Side B: overview.

Interior, sides A and B: silens in a fountain. Harpies.

Side A: left eye.

Side A: overview

Name vase of the Phineus Painter: drawing of the interior, side A, showing...

Interior, side B: Dionysos and Ariadne in a chariot. Silens.

Collection: Martin von Wagner Museum, University of Würzburg
Summary: Exterior: eyes; silens and nymphs dancing and in erotic attitudesInterior: Side A: Phineus; the Horai; Boreads pursuing the Harpies; Side B: Dionysos and Ariadne in a chariot with silens and nymphs; Tondo: Satyr's mask
Ware: Chalcidian Black Figure
Painter: Name vase of the Phineus Painter
Context: Probably from Vulci
Date: ca. 530 BC - ca. 520 BC

H 0.120 m., with handles 0.155 m., D. 0.380 m.

Primary Citation: FR, II, pl. 41.
Shape: Eye cup
Beazley Number: 18504
Region: Etruria
Period: Archaic

Date Description:

This vase is dated in the third quarter of the sixth century. Slight differences between authors make it range from just ca. 530 BC (Simon) to between ca. 530 and ca. 520 BC (Gaspari: LIMC)


Some gaps filled with plain clay. Moderate damage to some figures.

Decoration Description:

Exterior, side A: Eyes flanked by pairs of silens and nymphs in erotic attitudes. A pair of large black eyes with a nose in the middle. Between the eyebrows is the protome of a panther or lion. The eyes seem to represent the face of a satyr with two stylized pointed ears on either side. The irises of the eyes are drawn as a series of concentric circles, and have the tear duct typical of Chalcidian vases. To each side of the eyes are pairs of silens and nymphs in symplegma (erotic union). The silen at right is attacking the nymph from the rear; she is bending forwards. Like all the silens on the outside of the cup, he is naked, hairy and with horse ears and tail. The nymph is dressed, but her skirt is lifted. The silen is grabbing her by the breasts. The lower part of the legs of the silen are missing. Between the ear and the couple there is a flower. The couple at left is also in the same erotic attitude, but the position of the nymph is slightly different. The silen is identical to the one at right. The nymph is not bent so far forwards and turns her head to look at the silen behind her. Her skirt is lifted and the silen is ithyphallic. Between the couple and the handle there is a bird flying.

Exterior, side B: Eyes flanked by pairs of silens and nymphs dancing. The large clear brown eyes with a palmette in the middle seem to represent the face of a nymph. On either side of the eyes is an ear, stylized like a volute, with an earring. On either side of the ears, a silen and nymph dancing. The silens' bodies are covered with hair and they have pointed horse ears. The nymphs are completely dressed in black dresses decorated with stars or dots and with bands on the hem. In the couple at right, the nymph runs to the left lifting her right arm over her head and turns her head back to look at the silen. The silen is bearded and has horse ears and tail. Part of his left leg is missing. In the couple at left, the silen is moving to the right, extending his arms back and turning his head to look backwards. The nymph acts like the one at right, but her dress is not decorated with dots or stars. Her right arm is missing. Under the left handle area there is a bird (perhaps a screech owl) and a flower; under the other a flower.

Interior, side A: the Boreads driving away the Harpies, disgusting birds who tormented the blind Thracian king Phineus. This scene is the one that gives the name to the cup. On the right, Phineus is lying on a kline. His name was in a damaged inscription:*F[...]. In front of him is the table laden with the food which the Harpies took from him. He is reclining on his right arm against cushions piled at the head of the kline. His eyes are white, indicating his blindness, his face staring frontally at the viewer. His upper body is naked, and a himation is wrapped around his lower body and legs. Next to him at right there is a woman, standing and draped in a himation, labelled *E*R*I*X*Q*O; Simon believes that she is his wife. Behind her are growing ivy leaves. At his left, next to him, two goddesses are standing facing the left, looking away from Phineus at the Harpies. The two women are dressed in chiton and himation decorated with floral and bands. One of them carries a lotus flower which recalls the lotus flowers and buds from the friezes in Chalcidian pottery. An inscription beside them identifies them as [epig-rough]*O*R*A[*I], "Horai."

The following scene is the pursuit of the Harpies by the Boreads, who have just arrived with the Argonauts. The winged sons of Boreas, the North Wind, are flying to the right, their legs in the pinwheeling knielauf posture, the standard archaic convention for suggesting rapid movement, be it running or flying. Their names are Kalais and Zetes, inscribed beside them: [*Z*H]*T*H*S and *K*A*L*A*I*S. They are dressed identically, with chitoniskos with a maeander band on the shoulder. They are bearded, wear winged shoes and each have four wings; both brandish swords. The Boread at right, Kalais, has his left leg in front, the one at left, Zetes, has his right leg in front. His hair is tied in a krobylos. The Harpies (their name inscribed: *A*R*P[...]) are half-women and half-birds, with four large wings. They seem to be flying over the sea, represented by schematic high waves and fishes. Their legs are also in the pinwheeling position, to indicate that they are flying.

The episode is described by Apollonius Rhodius, book 2 177ff.

Interior, side B: Dionysiac scene with silens and nymphs. Dionysos and a woman veiled like a bride stand in a chariot drawn by wild animals. In the middle of the scene, a man (identified as Dionysos by inscription: [*D*I*O*N]*U*S*O*S) and a woman ride to the right in a chariot drawn by a lion, a panther and two stags. On the back of the animals a silen turns his head back to look at Dionysos and makes a lewd gesture at him. On the right a silen dances before a lion-head spout pouring forth liquid into a basin. The liquid is wine: the grapevine growing from the lion head spout shows this, as does the visible excitement of the silen and the fact that he is filling a phiale, a vessel associated with wine rather than water. Behind the group of the chariot at left, three nymphs are taking a bath at a spring, while two hairy silens hidden behind a palm tree ogle them. Over their heads a bird is flying. The fountain is small and flows among ivy leaves. The nymphs have left their cloths hanging on the wall and are naked and squatting, with their long hair falling in long curly locks. The silens are black, naked and ithyphallic.

The main problem is the identification of the woman beside Dionysos. The chariot drawn by wild animals appears in later poetic accounts of the marriage of Dionysos and Ariadne: this and the veil, frequently associated with marriage, strongly suggest that the woman standing in the chariot is Ariadne (see Hes. Th. 947-949; Pherekyd. in FGrH 3, F148. Other scholars, however, have identified the woman as Semele.) Furthermore, Hedreen sees the scene on the Phineus cup as a compendium of mythological imagery related to the life of Dionysos on Naxos, the scene of Dionysos' marriage to Ariadne. The picture has another points of contact with the mythology of Dionysos on Naxos. Several ancient writers tell us of a spring of Naxos that miraculously produced wine like the spring represented in the cup. This cup also adds further evidence to the Eastern source of the connection between Dionysos and panthers.

The identification of the women taking a bath seems fairly certain. They must be nymphs, the natural companions of the silens (satyrs). Simon, however, suggests that they are the Charites and tries to make a connection between the Horai on side A and the Charites here. The exotic setting and the perfume she claims is flowing from the fountain support her belief. However, the outstanding characteristic of these female figures is their nudity, which is rare in this period. On the other hand, the nudity, the bath and the presence of the silens strongly support the identification as nymphs. The exotic setting among the palms trees recalls the oriental origin of Dionysos. The atmosphere of the whole scene is somehow idyllic.

Hedreen likes to affirm regarding the relationship of the silens and nymphs with Dionysos. On the Phineus cup the silens and the nymphs seem to take no interest in Dionysos and Ariadne standing in their chariot, with the exception of a silen who makes a lewd gesture in the direction of the divine couple from the backs of the draft animals. The other silens are preoccupied with the wine-fountain or with the nymphs bathing at a spring, but have no time for the god.

The whole vase is unified by the presence of silens and nymphs on the exterior and on side B of the interior. It is difficult to establish the relationship between the two scenes on the interior, however, for the two scenes belong to separate myths. They do however share one detail: the presence of goddesses on both sides belonging to those always difficult to delimitate collective bodies: Nymphs, Horai or Charites.

Tondo: A satyr masque. The face of a silen in a reserved circle with black hair and beard and showing an open mouth.


Almost all names of the figures represented in the interior of the cup are incribed. On side A: the name of Phineus: *F[...]; the Horai: [epig-rough]*O*R*A[*I]; the Boreads, Kalais and Zetes: [*Z*H]*T*H*S and *K*A*L*A*I*S; the Harpies: *A*R*P[...]. On side B: Dionysos: [*D*I*O*N*U]*S*O*S.

Collection History:

From Collection Feoli

Sources Used:

Rumpf 1927, 20, pls. 40-44; Simon 1975b, 84-84, pl. 19; Schefold 1978, 26, pls. 176 and 232; LIMC, 3, s.v. Boreadai, n. 7 (with plate), s.v. Dionysos, n. 763; Carpenter 1986, 77 and 111; Hedreen 1992, 50, 73, 77-78, 87, pl. 22

Other Bibliography:

Langlotz 1932, 164, pl. 27; Vojatzi 1982, n. 42