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Work Attic Red-Figure Skyphos

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

Skyphos à figures rouges

© 1996 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

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

Author(s):
Sophie Marmois-Sicsic

This skyphos, signed by the potter Hieron and attributed to Macron by J.D. Beazley, is an example of the collaboration between the potter and the painter during the early part of the fifth century BC.
Both sides illustrate episodes from the Trojan War: the abduction of Briseis, Achilles' slave, by Agamemnon, and the embassy to Achilles, who is angry and does not wish to resume fighting. The scenes are separated beneath the handles by a tree on one side and a stool on the other.

The Abduction of Briseis and the Embassy to Achilles

At the beginning of the Iliad, the abduction of Briseis enrages Achilles, who decides to withdraw from battle. However, an embassy comprising Ulysses and Ajax asks him to rejoin the battle. This interruption, caused by the abduction of the young girl, lasted 51 days, until the death of his friend Patroclus. The embassy to Achilles, who is prostrate in grief, is often represented on Greek vases. On the Louvre skyphos, which is of an imposing size for this type of drinking vase, allowing the decoration to be developed further, Macron has painted the abduction of Briseis by Agamemnon on one side. The bearded king, wearing his breastplate embellished with lambrequins, is armed with his spear and sword, which is slipped into a scabbard whose end is adorned with a lion's head. He is seizing young Briseis by the arm; her chiton and himation cover her head. The two figures are followed by Talthybios and Diomedes, who are named in the inscriptions. They are each wearing a petasus, a chlamys and endromides (boots).
The composition on the other side is more ambitious, and presents Achilles seated on a folding stool ("diphros") similar to the one that the painter has placed on the handle. He is enveloped in his himation, wearing fine sandals painted in red highlights, and his helmet and sword are hanging from the wall.
Sent by the Greeks, Ulysses is leaning on his spears, his legs crossed in an attitude of a figure in discussion, negotiating the return of Achilles with Ajax and Phoenix.

Macron and Hieron

Macron, one of the most prolific artists in Attic red-figure pottery (around 350 vases are attributed to him), signed very few vases as a painter but worked constantly with the potter Hieron, whose signature appears on around 30 cups. During the early part of the fifth century BC, Hieron was in charge of a famous workshop of cup painters which rivaled those of Euphronios, Brygos and Python.
Hieron and Macron produced a large number of cups with elegant forms, and produced and meticulously decorated some large skyphoi, like the one in the Louvre and its counterpart in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, which bears the signature of Macron and represents Helen and Paris on the bowl. Macron favored subjects associated with the Trojan cycle, Dionysiac scenes, and scenes of the palaestra and banqueting. On the Louvre skyphos his style is characterized by the composition, which is simply organized around four monumental figures placed side by side; by the heads, which have rounded contours and are slightly flattened on top; and by the clothing of his figures, which is drawn with great finesse – particularly the women's draperies, with their undulating, lively folds, which clothe the dancing maenads on his cups. Macron's pupils and successors, including the Clinic Painter, worked in the same workshop and continued to produce small vases until 470 BC.

Bibliography

D. von Bothmer, The Eye of Greece, 1982, pp. 40-41, p. 45, p. 47, p. 52.
H.A. Shapiro, Myth into Art, 1994, pp. 15-16, fig. 7-8.
N. Kunisch, Makron, 1997, p. 195, n° 331.

Technical description

  • Macron

    Skyphos à figures rouges

    Vers 480 avant J.-C.

    Athènes

  • H. : 31 cm. ; D. : 28 cm. ; L. : 40 cm.

  • Collection Campana, 1861

    G 146

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Galerie Campana IV
    Room 43
    Vitrine 24

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Additional information about the work

Potter's signature incised on one handle: "Hieron"Captions sides A and B: "Agamemnon, Talthybios, Diomedes, [Achi]lleus, Ulysses, Ajax, Phoenix"