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Work Caeretan black-figure hydria

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Etruscan Art (9th-1st centuries BC)

Caeretan black-figure hydria

© 1993 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Etruscan Art (9th-1st centuries BC)

Author(s):
Padel-Imbaud Sophie

This vase is a fine example of the Caeretan hydriae, which were produced by a small group of Ionian artists who moved to Etruria to escape the threat of the Persian invasion. These Greek-born artists adapted their style to their new customers who wanted vases decorated with unusual and lively mythological scenes.

Herakles and Kerberus

The last of the twelve labors of Herakles was to bring Kerberus, the dog that guarded the entrance to the underworld, back to Mycenae. Herakles was aided in this perilous undertaking by Hermes and Athena. When he arrived in the realm of the dead, he had to convince Hades to let him take Kerberus. Hades agreed only on the condition that Herakles overpower the dog by brute strength. Herakles succeeded and took Kerberus back with him to Erystheus, who, not knowing what to do with the dog, returned him to Hades.

A terrifying monster

Herakles, shown with his traditional attributes of the lion skin and the club, is presenting Kerberus, held simply on a lead, to a terrified Eurystheus, who is half-hidden in a pithos, arms raised in panic. This painting - the only known example of a scene depicting Herakles presenting the dog to Eurystheus - is modelled on a similar episode when Herakles presented the king with the Erymanthus boar, depicted on an amphora also in the Louvre (F 59). The monstrous dog is shown as described in most writings. Kerberus was the son of Echidna and Typhon. He had three heads and a body covered in serpents. The polychrome colour has survived: the numerous red and white highlights go against contemporary conventions in that white was usually reserved for the bodies of women. The artist clearly found it worthwhile to defy convention to create a spectacular visual effect.

Caeretan hydriae

This particular style of pottery was made by a small group of Ionian ceramicists who fled the Persian occupation in the second half of the 6th century BC and settled in Etruria, in Cerveteri, known as Caere in Antiquity.
The most interesting of these artists was the Eagle Painter, who owes his name to this hydria, which depicts a hare being hunted by two eagles on the reverse side. This hydria shares all the typical features of the Caeretan hydriae: a preference for mythological themes, a taste for colour and natural elements such as the shrub beneath one handle and the abundant floral ornamentation, and lively compositions.

Bibliography

Callipolitis V.G., "Les Hydries de Caeré : essai de classification", dans Antiquité classique, 24, 1955, pp. 385-411.
Denoyelle Martine, Chefs-d'oeuvre de la céramique grecque dans les collections du Louvre, 1994, p. 56, n 23.
Hemelrijk J.M., Caeretan hydriae, 1984, p. 14, n 4, pl. 2.
Lissarague F., Vases grecs, 1999, pp. 172-173, fig. 132.

Technical description

  • Attributed to the EAGLE PAINTER

    Caeretan black-figure hydria

    Circa 530-520 BC

    Etruria, Italy

    Etruria, Italy

  • Clay; black-figure technique (incised lines, red and white highlights)

    H. 43 cm

  • Formerly in the Campana collection, purchased 1861

    E 701

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Galerie Campana III
    Room 42

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