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Work Lucanian red-figure nestoris

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Classical Greek Art (5th-4th centuries BC)

Nestoris à figures rouges

© 1993 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Classical Greek Art (5th-4th centuries BC)

Rives Todd

Red-figure pottery enjoyed a rise in popularity in the Greek cities in southern Italy during the late 5th century. This nestoris is remarkable for its form, inspired by the “trozzella” of the Messapia region, as well as for the richness of its red-style decoration. The vase is attributed to a Lucanian painter, the so-called Amykos Painter, whose animal scenes and secondary decoration adorn it.

The nestoris

The workshops of the potters and painters of southern Italy produced vases for a Greek clientele established in coastal colonies such as Taranto and Metaponte, as well as for the indigenous population. In creating this vase the potter adopted a local form, the Messapian “trozzella”. The nestorides produced exclusively in Apulia and Lucania (regions in southern Italy) are divided into three categories, according to the evolution of the shape of the body and the handles. The nestoris in the Louvre belongs to the first and oldest of these categories, and can be dated to 430–420 BC. It is made from beige-yellow clay and distinguished by a widened lip decorated with a garland of ivy leaves and an egg-and-dart frieze. The biconical body, the two horizontal handles and two high vertical handles adorned with rondels, are characteristic of this type of vase. The intricate secondary decoration accentuates the vase’s shape. Each part of the piece bears ornamental motifs: rosettes, egg-and-dart friezes, languettes, point friezes…A large frieze of palmettes alternating with lotus blossoms separates the body into two registers.

Scenes with figures

The decorative scheme of this impressively large nestoris is divided into two registers. In the upper portion of the main face, the scene depicts two warriors with their horses coming home from battle. They are greeted by a woman who presents them a nestoris similar to the one found in the Louvre. This scene, common in Greek iconography, is remarkable here because the warriors wear indigenous clothing. It may be the first representation of warriors in Oscan (local) dress. The warrior in the center wears a cone-shaped helmet, a short belted tunic, a draping scarf and high ankle boots. His short beard and long mustache reflect perhaps the style adopted by local aristocrat warriors of the day. The other figure at the end of the procession is wrapped in a himation. A doric column is symbolic of the family hearth. The choice of main theme – indigenous warriors returning from battle – is linked to the Italic form of the vase. The upper register of the opposite face as well as the lower of both faces are decorated with generic pursuit scenes: young warriors, armed and naked, chase fleeing women. The Amykos Painter often depicts this sort of scene, constituted by a frieze of figures whose dynamism is accentuated by the fluid rendering of the bodies.

The Amykos Painter

The eponymous hydria of the Amykos Painter is conserved in the Cabinet des Médailles in Paris and depicts an original mythological scene: Amykos punished by the Argonauts. This prolific painter worked in the region of Lucania out of a workshop located in Metaponte. Although his early work (430–420 BC) bears the influence of the Pisticci Painter, he very soon developed his own animated and realistic style. Six nestorides are attributed to him, the oldest in Italic production. The Louvre nestoris is similar to another found in the British Museum: the form, the iconographic theme (the pursuit theme in the lower register) and the general style are comparable. The Amykos Painter was also fond of dionysiac, palaestra and genre scenes. His individual and independent style influenced his numerous students and successors.


Boardman John, The History of Greek Vases, Londres, Thames & Hudson, 2001, pp. 110-111, fig. 145.

Denoyelle Martine, Chefs-d’œuvre de la céramique grecque, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1995, p. 166, n° 78.

Saulnier Christiane, L’Armée et la guerre chez les peuples samnites (VIIe-IVe siècles), Paris, diffusion de Boccard, 1983, p. 50, p. 52 et p. 71, n° 2003.

Trendall Arthur Dale, Figure Vases of South Italy and Sicily, Londres, Thames & Hudson, 1989, pp. 10-11.

Technical description

  • Peintre d'Amycos

    Nestoris à figures rouges

    Vers 420 - 410 avant J.-C.

    Métaponte (Lucanie)

  • H. : 44,30 cm. ; D. : 31,50 cm. ; L. : 41,40 cm.

  • Collection Castellani, 1866 , 1866

    Face A. On the shoulder: Return of the Oscan warriorFace B. On the shoulder and belly: Pursuit scenes

    K 539

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Galerie Campana V
    Room 651
    Vitrine 23

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