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Work Handle of a volute krater

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

Anse de cratère à volutes figurée :Dioscures ( ?)

© Musée du Louvre / Maurice et Pierre Chuzeville

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

Author(s):
Astier Marie-Bénédicte

This handle belonged to a large volute krater probably made at Vulci in the late Archaic period in the style of those produced in Magna Graecia (Greater Greece). The decoration of the krater appears to have been inspired by vessels made in Magna Graecia in the late 6th century BC. The upper handle attachment features two lions, one chasing a stag, the other pouncing on the prey. On the lower part, two horsemen standing beside their mounts probably represent the Dioscuri, Castor and Pollux.

Handle of a krater made in Vulci

This bronze handle dating from the early 5th century BC was originally fixed to a large volute krater together with another, symmetrical handle. The form of the krater probably derived from the vessels made in Magna Graecia in the late 6th century BC (the Vix krater, Musée de Châtillon-sur-Seine). The work of Vulci craftsmen is generally recognizable in this type of handle, which spread throughout Spina, Orvieto, and the Volterra region.

Animal, vegetable, and mythological decorative themes

The body of the handle is decorated with vertical and horizontal fluting. The upper handle attachment, which was located near the mouth of the vase, features two lions opposite a deer. One of the lions is pouncing on the animal while the second chases it. The lower part of the handle is decorated with foliage motifs from which three horizontal palmettes emerge. At the edges are depicted two young horsemen standing next to their mounts, reins in hand. The figures probably represent the Dioscuri, Castor and Pollux. Sons of Leda, these horseback heroes were particularly venerated in Greece in the Archaic period, and later in Magna Graecia and in the Latium region.

Representation of the Dioscuri

In Etruria the first written mention of the Dioscuri appears on a bowl signed by the painter Oltos and the potter Euxitheos (Museum of Tarquinia, about 510 BC), where they are designated as sons of Zeus-tinas cliniiar. On a column krater from Chiusi dating from about 480 BC, they are designated by the names of Castur and Pultuce. Their pictorial representation varies throughout the 6th century and early 5th century BC. They are depicted both with and without their horses, clad in thick coats, as here, and sometimes carrying a spear. They were not yet shown wearing the conical felt cap (pilos) that later became their defining attribute. In this instance the bronze-maker no doubt adopted and adapted the way craftsmen of Magna Graecia and the Latium region depicted these mythical figures.

Technical description

  • Anse de cratère à volutes figurée :Dioscures ( ?)

    Début du Ve siècle avant J.-C.

    Production : Vulci

  • Bronze

    H. : 18 cm. ; L. : 21 cm.

  • Acquisition 1854 , 1854

    Br 2635

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Denon wing
    Ground floor
    Etruria I
    Room 420
    Vitrine 5

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