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Stock Figures and "Back Men"

Gempeler saw the Berlin Painter's influence continuing throughout the 470s, when both he and the Harrow Painter largely abandoned the use of relief-line contours.1 The truth of this is difficult to gauge, for the Harrow Painter's drawing can be much freer and broader than the Berlin Painter's. On the backs of his pots he often abandoned any attempt at refinement, settling for a stock figure of a youth or man (or both) wearing a himation. In speaking of the Pan Painter, Beazley referred to "his back-men, his mantle-figures," and certainly the mantled figures of the Harrow Painter are among his hallmarks.2 The pair on the reverse of the column-krater Harvard 1925.30.33 (ARV2, 275, 53) are typical, particularly the youth at the left, with both arms covered by his himation, the latter pushed out before his chest like a ledge (

); the same figure, sometimes facing left, appears on the reverses of several other vases.3 The bearded man facing the youth and leaning on a knotty staff (

) is identical to the man on the obverse (

), who faces a seated boy holding a lyre (

). The boy has the same type of "ledge" himation as the youth on the reverse, and except for being seated, he differs otherwise only in having a slight fringe on his hair, a minor concession to the normal practice of imparting more detail to the obverse figures. The youth standing behind the boy and holding a staff is another of the painter's stock characters (

); he too appears as a "back-man" on some vases.4 This figure was omitted when the other two — the seated boy with a lyre and the man leaning on his staff — were repeated in identical fashion on a neck-amphora with twisted handles, now in a private collection.5

This economy of figural types was not unique to the Harrow Painter, and he could escape its limitations by adapting a stock type to fit the purposes of a particular theme or story. The man on the reverse of the neck-amphora Baltimore, Hopkins AIA B13

), for example, wears a himation and holds a staff, but the staff is unusually tall, resembling the scepters that identify kings in many paintings. Because the scene on the obverse shows the captured satyr Marsyas being led into captivity by a henchman of the Phrygian king Midas, we may wonder if the man on the reverse is Midas himself, waiting for the captive to be brought before him.6

1 Gempeler 1969, 20.

2 Beazley 1974a, 5.

3 E.g. Naples 86304 (ARV2, 275, 65).

4 E.g. Florence 4024 (ARV2, 275, 63).

5 Patricia Kluge collection, Charlottesville (described in a previous note, supra). The sponge and strigil hanging on the wall in the Harvard painting are also depicted on the Kluge amphora, with the addition of an aryballos.

6 ARV2, 273, 22. Cf. the mantled figure of Zeus on the neck-amphora Naples 126062 (ARV2, 273, 16), who holds a thunderbolt as well as a scepter, setting him apart from mortal kings. For Midas, see L. Roller, "The Legend of Midas," Classical Antiquity 2 (1983) 299-313 and M.C. Miller, "Midas as the Great King in Attic Fifth-Century Vase-Painting," AntK 31 (1988) 79-88.

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