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Work Etrusco-Corinthian column-krater:Episodes from the legend of Heracles and Alcyoneus (?)

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Etruscan Art (9th-1st centuries BC)

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Etruscan Art (9th-1st centuries BC)

Astier Marie-Bénédicte

The form and decoration of this krater demonstrate the influence of Corinthian pottery on Etruscan production during the early 6th century BC. The plant motifs and animal groups painted at the base of the vase indicate that this was the work of the Rosette Painter. The belly is decorated with two mythological scenes that were probably inspired by the legend of Heracles: the hero seems to appear first wrestling with the giant Alcyoneus, then chasing a bull.

Etrusco-Corinthian pottery

Previously in the Marquis Campana's collection of antiquities, this column-krater entered the Louvre in 1863. Many Etrusco-Corinthian painted vases of this kind were made up until the mid-6th century. Their forms, ornamental technique, and sometimes also their decoration were inspired by pottery made in the workshops of Corinth. Etrusco-Corinthian pottery then gave way to creations of Ionian inspiration-brightly colored scenes on pieces produced in workshops run mainly by immigrant Greek artisans from Ionia.
This vase, made around 580 BC, adopts the form of the large kraters used at banquets for mixing water with wine. It has been decorated using the black-figure technique, whereby figures are reserved in black silhouette against the clay. It was invented by Corinthian painters during the preceding century.

Two episodes from the legend of Heracles

The belly of the vase is decorated by two registers separated by a wide black band, a schema found on Corinthian prototypes. The lower register shows a repetitive animal decoration, composed of panthers and aquatic birds flanked by rosettes. The upper register is made up of two mythological scenes, almost certainly inspired by the legend of Heracles. The principal side may illustrate the Greek hero's battle with the giant Alcyoneus, who drew his strength and vitality from contact with his mother Gaia, the Earth. Here, Heracles is launching an attack on Alcyoneus. According to the myth, the hero carried him on his shoulders to another country and killed him by running him through with an arrow. On the back is shown an enormous bull, followed by two male figures armed with a knife. This scene may show Heracles in the company of his companion Iolaus; or the journey to Alcyoneus's country; or the battle between the hero and the Cretan bull; or possibly the capture of Geryon's cattle.

A work by the Rosette Painter

The presence on the lower register of rosettes and animal groups consisting of panthers and birds has led this vase to be attributed to the Rosette Painter. This Etruscan artist active during the early Archaic period made kraters that generally have an animal decoration. Although it was discovered in Vulci, the vase may have been made in Caere (modern Cerveteri) in southern Etruria, where a large number of kraters imported from Corinth have been found, together with local pieces that were produced in imitation of these Greek vases.


Martelli Cristofani Marina, La ceramica degli Etruschi. La pittura vascolare, Novara, 1987, n 86, p. 291.

Technical description

  • Peintre des Rosaces

    Cratère à colonnettes étrusco-corinthien : épisodes de la légende d'Héraclès et Alcyonée ?

    Vers 580 avant J.-C.

    Production : Vulci

  • Terre cuite

    H.: 20 cm ; D.: 23,5 cm ; L.: 31,5 cm

  • Collection Campana, 1863 , 1863

    E 631

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Denon wing
    Ground floor
    Etruria II
    Room 421
    Vitrine 1

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