previous next

Madison 68.19.1

Early Boeotian Belly-handled Amphora Amphora Group C ca. 670 B.C.

Lent by the Elvehjem Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Max W. Zabel Fund Purchase (68.19.1).

The Vase: H. 91.0 cm; W. 42.0 cm; D. of mouth 33.8 cm; D. of base 27.5 cm. Assembled from numerous fragments, with many areas restored in plaster, especially on base, lower body on B, and neck on A. Contour lines of figures in both panels are modern. Glaze misfired to rust red on all of B. Yellow-brown clay with red-brown slip and overcoating. High neck on ovoid body and conical foot; double handles. Wheel-made in sections, body in two parts joined just beneath handles.

Decoration: Wide zone of thick, vertical, wavy lines on foot, lower body and upper neck; above and below such zones are varying numbers of well-spaced finely-drawn lines in glaze. Broad areas in slip mark the join of the neck to body and body to foot; side of rim and lower edge of foot are black; inside of neck glazed (to a depth of 6 cm), otherwise the interior is reserved; two rows of wild, wavy lines under the handles (side A/B also has random dots); handles are completely painted in slip; stripes, lengthening toward the bottom, accentuate handles' join to the vase. On the lower neck and upper part of the body there is a band of large dots connected tangentially, with smaller dots staggered above and below. The picture area between the handles on either side of the vase is framed by a vertical row of double contoured lozenges, the inner element of which is latticed; this scheme is bordered by dotted circles and framed by vertical lines.

Panels: the scene is the same on both sides of the vase. A warrior, wearing a helmet which is decorated with latticing, sword and sheath at his waist, stands between two horses facing him. Under each of these large horses is a small horse (facing right). The one on the right, in each scene, seems to be nursing. Above the large horses are two goats, both with heads turned back, to the left (if the details on B can be applied to A). As is typical in early Boeotian painting, the horses have extended muzzles, strikingly thin legs in contrast to their heavy hoofs, and thick, tasselled tails. There is much filling ornament: swastikas, herringbone, small stars, lozenges (many of these latticed), small dots and circles. Added white: on animals, either a crossed or open circle on croup and forequarter, occasional circle on body for ribs, patch on tail, "V" in crotch; for warrior, (on A) row of neat zigzags across chest, stripes on thigh, circles on calves (warrior on B similar but very poorly preserved).

The vase is of unusually large size for provincial production — the average height for Boeotian amphorae is between 45-55 cm. This vase and another (Amsterdam 3283, Ruckert, infra, BA 38) are nearly twice this size at 91 cm. Such monumentality, the motif itself of the warrior between horses, and other features of the vase-design, seem Attic in inspiration. Scenes of a warrior and animals are more common on small Boeotian vases, e.g., oinochoe Athens 236 (Canciani, infra, pl. 67, fig. 19) but are rare on large pieces (Ruckert, infra, BA 38 and 39). The panel probably depicts a member of the warrior-aristocracy, standing as lord over some of those beasts from which he derived his food, clothing, sport and (possibly) defense. That the nobleman is armed indicates that these resources were coveted, raided, and had to be defended.

The pictures on this vase can best be understood in light of a passage from the Iliad (Hom. Il. 11.676-684) in which the aged Nestor reminisces:

"exceedingly abundant was the booty we drove out of the plain together, fifty herds of cattle, as many droves of swine, as many herds of goats, and a hundred and fifty bays, all mares, and many with foals following underneath."
That Homer may have described his own time as well as Nestor's, and that between the late Bronze Age and the Homeric there was a basic similarity in the ordering of society and the management of its resources is entirely believable. Ethnologist Karl Meuli (Kahane, infra, p. 184) found striking similarities in social make-up between post-Dorian Greeks, i.e. those of Homer's time, on the one hand, and pastoral tribes and cattle-breeding nomads from the southern Steppes, whose traditions go back to the Bronze Age, on the other.

In the religious realm, both groups share the importance accorded the cult of the dead and given to ancestors; each has funerary ceremonies with races, horse races, wrestling, etc., which resemble those given by Achilles for Patroklos (Hom. Il. 23.259 ff); the heroes, ancestors and victors in these games were praised in hymn and song, with such festivals often repeated yearly with pomp and for numerous guests. Society for each is arranged in eponymous clans. The Greeks of Homer's time, mid-eighth century B.C., seem not very different from those of whom Nestor spoke in Book XI; furthermore, scenes like those on the Elvehjem vase may be witness to that "agonistic" milieu out of which the Olympian games once emerged. Peter Kahane in a recent article (infra, p. 186) connects the painter of this Boeotian vase stylistically to the "Painter of the Cesnola Krater from Kourion" and, in addition to the more apparent Attic and mainland influences, he posits a Euboean-Naxian influence in the "profusion of animals and the atmosphere of the outdoors." From the evidence of newly excavated material from Thebes and neighboring Paralimui, Anne Ruckert concurs, in an exhaustive study of shapes, fabric, and schemes of subsidiary declaration, that Cycladic as well as mainland influences contributed heavily to the art of early Boeotia. More generally: S. Piggott, Ancient Europe from the Beginning of Agriculture to Classical Antiquity (Edinburgh 1965); H. A. Thompson, "Some Hero Shrines in Early Athens," Athens Comes of Age: From Solon to Salamis (Princeton 1978) 96-108, and J. N. Coldstream, "Hero Cults in the Age of Homer," JHS 96 (1976) 8-17; F. Canciani, "Böotische Vasen aus dem 8. und 7. Jahrhundert," JDI 80 (1965) 18-75. Classical Antiquity (André Emmerich Gallery, Inc.) November 22, 1975-January 10, 1976, no. 2.


Cahn 1968, 3, no. 1; P.P. Kahane, "Ikonologische Untersuchungen zur griechischgeometrischen Kunst: der Cesnola-Krater aus Kourion im Metropolitan Museum" AntK 16.2 (1973) 137, pl. 29.4; references given here are from the English version, "The Cesnola Krater from Kourion in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: An Iconological Study in Greek Geometric Art," The Archaeology of Cyprus: Recent Developments, ed. N. Robertson (Park Ridge, N.J. 1975) 151-210, for this vase p. 186 and pl. XIV; A. Ruckert, Frühe Keramic Böotiens: Form und Dekoration der Vasen des späten 8. und frühen 7. Jahrhunderts v. Chr. AntK, Beiheft 10 (Bern 1976) 90, pl. 13.4, no. BA 40, mentioned also on 19f., 24f., 55f.


hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (2):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: