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Cincinnati 1962.386-388

Attic White-Ground Calyx-Krater, Fragments Probably by the Methyse Painter ca. 450 B.C.

Lent by the Cincinnati Art Museum; The William T. and Louise Taft Semple Collection (1962.388, 1962.387, 1962.386). Ex Collection Curtius (1962.388, fragment A); ex Collections Dr. Jacob Hirsch and Professor and Mrs. Semple (1962.387, fragment B and 1962.386, fragment C).

The Fragments: A: h. 5.0 cm; w. 7.0 cm. B: h. 6.7 cm; w. 7.4 cm. C: h. 12.7 cm; w. 12.1 cm. Th. 0.7 cm. The three disjoint fragments are from one side of a white-ground calyx-krater, black inside. In good condition but for some slight scratches, abrasions, and mineral deposits; flakes on B take away part of Eros's legs, and Aphrodite's right hand and left elbow.

Decoration: The confrontation of Helen and Paris. A: Helen. B: Aphrodite and Eros. C: Paris, of whom only part of his cloak remains, and Aeneas. There remain the head, shoulders, breast and left hand of Helen, facing right, her name inscribed above her. She wears a chiton and holds her himation over her left shoulder, her hair tied up in a broad band with three leaves projecting at the front. She was shown standing, her hand bowed in acquiescence to Aphrodite, who sends off a little Eros toward her. Parts of the inscriptions identifying them remain above Aphrodite's head. With her left hand either she gestures to Paris or lifts her cloak. It has been shown that she was seated. A broad band embroidered with rosettes and decorated with three projections or leaves in front is bound around the sakkos in which her hair is gathered, a fringe of hair protruding at the back. She wears a himation across her body over a chiton. Eros's legs and wing-tips are preserved; he may have been holding a wreath, to which the small loop below him and at left of Aphrodite's hand would have belonged. Behind Aphrodite stood Paris, a bit of whose cloak is preserved, and next to him his companion, Aeneas, who is almost wholly preserved. He stands frontal, his head turned toward the fateful scene. He wears a petasos and a bordered chlamys, and holds two javelins upright in his right hand. His lower legs and feet, his right hand, the top of his hat are missing. At the right there remains a bit of the floral which must have decorated the handle-zone of the vase.

Helen's head-band is purple, her himation a golden-brown; Aphrodite's sakkos and himation are purple, her head-band golden-brown, the rosettes decorating it done in white with purple dots at the centers; Paris's cloak was purple; Aeneas' petasos is golden brown, the chlamys golden brown with a purple border; the petasos is tied with a purple cord and attached to the chlamys with a purple-dotted clip. The outlines and inner lines of faces, bodies, and chitons, the hairs, Eros's wings, the inscriptions, the javelins, the floral, are done in black or dilute glaze.

Inscriptions: [επιγ-ρουγη]ΕΛΕΝ, over her head; [Α]ΦΡ[ΟΔΙΤΕ] above, and ΕΡΟ[Σ] beneath, over the head of Aphrodite.

These three fragments tell us a great deal. The black glaze on the inside indicates an open vessel, the size indicates that it was a large open vessel such as a krater, the curvature indicates a calyx-krater. A calyx-krater covered with a white ground and decorated in color indicates that the vase was probably prized by the owner, for the type is rare.

The white-ground technique was not foreign to the artists with whom the painter of the Cincinnati fragments worked: the Villa Giulia Painter decorated white-ground lekythoi and alabastra, and fragments of two white-ground calyx-kraters by him are known. Fragments of a volute-krater which show that the decoration of the neck was done on a white ground have been attributed to the Methyse Painter, who belonged to the group of the Villa Giulia Painter, and who probably painted the krater to which the Cincinnati fragments belonged (see Mertens 1977. The Methyse Painter is named for a maenad on a krater in New York (ARV2, 632, no. 3; compare the Terpaulos Painter, St. Louis WU 3283, named for a satyr). His work, of which less than twenty samples have been identified, is akin to that of the Chicago Painter (Chicago 1889.22 and St. Louis 15.1951), and shows quiet scenes where women predominate.

Often, and perversely, chance has left only the lower parts of figures, but good fortune has given us the heads of the figures here and even the inscriptions naming them. Paris's meeting with Helen is the sequel to the Judgement of Paris, which follows upon the mischief of Discord at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. These events are recorded in the poems of the Cypria, part of the epic cycle of verse which included the Homeric epics and which was known to fifth century authors and artists, and to the public. L. Ghali-Kahil, in her study of the abduction and return of Helen in art and in the literature Ghali-Kahil 1955, 69f.), directs attention to the theme of beauty which is becoming dominant at this period. The artist from now on prefers the moment when Helen and Paris, accompanied by Aphrodite and Eros, first set eyes on each other (notice how Helen, on the Cincinnati fragment, lowers her head but looks up from under her lashes). The preceding period preferred the moment when Paris led Helen away, as depicted on the famous Boston skyphos by Makron (ARV2, 458, no. 1). Ghali-Kahil notes the contrast in type between the scenes showing the abduction of Helen and those of pursuit or rape which were popular in contemporary art: Helen went willingly. The Cincinnati fragments stand nearer the genre scenes of women preparing for a wedding or receiving the visit of a gentleman which become prevalent in the second half of the fifth century (Ghali-Kahil 1955, 69f.).

Much of the description above is taken from the work of Professor Boulter (infra), who has kindly allowed us to use it freely. Fragment A (Helen) was added by D. von Bothmer.1


C. Boulter, "Sherds from a White-Ground Krater," AJA 54(1950) 120f. and pl. 21; Ghali-Kahil 1955, 63 and pl. x; "Annual Report" Cincinnati Art Museum Bulletin 7, nos. 3-4 (February 1965) no p., illus; ARV2, 634, no. 5; Scherer 1963, 28, fig. 20 C; G. Boulter, "Seven Greek Vases", Cincinnati Art Museum Bulletin 8, no. 1 (February 1966) 1of. and fig. 10; M. Scherer, "Helen of Troy," Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin (June 1967) 367; J. D. Cooney, "Treasures from the Ancient World," Apollo (April 1971) 251; Mertens 1977, 122, no. 6, 124, pl. XVII.

Louise Berge

1 "Add two white-ground cups by the Villa Giulia Painter (Oxford 1973.1 and New York 1979.11.15)." (Letter of Dietrich von Bothmer to Warren G. Moon, 15 Feb. 1980)

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