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Work Attic black-figure band cup

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

Coupe à bande à figures noires

© 1994 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

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

Rives Todd

The “Little Masters” series of cups is characterized by elegant forms and fine rendering. Its most common manifestations are the lip cup and band cup, so named for the placement of their decoration. Our vase, a fine example of the band cup type, documents farm work as it was carried out in Ancient Greece.

Farm labor and sowing

Several agricultural activities are illustrated on the cup. The main face bears one work scene and two scenes of sowing grain. In the center, a worker guides a plow drawn by a pair of oxen. Two young men at right sow seeds from a small basket while to the left a man pulls earth over the seeds with a pick. Lastly, another worker seems to carry a load to a man in draped clothing – perhaps the property overseer.

Transporting the harvest

Another work scene is depicted on the opposite face. Here the plow is pulled by mules rather than oxen. Behind, two other mules pull a light cart loaded with amphorae almost certainly filled with grain.
Scenes of agricultural labor are an extreme rarity in Greek art. Our vase is all the more precious for offering a precise depiction of the farming methods of Ancient Greece.

The "Little Masters" cups

This cup belongs to what is termed the “Little Masters” series, so called for the miniaturist quality of the painting that adorns them. The production of such cups, extending from the second quarter of the sixth to the beginning of the 5th century BC, can be divided into two main types: the older of these is the lip cup, whose decoration is limited to the cup’s rim. The second type is the band cup, characterized by a thick black lip well suited to its use and further by frieze decoration in the form of a band situated between the two handles. The “Little Masters” cups can be distinguished from previous styles by their more elegant proportions.


Denoyelle Martine, Chefs-d’œuvre de la céramique grecque dans les collections du Louvre, 1994, p. 70, n° 30.

Malagardis N., « Images du monde rural attique à l’époque archaïque. Travail et société : l’outil et le geste sur les vases », dans Archaiologikè Ephéméris, 1988, pp. 95-134.

Villanueva-Puig M.-C., Images de la vie quotidienne en Grèce, 1992, p. 72, p. 73.

Technical description

  • Coupe à bande à figures noires

    Vers 530 avant J.-C.


  • H. : 15 cm. ; D. : 21,50 cm. ; L. : 30 cm.

  • Collection Campana, 1861 , 1861

    Faces A and B: Working the fields

    F 77

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Galerie Campana III
    Room 653
    Vitrine 17 : Attique à figures noires

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