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Work Hydria from Caere

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

Hydrie : centauromachie

© 1997 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

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

Astier Marie-Bénédicte

The group of hydriae from Caere (modern Cerveteri) consists mostly of squat, brightly colored water jars (hydriae) decorated with mythological scenes. This one, which was made in the late sixth century BC, features the battle of the Centaurs and the Lapiths. Like all the other vases from this group, it was created by one of the many Ionian artists who emigrated to Etruria during the Archaic period, forced into exile by the Persian threat.

The group of hydriae from Caere

This hydria belongs to a large group of vases, most of which were discovered northwest of Rome in the southern Etruscan town of Caere (modern Cerveteri). This piece was probably found in the Caere necropolis; it entered the Louvre in 1863, two years after Napoleon III had purchased the Marquis Campana's collection. The group to which it belongs consists mainly of hydriae (large, three-handled water jars) whose characteristic features are squat shapes, bright colors, and an obvious preference for mythological scenes.

A hunting scene and a mythological episode

The scene on the front of this vase is inserted like a painting between a band of tongue motifs, and a frieze of palmettes and lotus flowers. It comes from Greek mythology, and features a centauromachy: the battle of the Centaurs and the Lapiths at the wedding of Pirithous, king of the Lapiths. Two groups of warriors are symmetrically opposed: two Lapiths dressed as hoplites armed with spears, swords, helmets, and breastplates; and two Centaurs (creatures that are half-man, half-horse), each brandishing an uprooted tree. This hydria is attributed to the Eagle Painter, an anonymous artist named after the recurrent motif in his work: on the back of the vase, under the vertical handle linking the mouth and body, two eagles swoop down on a galloping deer, on either side of a palmette. The composition reflects a desire for symmetry, in accordance with the principles that governed the portrayal of secondary subjects in the Caere group.

The work of an Ionian artist

The hydria in the Louvre belongs to a group of vases that were produced by artists from Northern Ionia, on the coast of Asia Minor (modern Turkey). This one was made during the late sixth century BC, probably in the region of Caere. When Phocaea was taken by the Persians in 545 BC, the Ionians were forced into exile; during the Archaic period, many of them emigrated to Greece and Etruria. With the group of hydriae from Caere, they applied their expertise to the creation of squat yet elegant vases that they adorned with motifs from their decorative repertory. They made good use of color contrasts, arranging black silhouettes and red highlights with a keen sense of design.


Hemelrijk Jaap M., Caeretan Hydriae, Mayence sur le Rhin, 1984, p. 18 et p. 130, n 7.
Kallipolitis Vassilios G., "Les hydries de Caere. Essai de classification", Antiquité classique, vol. 24, 1955, pp. 385-411, pl. 5, 29.
Pottier Edmond (sous la dir. de), Corpus vasorum antiquorum,
musée du Louvre, vol. 9, fascicule III, Paris, 1938, pl. 5, 3, 4, pl. 6, 2 et
pl. 7, 1-6.

Technical description

  • Groupe des hydries de Caeré

    Hydrie : centauromachie

    Dernier quart du VIe siècle avant J.-C.

    Production : Cerveteri

  • Terre cuite

    H. : 43 cm.

  • Collection Campana, 1863 , 1863


    E 700

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Denon wing
    Ground floor
    Etruria II
    Room 421
    Vitrine 1

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