la Réunion des musées nationaux, n° 56.
Feuillet pédagogique La guerre de Troie, n° 325.

Technical description

  • BRYGOS PAINTER (attributed to)

    Attic Red-Figure Cup known as the "Iliupersis Cup"

    Circa 480 BC

    Vulci, Italy

    Athens

  • Clay, red-figure technique (red and white highlights)

    H. 13 cm; W. 42 cm; Diam. 33 cm

  • Purchased 1881

    G 152

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Galerie Campana IV
    Room 43

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Additional information about the work

Potter's signature on the handle: "Brygos epoiesen"; names of figures "Phoenix" and "Briseis" in the medallion and on the bowl.