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Work Attic Red-Figure Bell-Krater

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

Cratère à oreillettes à figures rouges

©2005 Musée du Louvre / D. Lebée et Carine

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

Sophie Marmois-Sicsic

Ganymede, a young Trojan hero, considered to be "the most beautiful of mortals", was carried away by Zeus, who used him as his cupbearer on Olympus. This theme depicts the young man playing with his hoop and holding a cock on one side, with Zeus holding a scepter on the other. The two figures are arranged simply, on a band decorated with a meander. This decorative principle, perfected by Euphronios, was very often used by the Berlin Painter throughout his career.

Zeus and Ganymede

Ganymede, a young hero famous for his beauty, was carried off by Zeus – or, according to another version of the myth, by the eagle of Zeus – while he was watching his father's flocks near the town of Troy. Each side of the bell-krater is composed according to a scheme that the Berlin Painter favored throughout his career: a figure standing out against the black surface of the bowl is placed on a band decorated with a meander. On the main side of the krater the young man is represented nude with his red hair undone, crowned with leaves in red highlights, walking and turning his hoop with a stick. In antiquity the hoop was one of the games used by children and young people. On this vase it symbolizes Ganymede's youth. Furthermore, the presence of a cock in his hand represents the loving gift that couples give each other, which appears on vases, and expresses the nascent game of seduction between Zeus and Ganymede. On the other side, Zeus, wearing a himation and holding a scepter, is hurriedly heading towards the young man. The grace of the figures – particularly Ganymede – who are placed on each side of the vase, but united by an interplay of gestures and symbols, accentuates the sobriety and harmony of the composition.

The Form of the Vase

A variant of the bell-krater, the lugged krater, characterized by the oblique positioning of the handles, was used during banquets for mixing wine and water. This type of krater is fairly rare in Attic vase production, but was frequently used by the Berlin Painter. The absence of a foot suggests that the vase was placed on a base or support. Here, the potter has produced a krater with harmonious proportions: it has been noted that the height of the vase is equal to its diameter, and the diameter of the base is the same as the diameter of the hoop.

The Berlin Painter

This excellent anonymous Attic painter, to whom J.D. Beazley gave the name of the eponymous amphora in Berlin, did not inscribe his signature on his vases. He trained with the Attic red-figure Pioneers, who taught him to study the body in movement and represent nudity. An excellent draughtsman, he produced a large number of vases over the course of his career (from 500 to 460 BC). He decorated large vases but also numerous amphoras, making little use of the secondary decoration in favor of isolated figures linked by a common action. His technique of fine, fluid lines allowed him to excel in the use of relief lines and diluted slip, as evidenced by Ganymede's hair.


Martine Denoyelle, Chefs-d’œuvre de la céramique grecque, 1995, p. 114-115, Ed. de la Réunion des musées nationaux, n° 52.
Feuillet pédagogique : Jeux et Jouets dans l’Antiquité, n° 3/48.
Feuillet pédagogique : John Davidson Beazley et l’analyse scientifique des vases grecs, n° 3/15.

Technical description

  • Peintre de Berlin

    Cratère à oreillettes à figures rouges

    Vers 500 - 490 avant J.-C.


  • H. : 33 cm. ; D. : 33 cm.

  • Collection Campana, 1861 , 1861

    G 175

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Galerie Campana IV
    Room 652
    Vitrine 9 : Peintre de Berlin

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