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Work Chalcidian black-figure cup

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

Coupe à figures noires

© 1994 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

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

Kardianou-Michel Alexandra

This cup is typical of the Chalcidian style that emerged in southern Italy. The decoration, consisting of human or satyr ears flanking enormous eyes, is remarkably refined. Chalcidian pottery borrowed the forms invented in Corinthian workshops, but its style was influenced by Attic black-figure production. Chalcidian pottery was very successful, with an enormous number of vessels being exported to Etruria.

Chalcidian pottery

The immigrants who came from Chalcis, the capital of the island of Euboea, to settle in southern Italy set up their own workshops. Spurred on by competition and eager to please their new clientele, they tried to adapt their production to local tastes by devoting space to narrative scenes. Excavations have uncovered a large number of vases, which confirm a flourishing output over forty years and a widespread circulation in the west. In Reggio di Calabria, over a hundred Chalcidian vases have been discovered.
Chalcidian workshops absorbed the influences of Corinthian workshops, particularly in their final phase (550-530 BC). At the same time, Chalcidian artists knew and imitated the Attic black-figure style, the popularity of which is demonstrated by the large number of vessels that were exported to Etruria. This was the only pottery capable of rivaling the Attic pottery of the late 6th century.
Several of these vases bear inscriptions in the Chalcidian alphabet. For this reason, they were at one time thought to have been made in Euboea, or in Chalcis itself, but nothing has been found in Euboea to support this theory.

The decoration

Scenes of conversation, horsemen, chariots setting off, or battles between warriors are more frequently represented than mythological or heroic scenes. Animal zones constitute a secondary decoration beside the figured representations; on small vases they occupy the surface alone. These friezes, as well as the abundance of additional ornamental elements, demonstrate a great decorative sense. The details of the figures are generally less carefully drawn, but the compositions are elegant and symmetrical. Polychromy is abundant, the drawing is precise and refined, and the representations are pleasing, if slightly "provincial" and conventional. The most common forms are the neck amphora, the hydria, and the cup.

The cup with Chalcidian eyes

Cups of this type, apart from the tronconic foot, are imitations of the type A Attic cup and display a remarkably refined style of drawing. Unlike those on Attic cups, the eyes are flanked by human or satyr ears, and are accompanied by a nose.
Decorative as well as apotropaic (prophylactic), the eyes are a series of concentric circles, with the black inner disc representing the dilated pupil. The anthropomorphic appearance of the vase is accentuated by the presence of stylized ears, adorned with earrings, and the nose.
The eyes may have been intended to ward off the evil eye, or the evil spells of the brew that the vase contained. Or they may simply have been safeguards. Or they may be a reference to Dionysian exultation. Perhaps they created the effect of a "living mask" when the drinker lifted his cup to drink. Or did they evoke the face of the god Dionysius himself? Notice how, on the other side, the nose is replaced by the kantharos, the Dionysian vase par excellence.


Boardman John, Aux origines de la peinture sur vase en Grèce, 1999.
Ferrari G., Eye-Cup, dans Revue Archéologique, 1986.
Iozzo M., Ceramica "Calcidese", 1994.
Isler-Kerenyi K., Dionysos nella Grecia arcaica, 2001.
Rumpf A., Chalkidische Vasen, 1927.

Technical description

  • Groupe de la Coupe de Phineus

    Coupe à figures noires

    Vers 530 avant J.-C.

    Reggio di Calabria (Rhégion)

  • D. : 27 cm. ; H. : 10 cm.

  • Collection Campana, 1861 , 1861

    Side A: KantharosSide B: Nose

    F 144

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Galerie Campana III
    Room 653
    Vitrine 3 : Eubéen et "chalcidien" à figures noires

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