Overview: main frieze

Collection: Indiana University Art Museum
Summary: Kneeling centaur and animal frieze.
Ware: Etrusco-Corinthian Black Figure
Date: ca. 620 BC - ca. 610 BC

H. 46.0 cm; D. of body 29.5 cm; D. at lip 13.0 cm; liquid contents c. 14.5 liters.

Primary Citation: Moon 1979, 10-11 no. 7
Shape: Amphora
Period: Archaic

Decoration Description:

The base of decoration consists of somewhat unevenly applied brown glaze which has worn off in certain areas. With the exception of a narrow reserved band below the cable pattern in the center, the band of the frieze itself, and the underside of the handles, the exterior of the amphora is fully painted. The main decorative pattern consists of a continuous scale pattern which covers most of the body. These scales, each of a fair size, are compass-drawn. The insertion marks are very distinct, forming, in themselves, a subsidiary pattern. Emphasizing the body structure of the vase, the scales of the lower half are directed upwards against the frieze. Those of the upper section point downwards. The even, carpet-like cover of the scales is gently interrupted only twice by a tongue-pattern: once at the beginning of the body above the foot, where it is rising, and again at the neck-shoulder join where it is directed down. Like the scales, these tongues are painted alternately red and off-white. The color decoration of the scales consists of large dots alternately red and off-white. These dots are arranged in an oblique, spiralling fashion, creating long arcs across the body, as the colors create long sequences emphasizing the centers of the scales.

Added red and off-white have been widely used.

The largest abstract design, a simple cable (guilloche) pattern below the main frieze, has been woven from inter-twining red and off-white bands. While not always fully symmetrical in its construction, this cable pattern has also, like the scales, been created with the help of the compass. Three circle segments, centered closely on the same line — roughly in the center of each "cable eye" — combine to bring about the sinewy, forward-moving pattern.

The frieze is a broad reserved band with a cover of creamy slip; on Side A, in the center to the left, there is a kneeling centaur with human forelegs. Over his shoulder he carries a tree formed from tendrils which he grasps with his left hand. His right hand is raised in a gesture of apparent excitement. His medium-long hair is coarsely incised and was originally encircled by a fillet in added red. His face shows a solid, strong profile, his chin juts forward, the frontally rendered eye is slanting outwards. His kneeling front legs have strong haunches, supported by rather delicate calves, resting on elongated, slender feet. The horse's body is attenuated; the legs appear somewhat short. His genitals are clearly marked; the tail falls down in a triangle, touching the ground. He is positioned in front of a group of three animals — two deer and a panther. The latter attacks the central deer from behind, biting it in the hindquarters. This deer, in turn, hangs its foreleg over the back of the one in front of it. The remaining figures of the animal frieze are less active. They stalk in rhythmic gait without engaging in much noticeable activity. In front of the centaur parades a panther, following a griffin. Continuing clockwise around the vessel proceed a Siren, a lion, another panther (whose hindquarters are now partially missing), a goat, a ram, another panther, another lion and a Sphinx which comes up to the tail-end of the panther of the central group behind the centaur.

Characteristic of all animals are their stretched, rubbery-appearing bodies, rendered in firm, gently undulating lines. They walk on solid, heavy legs in which some of the tendons are incised, while claws and paws are always sharply outlined. Their tails, if present, curve up in swan-neck curves and end in tassels which often resemble the stylized heads of waterfowl. Particular sections of the body, the neck and the wings are set-off in added red. Eyes appear in diluted brown, a rendering which gives them a more staring appearance.

In comparison to Corinthian vases the vessel's shape appears less elegantly designed and thought through, while on the other hand, it displays a more robust air and a higher degree of simple functionality. The drawing of the figures, likewise, lacks the graciousness and refinement customary in Greek vases. A hallmark, however, is the rustic quality of the animals, especially the centaur.

The Etrusco-Corinthian problem has been discussed by W. L. Brown, The Etruscan Lion (Oxford 1960) 52-59, and by T. Barcz (see Moon 1979, #6). Among the vessels mentioned there, this amphora stands very close to two similar ones in the Villa Giulia (P. Mingazzini, Vasi della Collezione Castellani, [Rome 1930] no. 355 p. 128; pl. 24.6, 25.1; no. 356 p. 129 pl. 25.2), one of them with a frieze, the other one with a decoration of scale and cable. For an amphora with three friezes, from the workshop but not the same hand, see Zürich 3446, from Cerveteri (Exhibition: Das Tier in der Antike, Archäologisches Institut der Univ. Zürich, 21 Sept-17 Nov 1974, no. 320, p. 53, pl. 54).

This is another vase from the "Scaleamphora Group" which is not far in its particulars from the amphora in the Nelson Gallery. The group is not discussed in its entirety, except in Hungarian, by J. G. Szilágyi, in Etruszko - Korinthosi Vazafestészet (Budapest 1975), so we give a discussion of the development of the group here.

Szilágyi defines three phases of decoration in the Scale-amphora Group. The Bloomington amphora belongs to his first style, termed "miniature," where the frieze seems secondary to shape and geometric designs which cover the vase. The work of one artist spans the entire period of the miniature style, from its beginnings (Ricci, MonAnt 42 [1955] 525-526, no. 1, fig. 127) through its height (Hesperia Art Bulletin 47 [1969] A. 22) to a "degenerate" phase (CVA Belgium 3, Brussels 3, IV B, pl. 1, 1a-b). Called the Le Havre Painter after his name vase (16 Nouveau Musée des Beaux-Arts), his earliest piece, according to Szilágyi (supra, p. 70), is indistinguishable from the work of the Cambridge group, which centers on the vase at the Museum of Classical Archaeology CE 2. Some pieces of this later group, Szilágyi feels, will be found to be the work of the Le Havre Painter, since neither the Cambridge group nor the Le Havre Painter used filling ornaments. The figures on this earliest vase of the Le Havre Painter bear a similarity to those on the Nelson Gallery amphora (see Kansas City 47-43). The Le Havre Painter is the prime master of the miniaturist phase.

The second phase of the "Scale-amphora Group" is a period characterized by an elongation of the figures and a slimming of the amphora shape. The development is especially important in the "Scale-amphora" workshop, because it marks the introduction to the style of a master whose skill was already well practiced at Vulci - the Bearded Sphinx Painter. According to Szilágyi (supra, p. 84-85),"The Bearded Sphinx Painter at mid-point in his production, changed shops to one which provided opportunities for his artistic abilities and one in which he was satisfied with pupils who follow his example." Because the Bearded Sphinx Painter had not worked with the masters of the miniature style, his art is not a development from the first phase of the group.

It is a student of the Bearded Sphinx Painter who breaks with tradition, and decorates many different shapes, amphorae being in a minority. Named the Canteen Painter, after an unusual shape (Berlin - Charlottenburg, Staatliche Museen, Antikenabteilung 31270), he is related to the Bearded Sphinx Painter, possibly as his student. Szilágyi suggests that perhaps the two are identical, but while there are many similarities in style, none of the known pieces of each allows verification of this identity (supra, p. 84).

The last phase of the group, according to Szilágyi (supra, p. 77-78), is a definite development and even a continuation of the elongated style. The figures now are clumsier and coarser -they are hand." Individual masters are the most difficult to identify in this "heavy" style, because of the poor and inaccurate drawings, but Szilágyi is confident that artists will some day be defined, "even with the low quality of painting."

Shape Description:

The neck-amphora stands on a high, conical foot with steep sides, its underside is a straight ring, the bottom slightly hanging. The rather pointed, broad, egg-shaped body leads over a wide, evenly rounded shoulder into the solid, slightly conical neck. The rim opens outwards in a strong echinus-curve, its interior is hollowed as if to fit a lid. The handles rise from below the middle of the shoulder and connect with the neck at its middle, forming a wide, sharp arc. They are flattish oval in section. The vessel has been deformed, apparently before the firing in the kiln: the rim is sagging towards Side B, and further below, the whole side of the body has warped and caved inwards.

Material Description:

The clay is of a rather porous structure, close to tile fabric, medium-hard to soft. Its color is 7.5 YR 7.53 pinkish-gray-white to pink Munsell.


Moon No. 7

Sources Used:

Moon 1979, no. 7, p. 10-11