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St. Louis WU 3271

Attic Red-Figure Nolan Amphora Hermonax ca. 470 B.C.

Lent by the Washington University Gallery of Art; donated by Messrs. Robert Brookings and Charles Parsons, 1904 (WU 3271). From Capua. Exhibited: World's Fair, St. Louis, 1904; Archaeological Institute of America Convention, St. Louis Art Museum, 1973.

The Vase: h. 30.1 cm; d. of mouth 12.2 cm; d. of rim 14.4 cm; d. of foot 8.5 cm. Inside the pot are bits of charred bone. It is in very good condition, with a good black glaze; there are some chips on lip and flaking around lower body. A small rectangular hole on the observe between the figures shows the wall of the vase to be quite thin. There is a dent running around the neck just above its join with the body, particularly visible on the reverse. The vase is a so-called "Nolan" amphora, a small neck-amphora with inset echinus rim, neck set off from body, triple handles, disk foot, and sparse decoration. A tooled ridge articulates the join of rim and neck, a narrow molding that of neck and body, a wide band that of body and foot. The upper handle-roots meet the neck at its join with the rim. Apart from the three figures and their decorative base-line, all is black down to the reserved lower edge of the foot. The foot underneath is reserved. The mouth and neck inside are black. Reserved areas are covered with a red wash. The black background above the meander border was filled in very unevenly, free-hand, but below the meander the background was filled in as the vase was turned on the wheel.

Decoration: The figures, two on the obverse, one on the reverse, race around the upper body of the vase. Below them, a band of stopped meander interrupted at two-pattern intervals by filled cross-squares, runs around the vase. It is miscalculated, for on the obverse, under the boy's left foot, is an extra cross-square which could have gone under the handle B/A where there was room only for the start of one. Side A: A wreathed, bearded man pursues a boy to right. Both are naked but for shawls draped over their arms, the man's narrow, the boy's voluminous. The man carries his staff horizontally, emphasizing the forward rush of the movement. The boy looks back at him, lifting his cloak in a travesty of the bridal gesture. His long hair flows out — in the wrong direction. Around his head is a red-painted band. Red is used also for the man's wreath; his hair is short. Side B: A boy flees to left, only the drapery around his back and over his arms keeping his outflung limbs together. The lyre in his right hand appears to be pulling him forward. His short hair is bound by a red-painted wreath. Red paint is also used for the plectrum and the string attaching it to the lyre.

Thin glaze was used on all figures for inner markings showing musculature of neck, chest, stomach, arms and legs, for navel-pubes line, for pubic hair, for ribs and knees; on the obverse it is used for the man's moustache and, on the boy, for hair about the face and for long wavy strands in back; on the reverse for sideburns and wrist-line; for lines bordering the meander band. Sketch marks are visible everywhere, for heads, bodies, drapery, pleats. Marks show that the chin of the reverse figure was meant to be shorter and less heavy. Relief outline is used for faces, and much elsewhere but erratically.

Graffito, underneath the foot at its edge: ΟΙΕ.

The neck-amphora called "Nolan" is named for a site in South Italy where many vases of the shape were found. A great number of those whose provenances are known do come from Nola, and nearby Capua, while a majority of the rest come from other sites in South Italy, Sicily, and northern Italy. Although some were found elsewhere and the provenances of many are unknown, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that there was a particular market in the west for this shape.

It is thought that Hermonax' teacher, the Berlin Painter, popularized the shape. Certainly he was a leader in the use of the single figure or figure-grouping against a very black background, which signals a major change from the preceding styles and which characterizes the decoration of Nolan amphorae. His students and most painters associated with him decorated Nolans, among them the Providence Painter, to whom this vase was first attributed (Beazley 1918) It is noteworthy that most painters of Nolan amphorae also decorated lekythoi (cf. Cleveland 28.660). Hermonax was a painter of larger pots, but, unusually, he did cups also; indeed, of any one shape, the extant number of his cups is the greatest. He signed his name on ten vases known to us, all stamnoi and pelikai. There is evidence that at one time he may have worked in the same shop or for the same potter as the Methyse Painter, whose work is shown here, (Cincinnati 1962.386-388, ARV2, 485, no. 23 and 633, no. 1). Not all Nolans had the decoration high on the body with the decorative base-line running around the vase, but many painters liked it and many of the Nolans decorated in this way have two figures on one side, one on the other, as does this one and Ann Arbor 77.7.1, by the Berlin Painter himself. Both of these have triple handles; ridged handles on Nolan amphorae appear later (Caskey & Beazley, ii 39).

The subject may be Zeus pursuing Ganymede, but need not be, for the figures carry no identifying attributes, such as Zeus' scepter or Ganymede's playthings (hoop or cock). The boy on the reverse carries a lyre (more often associated with Tithonos in his flight from Eos). Zeus is said to have carried off Ganymede, prince of Troy, to be his cup-bearer, later his bedfellow ("catamite" derives from "Ganymede" through the Latin). It is also said that Ganymede was first abducted by Eos, the Dawn, who was in the habit of such carryings-on — and off. Pursuit scenes, Zeus after Ganymede, Eos after Tithonos or Kephalos, Boreas after Oreithyia (see Chicago 1889.22), satyr after maenad (see Chicago 1905.345), man after woman, were popular at the time and often included companions of the pursued fleeing in confusion. Symeonoglou makes the attractive suggestion that the boy on the reverse is the same as the one on the obverse; we see the scene on film, as it were, projected on the vase. This is possible, but it is more probable that, if the sides are related (and on most of the painter's Nolans they are), the boy on the reverse is a companion of the one on the obverse; if they are one and the same, he has managed to pick up a lyre in flight. Martin Robertson, in discussing the running or striding figures of the Berlin Painter, in which those of Hermonax were conceived, refers to the figure of an Apollo as being "a reefed ship" in contrast to that of a maenad "under full sail" (AJA 62 [1958] 61). The same might well be said of the St. Louis runners.

There are a good number of vases in the midwest by the Berlin Painter's pupils, or in his manner, or by the painter himself (see Ann Arbor 77.7.1 and Champaign 70.8.6). Among these is a lekythos (Indianapolis 47.35, ARV2, 1003, no. 21) with Zeus pursuing Ganymede, done in the manner of the Achilles Painter (who, like Hermonax, was a student of the Berlin Painter) and there is a pelike in The University of Chicago painted by Hermonax (ARV2, 485, no. 29).

In a letter to a dear friend, over sixty-five years ago, Beazley said "The fortieth child was born to Hermonax yesterday" (M. Robertson. "A Tribute to Sir John Beazley," Lincoln College Record 1971-1972 [Oxford] 19). Today there are over 160 vases attributed to him.

On Hermonax, see N. Weill in BCH 86 (1962) 64-94, particularly 68f. and 79ff., with references to the studies of M. Pallottino, F. P. Johnson, and others, on p. 78, nn. 1 and 2; on Zeus and Ganymede, Caskey & Beazley, ii 51f and H. Sichtermann, AntK, infra, 10-15.


FR, 244, no. 9, also published in Kleine Schriften ii (Munich 1913) 489, no. 9; Beazley 1918, 78, no. 13 (Providence Painter); Beazley 1925, 133, no. 14 (id); Catalogue of Washington University (St. Louis 1927) 128, no. 1; Mylonas 1940, 207f. and 208, figs. 19-21 (Providence Painter); ARV2, 320, no. 59; F. P. Johnson, "The Career of Hermonax," AJA 51 (1947) 240f; H. Sichtermann, Ganymed (Berlin Dissertation 1948) 76, no. 36 (located in the St. Louis City Art Museum); H. Sichtermann, "Zeus und Ganymed in Frühklassischer Zeit," AntK 2(1959) 14 (in the St. Louis Art Museum); ARV2, 488, no. 77; P. P. Betancourt, Greek Vases at Washington University, unpublished (St. Louis, no date) 29 and 74f; S. Symeonoglou in Ancient Collections in Washington University (St. Louis 1973) 19, fig. 25.

Louise Berge

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