Side B: oblique from right

Side A: tree on left

Side B: athlete on center left

Side B: scene at center

Side B: athlete on near left, upper half

Side A: Ajax

Collection: Toledo Museum of Art
Summary: Side A: Achilles and Ajax playing a board game. Side B: Athletes and trainers.
Ware: Attic Black Figure
Painter: Attributed to the Rycroft Painter
Date: ca. 520 BC - ca. 515 BC
Dimensions: H. 39.2 cm; d. at rim 46.5 cm.
Primary Citation: CVA, USA 17, Toledo 1, pp. 11-13; Para, 149, no. 23 bis
Shape: Calyx krater
Beazley Number: 351102
Period: Archaic

Condition: Black glaze misfired to red and green in places.

Decoration Description:

Side A: Achilles and Ajax playing a board game. The heroes are seated at a low, wide, gaming table, flanked by palm trees. They are fully armed, but apparently at rest: each carries a spear in his left hand and has slung his shield over his left shoulder. Both wear Corinthian helmets, perched on top of their heads like hats; Achilles' helmet has a high crest, Ajax's a low one. Both heroes are mature bearded men. Achilles wears a short chiton, a chlamys and greaves. Ajax's body is mostly obscured by his Boeotian shield, its device a frontal panther's head between snakes. Achilles is about to make a move with his carefully poised right hand; Ajax gestures, his right hand extended, palm toward the viewer. Athena stands at center, behind the gaming table, her presence not noted by the players. Her upper torso is in front view and her legs turn right, but the goddess looks around towards the left. She wields a spear in her right hand and gestures with her raised left hand to warn the players of the approaching enemy. Athena wears an Attic helmet, and a chiton, topped by an aegis bearing a large gorgoneion. Side B: athletes and their trainers. To the right of center a musician (r.) plays the double flute (aulos). At the far left stands a trainer (r.); an athlete (l.) carrying three javelins in his left hand, walks toward him, but turns back to look at the other figures. An acontist (r.) rushes toward the center as he throws his javelin. On the far fight, an athlete (l.) prepares to jump with weights (halteres), and a trainer (l.) turns back to look at him. The musician wears a long white robe and a wreath on his head. The trainers wear himatia and carry staffs. The hair of the trainer on the left, as well as that of each athlete, is bound by a fillet. The left-hand trainer is a youth. The raised arm of the acontist obscures the lower part of his face. All other figures are bearded. At the handles: grape vines. A vine of ivy encircles the exterior below the rim, and a tongue pattern encircles the lower part of the body. Interior glazed black save for reserved stripe near rim. Added red: interior of Achilles' shield, fold of fabric at his waist, pattern on Ajax's helmet, dots on chiton of Athena, and on himation of youthful trainer, borders of chiton of Athena and of himation of mature trainer, most beards, fillets, inscriptions, stem of ivy pattern and alternate tongues. Added white: edge of Achilles' shield, Ajax's shield device, base of gaming table, Athena's flesh and her gorgoneion, musician's robe.

This impressive pot, large in size and sturdy in shape, was well designed for its function. The ancient Greeks diluted their strong wine so that its aroma and consistency became suitable for drinking. Kraters generally served as mixing bowls for cutting wine with water. Occasionally, when filled with snow or ice water they became wine coolers—receptacles for smaller vases, psykters (see Bloomington 75.102.1), which contained the ready-to-drink liquid (this use is illustrated on a fragment by Oltos, Moon 1979, no.76).

The body of the Toledo krater has a cup-shaped bottom from which the walls of the vase rise, slowly spreading outward toward the top. In form it is like the calyx of a flower; hence derives the name by which the shape is now known. The master painter and potter Exekias is credited with the invention of this type of krater. Around 520 B.C. he decorated the earliest preserved example, found on the North Slope of the Athenian Acropolis (ABV, 145, no. 19; O. Broneer, "A Calyx-krater by Exekias," Hesperia 6 [1937] 469-486).The calyx-krater was a late comer to the repertory of black-figure workshops. The Toledo vase is the only black-figured calyx-krater in a Midwestern collection. Its careful artist, the Rycroft Painter, appears to have worked solely in black-figure, but Beazley considered him "related to Psiax" (ABV, 335) and an early experimenter with red-figure.

The Rycroft Painter's calyx-krater departs from the ornamental scheme of Exekias' North Slope vase. A vine of ivy appears in the reserved band below the rim, instead of a palmette-lotus-chain. A tongue pattern replaces Exekian rays. The cul (convex-curved lower zone) is plain—painted black; on Exekias' calyx-krater it is decorated with a figurative predella. Significantly, this alternative black-figure scheme (cf. Brussels R 310, ABV, 281, no. 17)—ivy, tongues and plain black cul—recurs on the earliest known red-figured calyx-kraters (in the Villa Giulia, ARV2, 77, no. 90, and the Louvre, Louvre CA 5950; B. Cohen 1978, p. 402 and no. 9). The Rycroft Painter has retained one Exekian feature—grape vines over the handles—a reference to the function of the pot. This motive, standard for black-figured calyx-kraters (e.g. Vienna 3618, ABV, 280, no. 56; Volos, ABV, 148, no. 9), also appears on the very first red-figured examples (supra). In red-figure, the calyx-krater is a dark vase with light decoration; the Exekian black-figure type is light with dark decoration. The Toledo calyx-krater comes between the two; it is partly a light vase and partly a dark vase.

The depiction on the obverse recalls another famous prototype by Exekias (cf. Vatican 344, ABV, 145, no. 13). "The not recorded in extant literature, and our knowledge of it is gathered from works of art alone, chiefly day at Troy the two chief champions of the Greeks, Achilles and Ajax, became so absorbed in their board-game that they did not hear the alarm, and before they looked up the Trojans were in the Achaean camp," (Beazley 1951, 65). This theme is popular in late black-figure, less so in early red-figure (Brommer 1973, 334-339). The austere Exekian composition is commonly augmented. Athena frequently makes an appearance (e.g. London 93.7-12.11, ABV, 397, no. 28; London E 160, ARV2, 222, no. 19); here she stands behind the playing board (cf. Karlsruhe B 2, ABV, 492, no. 73; Aberdeen 744, ARV2, 73, no. 28). The Rycroft Painter was fond of the palm tree—a fine specimen appears on his namepiece, an amphora once in the Rycroft Collection (Oxford 1965.118; ABV, 335, no. 1; Para., 148). The pair flanking the Toledo heroes adapts the episode to fill the broad, flaring picture field of the krater. This scenic element may well have been first associated with this composition in this example (cf. Louvre MNB 911, ARV2, 301, no. 1; London E 10, ARV2, 90, no. 33; Columbia, S.C., Para., 206, top; CVA, USA 17, Toledo 1, p. 11; Schefold 1978, p. 249). Kurt Luckner points out that the Rycroft Painter has given five pairs of lateral fronds to the palm tree near the great hero Achilles, but only four to the palm near Ajax. In Exekian tradition, shields flank the players. Here the seated figure tradition sets are dispensed with—the heroes crouch with their shields, ready to spring up and fight at a moment's notice (e.g. Aberdeen 744, ARV2, 73, no. 28; Florence 3929, ARV2, 460, no. 15).

The palaestra scene (CVA, USA 17, Toledo 1, pp. 11, 13) brings red-figured calyx-kraters to mind; splendid depictions of athletes and their trainers by both Euphronios and the Kleophrades Painter have come down to us on somewhat later vases of this shape (cf. Berlin F 2180, ARV2, 13, no. 1; Tarquinia RC 4196, ARVbibl>). These red-figure artists prefer the beauty of as yet beardless youths and boys; it is noteworthy that most of the participants in the Rycroft Painter's black-figure athletic scene are mature bearded men. The artist of this vase belongs to the old guard.


The names of the characters in the gaming scene are inscribed. Written notation of which player is which hero is not common (CVA, USA 17, Toledo 1, p. 11). Even more unusual is the red color of all the inscriptions. Normally, in black-figure, inscriptions are in black glaze; red was generally employed for writing on the black backgrounds of red-figured vases (B. Cohen 1978, pp. 211-212, 407-409). Its red inscriptions alone mark the Toledo calyx-krater as a black-figured vase from the red-figure period.


Moon No. 62

Collection History: Ex collection S. Schweizer.

Sources Used: Moon 1979, 108-109, no. 62

Other Bibliography: Brommer 1973, 254, no. 61; Münzen, vol.26 (October 5, 1963), 55-56, no. 109; Caskey & Beazley, iii, p. 3 and no. 1; Riefstahl 1968, 35; Luckner 1972, p. 71; Brommer 1973, 336, no. 47; Boardman 1974, fig. 227; Münzen, vol. 51 (March 14-15, 1975), 52, no. 131; CVA, USA 17, Toledo 1, pp. 11-13, pls. 17-19; B. Cohen 1978, 402, no. 9; Schefold 1978, 249