The name of Douris is known from his signatures on more than 50 vases. Most of these are drinking cups, but Douris also decorated vases of other shapes. He signed most often as painter, but on a round aryballos in Athens he signed as potter (Athens 15375
, ARV2, 447, 274
), and on a kantharos in Brussels he signed twice, once as potter and again as painter (Brussels A 718
; ARV2, 445, 256
). The frequency with which Douris signs stands in marked contrast to the practice of his contemporaries. In the tradition of the Pioneers, he enjoyed writing, and was better at it than most of his fellow vase painters in spite of occasional misspellings.
The pattern with which Douris signs, whether often or not at all, helps establish a sequence for the vases. Beazley based his chronology for Douris on the signatures as well as kalos names, collaboration with potters, systems of ornament, and stylistic development. Beazley divided Douris' work into four periods: Early, Early Middle, Middle, and Late. The Early Middle or Transitional Period can be further subdivided into a 'rich' and a 'bare' group.
Signatures appear less frequently toward the end of his Middle Period and cease altogether in the Late Period. Douris' stylistic development is also linked with different kalos names: Chairestratos and Panaitios, which occur early, and Hippodamas, a favorite in the Middle Period. Besides helping establish an internal chronology, two of these names have been connected with historical figures: Panaitios, who took part in the Persian wars (Hdt. 8.82
); and Hippodamas, who was strategos in 459/8. A third name, Hermolykos, appears on a cup in the Getty Museum (Malibu 83.AE.217
) and Herodotus mentions a man of this name who distinguished himself in the Persian wars at the battle of Mykale in 479 B.C. (Hdt. 9.105
Finally, Athenodotos is written on a cup in Athens where the name of Douris, perhaps the vase-painter Douris is invoked (Athens 1666
, ARV2, 1567, 13
). Athenodotos is named as kalos on two vases that also praise Leagros (Boston 10.179
; CB no. 74
; ARV2, 327, 110
; London 97.10-28.1
; ARV2, 354, 24
Ernst Langlotz, in his fundamental study on the chronology of archaic vase-painting and sculpture, argued that the Leagros, son of Glaukon, named on vases, provided a fixed chronological point in the development of red-figure painting.2
Leagros was a contemporary of Themistokles who was strategos in 465 B.C., so if Themistokles was sixty years old when he was strategos, as Langlotz calculates, his Ephebic years, when he would have been kalos, fall between 510 and 505 B.C. Vases praising his contemporary Leagros would therefore date to this period. E.D. Francis and Michael Vickers drew attention to some of the problems raised by Langlotz' conclusions, not the least of which is the likelihood that Leagros, presumably a youth of exceptional beauty, might have been called kalos for a much longer period than five years.3
Although the traditional dating is therefore less than certain, it does perhaps provide a general indication of the period in which Douris was active. Langlotz' method of dating with the help of kalos names does not contradict what we know of the careers of the named individuals. For example, if Hermolykos was kalos at age 18 or so, between 495-490 B.C., he would have been thirty when he fought at Mykale; and if Hippodamas was kalos between 490-480, he would have been strategos in his mid to late forties. For Hippodamas there is additional evidence in the form of a cup fragment from the Persian debris on the Acropolis on which he is praised (Athens, Acr. 311
, ARV2, 478, 314
). We can extrapolate that the career of Douris probably began before 500 and his Middle Period style was reached by 490/485.
Evidence of another kind can be used to place Douris' Late Period in time: the appearance in his repertory of a new shape, the rhyton. Herbert Hoffmann suggested that this shape, which had its origin in Persia, appears in Greece in the wake of the Persian wars, that is, shortly after 480 B.C.4
Hoffmann places the rhyta by Douris, along with those by the Brygos Painter, in the early phase of development of the shape, that is, in the 470s. Douris' career might therefore span a thirty- or forty-year period, from shortly before 500 to 470 or slightly later.