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99/117/1 Kylix, red-figure style, glazed terracotta, attributed to the Antiphon Painter, Athens, Greece, c. 490-480 BCE. Click to enlarge.

Greek kylix attributed to the Antiphon Painter

Made
The examples of ancient Greek pottery that have survived are often seen by historians 'as windows to the past'. The everyday scenes seen, and the stories and myths heard by the potters and painters, were the inspiration for their designs. The importance of athletics in ancient Greek life meant that such scenes were also included in the repertoire of designs that grace pottery - in fact they were favoured since athletes were considered the ultimate examples of beauty.

All the painted scenes on this kylix (drinking cup) relate to a sporting/competitive theme, including athletes training for the long-jump and the discus.

On side A of the cup are three figures. A naked youth is holding (or perhaps warming up with) a discus, and behind him another youth appears to be exercising using halteres (jumping weights). The primary purpose of halteres, rather than as the equivalents of dumb bells, was to increase the forward momentum of the long-jump - the weights being swung forward whilst in the air. To the left of the two athletes a trainer keeps a watchful eye. Side B also depicts three figures. Two naked athletes, one of whom holds halteres, flank a trainer leaning on a staff. Judging by the trainer's gesture he appears to be instructing or settling a dispute between the two.

In the medallion of the cup is a youth reclining on a couch. He is wearing a victor's wreath on his head and is attending a symposium (drinking party) - possibly part of a banquet of the kind we know was held at the end of each Olympiad for victorious athletes. He is playing a game called kottabos, a boisterous combination of accuracy and wishful thinking: whilst flicking the dregs of the wine into a vessel (or at a person) across the room, the name of a desired or loved one was confessed aloud. In the case of this cup, the name LACHES is written in Greek as if spoken from the youth's mouth.

Other words written on the vase also refer to Laches, together with HO PAIS KALOS, or 'the boy is beautiful'. In ancient Greece, athletes were considered the ultimate objects of beauty. Laches was presumably a youth in ancient Athens renowned for his physical appearance, and his is the most popular 'kalos name' used on the 100 or so cups attributed to the Antiphon Painter.

Paul Donnelly, 1999

Summary

Object No.

99/117/1

Object Statement

Kylix, red-figure style, glazed terracotta, attributed to the Antiphon Painter, Athens, Greece, c. 490-480 BCE

Physical Description

High footed cup (kylix) with wide mouth and low everted rim; a horizontal loop handle at each side, the cup is decorated in the red-figure style with details left in the reserve colour of the earthenware: the painted scenes all relate in various degrees to a sporting theme.

On the inside of the cup is featured a youth at a drinking party (symposium) wearing a victor's garland around his head. He is playing a popular game called kottabos which involved catapulting the remains of the wine into a bronze vessel across the room, whilst at the same time uttering the name of a loved one. On this vase the name seen coming from his mouth is Laches, and above his head is the reference "Ho pais kalos (the youth is beautiful)" as to how attractive is the desired Laches.

Side A of the cup depicts three figures, one a nude youth holding a discus, and another warming up with jumping weights in preparation for the long jump. The stone weights called halteres were used to give momentum and lengthen the jump (they were discarded at the point of take-off), facing them a trainer rests on his staff. The inscription above reads, "Laches kalos (Laches is beautiful)".

Side B also shows three figures; two nude youths, one holding weights, flank a trainer or judge who appears to be settling a dispute between them. Inscription above reads "Ho pais kalos (the youth is beautiful)".

Marks

Inscriptions in interior and exterior of cup, inscribed in clay, interior of cup, name coming from the mouth of the youth, "Laches", above his head in ancient Greek, "Ho pais kalos" (the youth is beautiful); Side a, inscription above scene in ancient Greek, "Lakes kalos" (Lakes is beautiful), Side B, inscription above scene in ancient Greek, "Ho pais kalos" (the youth is beautiful).

Dimensions

Height

100 mm

Width

302 mm

Production

Notes

Over 100 wine cups have been attributed to the Antiphon Painter - the most common shape he worked with. John Boardman (p135) writes of the Antiphon Painter:

"THE ANTIPHON PAINTER (figs 239-43) is a more substantial figure [than the Colmar Ptr], named for the kalos on an unusual slender stand (239). His work resembles the Panaitian but is heavier, duller sometimes simply cruder and permits us to appreciate Onesimos' delicacy the better. Komasts, athletes and warriors are his subjects, rarely myth, and he shares with Onesimos admiration for Lykos [Laches] and Aristarchos. This, and his use of 'teeth' to interpret tondo meanders [Greek-key pattern in the centre of the bowl](243), place his flourit [peak of production] with mature Onesimos in the 480s. His figures have big heads, the anatomy dull but plausible with torsos split lengthwise by a black (broken) line rather than divided at chest level. Old-fashioned are his occassional use of incision to outline hair, which otherwise often looks curly with a heavily scalloped edge (an effect enhanced by a border of not-quite-relief blobs of paint), and some eye cup schemes with small under-handle palmettes (242). He was a prolific artist and there are many unassigned cups in his manner or related to his work. The Cage Painter can be named beside him (244)."

Although not the case with vessels attributed to the Antiphon Painter, vases that have been signed by both potter and painter illustrate that specialization of trade did, and could exist. In the case of this cup there is no signature and we have no way of knowing the name of the potter or painter - or indeed if it was even the same person. In the case of Douris for example, a Greek practitioner (and contemporary of the Antiphon Painter) who regularly signed his work during his long career c500-460 BCE, we can see the potential complications. Of the 300 vases assigned to Douris, he signed 39 as painter, one of them also as potter, and one of them as potter alone. The other 260 or so vessels are attributed on stylistic grounds. Of the 39 signed, Douris is also connected throughout his career with the potter who signed as Python, further illustrating the changing relationships in ancient Greek ceramic production. See also above Designed note.

History

Notes

This elegant red-figure style drinking cup (kylix) features an informativedesign regarding ancient pastimes, including practising sport, and participating in symposia (drinking parties). The cult of youth and beauty in ancient Greek culture pervades many aspects of ancient Greek society, andincludes naturally enough, celebratory material culture exemplified by this drinking cup and other related vessels such as wine mixing bowls (kraters). Made ostensibly for use within a symposioum drinking context, such a cup's use in a funerary context celebrates the fullness of life - in the prime of youth.

The object has been fully appraised in its history by Dr Michael Padgett, Associate Curator of Ancient Art at Princeton University. The cup is published in two catalogues and listed without incident on the international Art Loss Register. Padgett notes that it has been "thoroughly documented in a manner that would conform to the exacting acquisitions policy now adopted by the J Paul Getty Museum, which has been widely praised by even the most fundamentalist archaeologists."

Source

Credit Line

Purchased 1999

Acquisition Date

20 October 1999

Cite this Object

Harvard

Greek kylix attributed to the Antiphon Painter 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 16 January 2021, <https://ma.as/166498>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/166498 |title=Greek kylix attributed to the Antiphon Painter |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=16 January 2021 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

Incomplete

This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.