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Work Black-figure Attic lip cup

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

Coupe à lèvre à figures noires

© 1994 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

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

Rives Todd

This elegant lip cup belongs to the so-called “Little Masters” series of vases produced in Athens in the second half of the 6th century BC. Its body is decorated on both sides by contour-line female busts in profile painted in the upper register, above the signature of the potter Hermogenes.

The "Little Masters" cups: lip cups and band cups

Around 560 BC, Attic potters made and signed cups of a slender form called today “Little Masters” cups. They were produced in large quantities and widely exported, notably in Etruria. Adorned with highly detailed and painstakingly rendered black-figure decoration, they are characterized by their high, thin stand. As the form of the vase determined its decorative system, these cups are divided into two types: lip cups and band cups.
The lip cups bear a black line painted on light clay which marks the meeting point of the body and the widened rim, thus separating the decorative area into two registers. The high rim provided the painter with a ground for the placement of one, two or sometimes even three figures. Band cups contain a band situated between the handles which allowed the painter suitable space for the treatment of mythological scenes. The cups’ secondary features (the handles, the stand, the lower portion of the body) are coated in black paint and subdued lines where the stand meets the body, accentuating the vase’s overall shape.

The Hermogenes lip cup

Each side of the cup’s rim is decorated with a contour-line rendering of a female bust in profile. In the black-figure style, Attic painters accentuated the female form through use of white highlights applied on black paint. Here, on the Louvre vase, the painter adopted the same decorative principles used by Corinthian painters (see for example the young Iole on the Eurytios krater, Louvre E 635).The tunic and the headband of the woman on the Hermogenes cup are heightened in purple.
On the “Little Masters” cups signed by potters Phrynos, Epitimos and Hermogenes, one encounters more than once female depictions associated with the banquet. These female busts are sometimes accompanied by inscriptions praising their beauty, possibly an evocation of the "hetaerae" (courtesans) who were a standard feature at the banquets.

The "Little Masters"

A great many Attic potters specialized in the production of lip and band cups, appending their signatures to them. In the lower register of the lip cup in the Louvre, two fine palmettes frame the signature of the potter Hermogenes: Hermogenesepoieseneme, which means “Hermogenes made me”. In other words the vase is speaking to us! On other cups, the artist’s signature is replaced by a formula urging the drinker on. In this way the cups’ inscriptions address the user, which effect is part of the decorative system of the “Little Masters”.


- DENOYELLE M., Chefs-d’œuvre de la céramique grecque dans les collections du Louvre, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1994, p. 72, n° 31.

Technical description

  • Signée par Hermogénès, potier

    Coupe à lèvre à figures noires

    Vers 540 avant J.-C.

    Provenance : Vulci


  • H. : 13,50 cm. ; D. : 20 cm. ; L. : 27 cm.

  • Collection Canino, 1843 , 1843

    F 87

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

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

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Additional information about the work

The potter's signature on both faces: Hermogenesepoieseneme (Hermogenes made me)