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37. 98.887 POLYCHROME PYXIS A cowherd and six Muses PLATE XV

Height, including the lid and its knob, 0.176 m.; diameter 0.146 m. Unbroken; the rims of the pyxis and the lid slightly chipped. The surface of the picture has been cleaned with acid, and parts of it have flaked off, especially in the region of the herdsman and the cow. Our illustration, made up of seven photographs joined together, shows the picture slightly reduced. The height of the white ground is 0.067 m., if its curve is flattened out. One of the palmettes of the ornament to the right of the third Muse has been lost in the composite photograph, but is shown in the view of the complete pyxis. The red of the mantles has come out too dark in the photographs. Partial use of relief lines for contours, as well as for eyes and ears, and for details of the hair, the lyres, the cross-legged stool, the palmettes in the field. Other outlines in black glaze without relief, sometimes turning to brown. The folds of the women's chitons, the strings of the lyres, the inner markings on the herdsman and the cow are in light-brown glaze. Five of the mantles, the borders of the sixth, the herdsman's chiton, the fillet held by the first Muse and her necklace, the straps of the lyres held by the second and sixth Muses are in purplish red. Numerous details added in relief and originally gilded, as follows: first Muse, earring and pendant of necklace; second, headband, earring, bracelets; fifth, headband with beads on it, earring, bracelets; sixth, headband with two beads above, earring, bead of necklace, apple in right hand, four bosses on lyre.

Presumably from Eretria. Ann. Rep. 1898, p. 74, no. 54. Beazley, V.A., p. 128. Metropolitan Museum, Shapes of Greek Vases, p. 28. Curtius, Pentheus, 88 Winckelmannsprogramm, Berlin, p. 4, figs. 7, 8. Richter, Ancient Furniture, figs. 85, 116. Drawings of the shape in Hambidge, Dyn. Sym., p. 49, and Caskey, G.G.V., p. 228, no. 182.

The pyxis is of Beazley's form A, popular in the second half of the fifth century.1 The top of the lid is decorated in red-figure, with a tongue pattern round the knob, then a band of carefully drawn palmettes, then, next the rim, interlocking maeanders interrupted by squares with crosses in them. Its side has vertical black stripes. The hollow base has three openings cut into it, perhaps designed to facilitate handling.2

At the left end of the picture a cowherd stands in front view, leaning his right hand on a black, knotted club, his left arm bent with the hand to the front. He wears a red chiton, high black boots, and a cloak, probably of dappled fawn-skin. At his left, a suggestion of mountainous landscape. At his right, a cow in profile to right, stretching out her head so that her muzzle almost touches the shoulder of the woman who stands in front view with her head turned to right, holding a doubled red fillet in her right hand. These three figures form a group; and the woman is distinguished from her five sisters in that she wears a sakkos, and a white, dotted mantle, with red border, instead of a red mantle. Between the cow and the woman, a tree-trunk with a leafy branch issuing from it; and above the cow's back the foliage of the upper part of the tree. Next, a group of three women, more widely spaced. The first stands in profile to right, playing a cithara, which she holds with the help of a strap passed over her right wrist. A fringed end of the strap hangs down from the cithara. This has a sounding-box rounded at the bottom, and decorated with bosses in relief. The central figure of the group is seated to left on a folding campstool, δίφρος ὀκλαδίας, with crossed deer's legs. She holds a tortoise-shell lyre with her left hand and a plectrum in her right. Her head is in three-quarter view looking towards the woman at her right, who stands facing her, holding a phiale in her extended right hand, and a syrinx in her left. In the field to the right of the seated figure, a tendril with three spirals issuing from the ground; to the left a similar tendril without stem. These conventionalized plants are in strong contrast to the naturalistic rendering of the tree. At the right end of the picture, a group of two women: the first seated on a stool, playing the flute, the other standing before her, holding an apple in her outstretched right hand and in her left a cithara like that played by the second Muse, but seen from behind. It has four bosses; and its strap, partly obliterated, hangs from the lower arm. All six women wear Ionic chitons; all, except the first, red mantles variously draped. That of the last figure is drawn up over the back of the head.

Beazley adds the following note on the subject and on the style:

The pyxis is a woman's accessory, and pyxides are nearly always decorated with feminine subjects: weddings and the preparations for them, washing and dressing, work and pastime in the home. If a male comes in, he is one to many women, and the scene remains largely feminine. It is Peleus and Thetis and her sisters, Boreas and Oreithyia and her sisters, Poseidon and Amymone and her sisters, Odysseus and Nausicaa and her maids of honour. If Paris appears, it is to judge the three goddesses; if Perseus appears, it is to rob the three Graiai or quell the three Gorgons; if Pentheus appears, it is to be torn by many maenads. The only battles are one or two Amazonomachies. Apollo appears, but with several Muses. Zeus appears once — with his wife and two other goddesses.3 On our vase also there are six female figures and but one male. The females are not mortals: with cithara, lyre, syrinx, among rocks and wild plants, they can only be the Muses. The Muses had often been depicted (already on the chest of Cypselus, and on the François vase4); but in the early classical period the representations become more numerous and more subtle. A red-figured pyxis, contemporary with ours, in Athens, shows the Muses sitting and standing, with their lord Apollo seated in their midst.5

But the male figure on our vase does not seem to be Apollo, for he wears a short chiton, a skin, boots, rests his hand on a clubby stick like a blackthorn, and has a cow at his side. He is a herdsman, and has much in common with the cowherd Paris on the contemporary white pyxis in New York.6 Now Apollo was a herdsman once: for a year, as a punishment, he kept the cattle of Admetus. Can this be Apollo in Thessaly?

The demeanour of the Muses is against it. Even if the master is disguised, and more or less in disgrace, they should be like angels ministering to him. They are not: he looks at them,7 but they take no notice of him.

If not Apollo, who is he? He cannot be just a herdsman, he must be a particular herdsman, by the laws of Greek art, and especially Greek art of this still early time. And on a cylindrical vase with its unbroken field, and a vase painted with care, he cannot be a picture by himself, he must be a herdsman connected with the Muses. What if he were Daphnis? Daphnis was the herdsman par excellence, βουκόλος, and his cows were famous, they were sisters to the cows of Helios. And the poet calls him 'the dear to the Muses, the not undear to the nymphs':

τὸν Μοίσαις φίλον ἄνδρα, τὸν οὐ Νύμφαισιν ἀπεχθῆ.8

The story of Daphnis may have been known in Athens at this time, for Aelian seems to imply that Stesichorus sang the blinding of Daphnis.9 But whether to Stesichorus, as to later Greeks, Daphnis was the inventor of bucolic poetry, is not clear. Moreover, the Attic poets never mention Daphnis (who could have fitted into many a tragic chorus); and there are no certain representations of him until Hellenistic times. Hauser, indeed, hinted that the goatherd-boy pursued by Pan on a vase of our period, the Pan painter's masterpiece in Boston,10 might possibly be Daphnis; but prudently did not insist.11

So let Daphnis pass down the river. There is another name which I make bold to pronounce: Hesiod. In the sublime overture to the Theogony, the poet tells how the Muses taught him song as he was tending his sheep on Helicon.12 Alas, on our vase the herdsman's charge is a cow, not a sheep. But Hesiod says a great deal about cattle, and if we can allow the painter this one inaccuracy, the subject may be Hesiod's first sight of the Muses, in their home, near his, on Helicon. Helicon is represented, and even named, in the picture of two Muses on a white lekythos.13 Sappho and Alcaeus, Solon and Anacreon, and other poets and musicians of less enduring fame, are all represented on Attic vases: there is no reason why Hesiod should not have been represented; and if a mortal was to be shown with the Muses, it might fitly be the great poet, not who first invoked them, but who first, and in magnificent language, related his vision of them — the earliest direct account of a personal experience in all Greek literature.14

The Boston pyxis must have been painted about 460 or 450: it naturally brings to mind the white-ground work of the Sotades painter and such white pyxides as that with the Judgement of Paris in New York,15 that with a wedding in the British Museum,16 or the maenad pyxis which was in the market some years ago.17 But the style is quieter than there, and has more of the Pistoxenos painter in it than of Sotadean. The vases which come nearest it are three stemless cups in the same technique. The first is the masterpiece in the Louvre with the seated Muse tuning her lyre.18 The workmanship is much more delicate and beautiful than in our pyxis, and the single figure is set more freely in space, but the drawing is very like: note especially the shape of the head, rather wide from back to front, the receding upper lip, the receding chin, the interest in furniture, and above all the treatment of the drapery — the folds of the chiton, both at the waist and above, and on the legs, an anticipation of Parthenonian soft raiment.19 The second vase is also in the Louvre, the companion-piece to the other, and by the same hand:20 the face of the standing Muse, in three-quarter view, may be compared with the similar face on our pyxis. The third vase, in Berlin, is of just the same shape as the pair in Paris, but far inferior in drawing: it represents a woman bending at an altar. Her sleeve, falling loose from her extended arm, resembles the sleeve of the Muse near the cow, and her head and hair recall our Muses. All three cups may be by the same painter as the Boston pyxis: the Paris cups finer, the Berlin less fine.21


ARV, p. 458, no. 1 (Hesiod Painter); K. Schefold, 1943, Die Bildnisse der antiken Dichter, Redner und Denker, Basel, B. Schwabe & Co., pp. 56-57, nos. 1-2, illus.; N. Kontoleon, ArchEph 1952, pp. 58-59; Caskey & Beazley, II, p. 101, no. 37; Himmelmann-Wildschutz 1959, pp. 16-19, pl. 20; EAA, III, pp. 440-441 (L. Guerrini); EAA, III, p. 441, fig. 537 (E. Paribeni); A. Greifenhagen, 1960, Antike Kunstwerke (Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Antikenabteilung), Berlin, De Gruyter, p. 22; EAA, V, pp. 287-288 (fig. 398), 294 (M. Wegner); ARV2, p. 774, no. 1; R. A. Higgins and R. P. Winnington-Ingram, JHS 85 (1965), p. 68, note 46; J. Dörig, JdI 80 (1965), p. 253; Richter 1965, I, p. 58, no. 6; Richter 1966, pp. 39, 44-45, figs. 205, 247; E. Zwierlein-Diehl, AM 83 (1968), p. 198, pl. 65; Para., p. 416, no. 1; K. Schefold, 1972, La peinture pompéienne (Coll. Latomus 108), p. 70, note 1; M. Schmidt, AntK 15 (1972), p. 133; J. R. Mertens, MMAJ 9 (1974), p. 103, note 66; Mertens 1977, pp. 136-137 (no. 1), 138, 177, pl. 20, 1; Roberts 1978, pp. 57, 59-60, 91 (note 16), 92 (notes 19, 22), 141 (note 35), pl. 34, 3; Himmelmann 1980, p. 69; Beazley Addenda 1, p. 141; Wehgartner 1983, pp. 96, 139-140 (no. 9), 148; A. Queyrel, BCH 108 (1984), p. 144; L. Guerrini, ibid., p. 962; A. Queyrel, AntK 31 (1988), pp. 90, 94; Schefold & Jung 1988, pp. 93-94; F. Zaminer, 1989, in Die Musik des Altertums, Laaber, Laaber-Verlag, I, ch. IV, p. 167, illus.; Maas & Snyder 1989, pp. 83, 91, 96-98, 102 (fig. 6), 140-144, 157 (fig. 3), 239 (notes 33, 35); Beazley Addenda 2, p. 287.


1 Numerous examples are illustrated in Metr. Mus. Shapes, and in Curtius, Pentheus. Beazley, in V.A., p. 128, lists ours as one of seven white pyxides, all of about the same date, of which the vase in New York, with the Judgement of Paris, is the finest.

2 This explanation, given in Metr. Mus. Shapes, is preferable to that of Curtius, l.c., p. 7, who supposes that the openings were needed because the pyxides were containers of perfume, and were placed in warm water to soften the contents.

3 Berlin inv. 3308, signed Αγαθων εποιησεν, about 440. (Arch. Anz. 1895, p. 38.)

4 See von Massow, in Ath. Mitt. xli, 1926, pp. 66-8.

5 Athens 1241 (Collignon and Couve, Pl. 47, no. 1553).

6 New York 07.286.36 (A.J.A. xix, 1915, Pls. 29-30).

7 The head is lost, but the attitude of the left foot shows that the head was turned to the left shoulder.

8 Theocritus, i, 141.

9 Varia Historia, 10, 18.

10 Boston 10.185; F.R., Pl. 115.

11 Ibid., ii, p. 294.

12 Hes. Th. 22-3.

13 F.R. iii, p. 303.

14 (From Addenda to Parts I and II) Pp. 35-36 (with ii p. 101 (Addenda to Part I)): the youth might also be Archilochus, as Kondoleon has shown by comparison with the new Archilochus inscription discovered in Paros: see Kondoleon in Eph. 1952 pp. 57-68, Peek in Philologus 99 pp. 23-26, Kondoleon in Philologus 100 pp. 36-39. The same subject as on the pyxis may perhaps be represented on a later vase, a bell-krater by the Pothos Painter in the collection of the Banco di Sicilia, Palermo (Fondazione Ignazio Mormino): see ARV.2 p. 1686 no. 23 bis; the youth there, however, does not wear a pelt.

15 See above.

16 Murray, White Athenian Vases, Pl. 20.

17 Sale Cat. Sotheby, Dec. 7, 1920, Pl. 1.

18 Mon. Piot, ii, Pl. 5 (Pottier): Langlotz, Gr. Vasenbilder, Pl. 36. On the technique of this and its companion, misunderstood in the publication, see Beazley, Vases in Poland, p. 13, note 2. On the interpretation, Studniczka in Jahrbuch 38-9, p. 87: the Muse is not playing but tuning.

19 Metope North 32 (Smith, Parthenon, Pl. 25, 1); Aphrodite of Daphni.

20 Mon. Piot, ii, Pl. 6 (Pottier). The mouth is not open as Pottier (p. 40) and Philippart after him (Mon. Piot, p. 18) suppose. What they take for the space between the lips is the lower lip. In the Boston pyxis the line representing the commissure of the lips has lost most of its black, but is still visible in the reproduction.

21 (From Addenda to Part I) No. 37. ARV. p. 458, Hesiod Painter no. 1. The picture (after Caskey), Schefold Die Bildnisse der antiken Dichter, Redner und Denker p. 57, 1-2. On i p. 36, middle: similarly Paris, βουκόλος is represented by Makron, on his cup in Berlin, as tending goats and sheep (WV. A pl. 5, whence Hoppin ii p. 43: ARV. p. 301 no. 4), and by the Charmides Painter, on a Nolan amphora in the British Museum (London E 289: CV. pl. 48, 1 and pl. 52, 2: ARV. p. 440 no. 6) as tending sheep only: see Robert Held. p. 1076 note 6. See also Schefold op. cit. p. 55.

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  • Cross-references in notes from this page (1):
    • Hesiod, Theogony, 22-3
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