Red-Figure: Early Phase
In his Early phase (460s-450 B.C.) the Achilles Painter preferred to decorate Nolan amphorai and lekythoi, the shapes the Berlin Painter favored late in his career. Some of the vases from this Early phase were originally assigned by Beazley to an artist he called the Meletos Painter, but later he saw they were his earliest works.1
At this time most of the Achilles Painter's red-figure vases have pursuit scenes, and these remain the stock theme in red-figure throughout his career. Normally the composition is limited to two figures; later he sometimes expanded it on larger vases. A dinos in Würzburg provides a good example (Würzburg L 540
The main protagonists, Peleus and Thetis, struggle in the middle of the frieze going around the vessel (
). In this case the pursuer has already closed with his prey, although she is still in flight. Relatives surround her, namely her sister Nereids (
) and their father Nereus (
), who alternately run to and from the pair. The painter has not dryly repeated the figures, but has varied the poses and dress of the women. Peploi and a long mantle are now regularly used in place of the chiton and short mantle which are normally found on the earlier vases, and the women's hair styles are different. A comparison of Kymathoe, the sister to the left of Peleus and Thetis (
), with the fleeing woman on the Hamburg lekythos leaves no doubt that this is the same artist.
In addition to pursuits many other scenes on Early and Middle vases derive from the Berlin Painter. The youthful horserider on a lekythos in Philadelphia (Philadelphia 30-51-2
is similar to one by the Berlin Painter on a lekythos in a Swiss private collection,4
but there are differences, such as the chitoniskos worn by the Berlin Painter's figure. The three black palmettes on the reserve shoulder of the vessel (
) are an invention of the Achilles Painter and become one of the hallmarks of red-figure lekythoi from his workshop.5
A comparison of the head of the rider (
) with that of Achilles on the namepiece in the Vatican illustrates how the same details are drawn more elaborately on the painter's finest vases.