Denman Collection (Shapiro No. 26)
Attic Black-Figure Lekythos
Collection of Gilbert M. Denman, Jr., San
Attributed to the Edinburgh Painter [Cahn]
Ca. 500 B.C.
Height: 31.8 cm.
Diameter: 11.5 cm. Introduction of Herakles
After Herakles' death, caused by the poisoned shirt of Nessos (San Antonio 75.59.15P
, and his immolation on a
funeral pyre on Mount Oeta, he underwent an apotheosis, ascending to join the
company of gods on Mount Olympos. The scene occurs often in Attic black-figure,
starting in the second quarter of the sixth century, and continues, though less
popular, throughout red-figure. The scene is usually referred to as the
introduction, because Herakles is almost invariably accompanied by Athena, his
protectress, who is sometimes seen presenting him to her father Zeus and the
assembled gods and goddesses.
The apotheosis, or introduction, is generally shown in one of two
ways: either Herakles is driven in a chariot by Athena; or, as here, they
approach on foot. Generally speaking the introduction on foot is popular in
earlier black-figure and is later replaced by the version with chariot, but the
former type does recur, and the procession of vertical figures is certainly more
appropriate for a narrow lekythos such as this example.
The scene is framed by two slender Doric columns which mark the
entrance to Olympos. The group is led by Hermes, who gestures with upraised left
hand, as if signalling to the unseen gods Herakles' arrival. Hermes wears winged
boots and cap, chlamys
over a short chiton,
and carries his kerykeion.
Next comes Athena, who looks back at Herakles,
her raised hand also indicating that they have reached their destination. Her
aegis, seen frontally, shows prominently the snaky fringe, and two snakes curl
up over the goddess' shoulders. She wears a high-crested Attic helmet and
carries a spear. Herakles wears only a short pleated chiton
with short sleeves and carries his club in his
right hand, a bow in his left. Behind him stands a bearded figure in a chiton
and a tall pointed cap, holding two
spears. This might be Iolaos, Herakles' frequent companion on most of his
adventures Austin 1980.33
, even though Iolaos
could not, of course, accompany the hero to Olympos.
About 500 B.C. the Edinburgh Painter, to whom the Denman vase is
attributed, introduced the technique of decorating larger cylindrical lekythoi
with black figures on a white ground. It was only toward the middle of the fifth
century that white-ground lekythoi became associated exclusively with the
funerary cult (Shapiro 1981a, nos.
. This painter is also recognized by his distinctive pattern of five
palmettes on the shoulder, the two outside ones facing the handle, and by use of
black paint for women's flesh, instead of the conventional white of standard
Cahn 1968, 18
. On the
introduction of Herakles: Mingazzini
. On the Edinburgh Painter: Kurtz 1975, 13-14