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Subject Matter: Courtship

In his choice of subject matter, the Harrow Painter was not particularly imaginative; we have already commented on his repetitive "back-men" and mantled figures. Sometimes one or two komasts occupy the reverse, but only once does a woman appear there unescorted.1 Many obverses, too, are devoted to nothing more than a man leaning on his staff before a boy. Sometimes there are several courting males, a mix of erastai and eromenoi passing time in the palaestra, the setting suggested by the ubiquitous sponge, strigil, and aryballos hanging in the background (

). Such depictions are common in this period, and there is little doubt that even seemingly innocent scenes of youths standing in conversation contain undercurrents of the male courtship and homosexuality condoned and even encouraged in some circles of Athenian society, including the aristocracy.2 Both of the scenes on Harvard 1925.30.33 (ARV2, 275, 53), and the reverse of Philadelphia MS2464 (ARV2, 278, 2

are of this type, and many more examples can be found within the painter's oeuvre. The lyre held by the youth on the Harvard vase does not mean this is a music lesson, but rather is an indication of age: he is still a schoolboy. On another of the painter's column-kraters, a boy with a lyre is offered a purse, another common subject of the time.3 Not even the running boys on the two Tampa oinochoai are exempt, for they are probably slaves running to render service at a symposium, where they may become the objects of amorous attention.4 Even male gods have their heads turned by handsome boys: the Harrow Painter twice represented Zeus panting after Ganymede, as well as the pursuit of the young Pelops by Poseidon.5

1 St. Petersburg 1555 (ARV2, 272, 10).

2 For homosexuality in ancient Greece, see Dover 1978.

3 Agrigento C.2033; ARV2, 275, 52. For this subject, see M. Meyer, "Männer mit Geld: zu einer rotfigurigen Vase mit 'Altagszene'," JdI 108 (1988) 87-125. It is debated whether the purses constitute a bribe, a payment for sexual favors, or a simple love-gift. Gloria Pinney (AJA 90 (1986) 218) thinks the purses contained not money, but trivial love-gifts such as astragaloi; she makes no attempt, however, to distinguish them from purses in scenes of everyday commerce, where they clearly contain money. Lyres, too, are sometimes offered as love gifts; e.g. Athens 1176, by the Geras Painter (ARV2, 287, 31). For the broader subject of love-gifts, particularly animals such as hares and cocks, see Koch-Harnack 1983.

4 Cf. the boy with jug and ladle on Tampa 86.72 (

), with his counterpart serving the banqueters on Florence 3999 (see earlier note, supra).

5 St. Petersburg 607 (ARV2, 272, 10) and Naples 3152 (ARV2, 275, 60).

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