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Work Corinthian column krater

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

Corinthian column krater

© 1988 RMN / Les frères Chuzeville

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

Author(s):
Padel-Imbaud Sophie

The superb quality of the figurative decoration of this large vessel, embellished (as was often the case with such pieces) with banquets, combat scenes, or horse races, is due to the balance between the black figures, the line drawings, and the red highlights, and to the narrative content. The names of the figures, including Herakles, indicate that the scene depicts the contest when the hero won the hand of Iole, daughter of Eurytos, and the dispute after the banquet in which Iphitos was slain.

The earliest column kraters

Corinthian pottery in the period between 625 and 540 BC can be divided into two categories of vessels: the numerous small perfume flacons in the Oriental tradition, and a smaller number of large vessels, more creative in terms of their design, and with figurative decoration.
The earliest of these vessels date back to the end of the Early Corinthian period, around 600 BC, coinciding with the development of a new shape - the column krater - which was to be produced in large numbers in the first half of the 6th century BC. The Eurytos krater is thought to be the earliest example of this shape, which owes its name to the unusual form of the handles, which resemble small columns supporting the handle plate which projects from the broad rim of the mouth.

A mythological banquet

The vessel, found in Cerveteri in what was once Etruria, reflects the Etruscan love of noble themes such as banquets, hoplite combats, and horse races.
The inscriptions indicate that the banquet illustrated on side A is a minor episode from the Herakles cycle. After completing his labors for Eurystheus, Herakles arrived at the court of King Eurytos, who was holding an archery contest with the hand of his daughter Iole as the prize. Herakles won the contest, but a dispute then broke out, during the course of which Herakles slew Iphitos, one of the sons of Eurytos.
The artist has chosen to illustrate the scene before the tragedy, when everyone is present at the banquet. Herakles - only recognizable thanks to his short hair - is shown on the far right. He appears to be conversing with his neighbor Iphitos, while Eurytos is facing his other guests.
If the inscriptions and the presence of Iole did not help identify the episode, the scene could have been illustrating any aristocratic banquet, where noblemen gathered together, semi-reclining on couches placed alongside low tables groaning with food and drink.

A remarkable vase

This vase is a remarkable piece of work, thanks to its large size and the particular care that the artist took to decorate it.
The precision of the incised lines is fascinating, as is the contrast between the black figures, the large zones of dark red, and the very pale clay, typical of Corinthian pottery. However, the most striking aspect is without doubt the narrative power of the numerous figurative scenes - the banquet of Eurytos on face A, several pairs of dueling hoplites on face B, and a horse race taking up the whole of the lower panel, highlighting its shape. Finally, there are two scenes painted underneath the handles, one showing the preparations for the banquet, with two servants roasting the meat, and the second depicting an episode from the Trojan war. This is one of the earliest illustrations of the suicide of Ajax, who fell on his sword in the presence of Odysseus and Diomedes.

Bibliography

Denoyelle Martine, Chefs-d'oeuvre de la céramique grecque dans les collections du Louvre, 1994, p. 38, n 14.
Carpenter T.H., Les mythes dans l'art grec, 1997, p. 131, fig. 221.

Technical description

  • Corinthian column krater

    Circa 600 BC

    Cerveteri, Italy

    Corinth, Greece

  • Clay; black-figure technique, incised lines, red and white highlights, line drawings

    H. 46 cm; W. 46.5 cm; Diam. 28.2 cm

  • Formerly in the Campana Collection, purchased 1861

    Eurytos krater

    E 635

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Galerie Campana II
    Room 41

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Additional information about the work

Each figure named in a retrograde inscription in Corinthian letters: Toxos, Klytios, Didaios, Eurytos, Iphitos, Iole, Herakles, ..om..es (Diomedes), Aias (Ajax), Odysseus.