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Chicago 1922.2197

Attic Red-Figure Bell-Krater Manner of the Niobid Painter ca. 450 B.C.

The Art Institute of Chicago; gift of Martin A. Ryerson (1922.2197). Found at Capua; formerly in the van Branteghem Collection; purchased by Mr. Ryerson in Paris, 1892, at the van Branteghem sale.

The Vase: h. 38.4 cm; d. of mouth inside 37.9 cm; d. of rim 41.2 cm; d. of foot outside 19.8 cm. Intact, except for the handle right of Side B, which was apparently broken off and repaired. Some parts patched with plaster and painted over, especially the area around that handle, including a great part of tendril and lotusbud at left, the upper part of the palmette under that handle, and parts of tongue decoration around both roots. The outline of the shield on Side B is shaky and looks restored, but I think it is original. Lip scratched and abraded; numerous scratches and abrasions on outside, especially lower front; some pitting inside vase and much on the bottom inside. Glaze fired greenish in places, as on the lip and around the figures. Good glaze inside. A red wash over the reserved areas varies in intensity, giving sometimes a pink, sometimes an orange effect. Below the meander border under the woman at left, on the obverse, a decorative border of some kind was started and painted over, visible under ultra-violet light.

Decoration: Dark and light, straight and curved, vertical and horizontal are combined restfully on the solid shape. The vertical elements of the main composition, on the obverse, frame a central scene which the horizontal libation dish and branch focus onto the black and reserved circles of the frontal shield; the verticals are balanced by the horizontals of the high-set picture and the decorative borders above and below it encircling the vase. Torus-shaped lip, outsides of handles, lower body, upper surface of foot are black. The whole rests solidly on the broad disk foot, reserved on side and underside. Thinned glazed is used extensively on this pot, even taking the place of the usual red bands painted at various points around a vase: a very narrow line, reserved and apparently covered with thinned glaze, encircles the outer edge of the top surface of the foot.

The inside of the vase is black, with a reserved band about the top and one 4.9 cm below it, corresponding to the lower edge of the "collar" outside; both bands are lined in thinned glaze. Below a reserved band at juncture with lip, the collar is decorated with a wreath of laurel to left, outlined in thinned glaze; the spines of the leaves are done in thin brown lines. The offset at juncture of collar and body is left reserved above the pictures, painted black over the handles. The handles are reserved inside, with a curved strip reserved on the vase inside the handle-roots. A band of tongue decoration encircles each root. Below each handle are two palmettes, one directed up, one down, the middle leaf of each spined. From the spirals joining the palmettes, tendrils emanate to frame the handle-roots, giving off two sets of palmette leaves and spirals, and continuing up to bound, with an upright bud, the handle-zones on each side; at left on the obverse there was no room. A band of meander and saltire-square borders the pictures below: two stopped meanders to right alternating with a black-filled saltire-square; at left of B and under handle right of B just below lotus there are three meander squares instead of two. The join of body and foot is marked by a tooled groove.

Side A: A young warrior sits to right, a staff held upright in his left hand, in his right a large libation dish decorated with gadroons. He wears a Corinthian helmet pushed up to show his face, and a himation over a chitoniskos embroidered with dots in groups of three and bordered at the arm with a dotted band. The chair (klismos) on which he sits is set in front of a Doric column, to the right of which a pair of greaves is set on a high shelf: the scene takes place in or at a building of some sort. On the column, the architectural elements of capital and epistyle are necessarily telescoped. Behind the chair a woman stands to right, dressed in the unbound Doric peplos, folds of which fall over the meander border. Her hair is tied up with an embroidered band; relief lines indicate separate strands over the black mass of hair at her cheek. A triangular drop earring hangs from her ear. She holds up an embroidered taenia with both hands. Before the chair stands another woman, frontal, ready to pour a libation from the oinochoe in her right hand, her left balancing a shield upright before her (it appears to be resting on her very large toes). The oinochoe is decorated with a band of dots around the shoulder. The shield is black with rim reserved, a reserved wreath for blazon. The rim is bounded by concentric compass-drawn circles, the center marked by a pit in the clay, the grooves of the compass evident. The woman wears chiton and dark-bordered himation, a disk earring with a dot in the center, a dotted or studded band about her hair set with three upright leaves. In back of her, facing the seated youth, stands an old man, a trefoil-topped barberpole scepter planted upright with his right hand, a leaved branch in his left. He wears chiton and a black-edged himation, draped in such a way as to form a sleeve over the left arm. His hair is left reserved; the intention may have been to paint over it in white, but no trace of paint remains. The extension of the preliminary outline of the nose, no doubt mistaken, and the sloppy outline of the back of neck caused the odd configuration of his hair. Relief outline is used almost everywhere, even bordering, both inside and out, the reserved outlines of the heads of both women; it is lacking at the drapery over the back of the woman at left. Thinned glaze is used extensively, for details such as strands of hair, shading of the eye of the helmet and the triangular spaces where the peplos is clipped at shoulders, borders of garments, pleat lines, earrings, embroidery.

Side B: In the center, a young man dressed in himation, short bushy hair encircled by a wreath, stands to left, holding a shield and spear in front of him with his left hand, a Thracian helmet in his outstretched right. The wreath was done in added paint, traces of which remain. A leaping dolphin in black, thinning in places to brown, decorates the helmet. In the center of the reserved shield is a black lion's head to left, its long tongue sticking out; mane and tongue are done in thinned glaze. Large black studs encircle the shield rim between the compass-made circles which bound it, the outer circle done in relief line, the inner indicated only by tool-marks; the mark made by the compass at center is visible. At left a woman stands facing the youth, both hands outstretched as if to receive the armor. She wears chiton and himation, and in her hair a studded, pronged tiara. At left stands another woman, right arm outstretched so that her hand is partly obscured by the shield. She wears chiton and dark bordered himation draped so that it forms a sort of sleeve over her left arm and hand. Her hair is gathered up at her neck and tied around with a band. Hands, feet and even heads on this side are large and clumsy. Thinned glaze is used for profiles of heads and for details of features excepting eyes and nostrils of the women, which are done in relief. The young man's eyebrow, eye, pupil and nostril are brown. No relief outline except for segments of the shield rim, parts of the helmet, and for the long shaft of the spear.

Broad preliminary outlines are everywhere visible. Except for the heads of figures on the reverse, sketch marks are visible for most parts of the drawing, including parts of the floral; especially clear where one object or figure overlaps another, as limbs under clothes, staff behind shield, column behind chair. The only change is a slight variation of the position of the shield on B with respect to the sketch.

The bell-krater, named for its shape, is a latecomer to Attic vase-painting. It derives from the vintage vat, as the one shown on the cup 87, and the Berlin Painter has been credited with introducing it. Four from his hand are known, and two from his contemporary, the Kleophrades Painter, but there is also a fragment of one in the Villa Giulia by the Hischylos Painter, a decorator of early cups (ARV2, 162, below, no. 5). One or two show up thereafter, but the bell-krater is not found in large numbers until the time of the Niobid and the Villa Giulia Painters and their groups (there is a bell-krater in Madison showing Theseus pursuing Helen, by a follower of the Niobid Painter, Madison 69.31.1). Then it enjoys a certain favor during the last half of the fifth century and in fourth-century South Italy (the shape is often called "Campanian"). See University of Chicago 1967.115.244 for a fragment of one by the Peleus Painter.

Beazley described the obverse picture both as "warrior at home" (ARV2, infra) and "libation before departure" (Caskey & Beazley, ii, 78). The question is, I suppose, when does a warrior perform a libation sitting down? There are numerous representations of seated divinities holding out libation dishes, and there are libation scenes similar to this where one person is seated (complete with column in background), but generally in these the libation dish and oinochoe both are carried by other standing figures. Erika Simon (infra) has observed that departing warriors always are shown standing, that our seated figure is probably a god or hero, possibly Achilles, with his mother, the Nereid Thetis, standing before him, the sea-god Nereus behind her, and another Nereid behind Achilles. The scene on the reverse may, but need not be, intimately connected. Some of the many departure scenes by the Niobid Painter and his followers show a related scene on the reverse and some do not.

The subject matter and its handling, the actors, the clothing and appurtenances, the apparatus of libation, the Doric column and the klismos, the barber-pole staff and its finial, the branch, the rendering of detail, the use of laurel and meander with saltire-square for borders are all to be found in work by the Niobid Painter, and were cited by Rich (infra,) in attributing the vase to him. In Beazley's lists however, it is numbered with works in the painter's manner; a note in the first edition of ARV (infra) perhaps explains why: "recalls the Painter of the Woolly Satyrs" (a follower of the Niobid Painter). Indeed, a number of details in the drawing on our vase can be found, though elaborated, on a volute-krater by that painter, New York 07.286.84 (ARV2, 613, no. 1): the use of thinned glaze, reserved wreath on the dark shield, the extension of the picture into the meander border, the form of the border itself, the old man with hair unpainted, and, on the seated youth the line of lip closure, the line of chin and neck, the dotted band bordering the arm of his garment and the rendering of the wavy fringe of hair about his face. The extensive use of dilute glaze, even for parts of the drawing which had once been done in black, is noteworthy. Contrast this use of brown with the Niobid Painter's own liking for the heavy black relief line (cf.University of Chicago 1967.115.60). Relief outlining the inside of the reserved hairline, and relief lines over black ground for strands of hair are found often in the Niobid Painter's work. For a similar disposition of the picture, high and with the effect of a horizontal band, with vertical emphasis in the composition, cf. a bell-krater by the Niobid Painter in Perugia (ARV2, 603, no. 34).

The floral is characteristic of the Niobid Painter and his group, especially the motif of three petals set in the angle of spiral and tendril (see Jacobsthal 1927, 162, and Caskey & Beazley, ii, 72). The "Niobidean" floral forms a link between the vases of the Niobid Group and others whose figure work is of different style (cf. ARV2, 1661, bottom).

For the Niobid Painter, see University of Chicago 1967.115.60 and University of Chicago 1967.115.410 with the references listed there. For many of the details cited above, see Caskey & Beazley, ii, 72-82, and, in particular for departure scenes, pp. 10 and 77. For bell-kraters, N. Weill in BCH 86 (1962) 67f., and 67, nn. 1-4, and ARV2, 1632, addendum no. 49 bis to Kleophrades Painter (after p. 192, no. 107).


W. Fröhner, La collection van Branteghem. Catalogue des monuments antiques: Vases peints, terres cuites. Vente ... Paris, May 30-31, June 1, (Brussels 1892), no. 86; Bulletin of The Art Institute of Chicago, 16 (September 1922) cover, 59, 63 (mention of accession); D.C. Rich, "Five Red-Figured Vases in The Art Institute of Chicago," AJA 34 (1930) 171-176; T. B. L. Webster, Der Niobidenmaler, Bilder griechischer Vasen, ed. J. D. Beazley and P. Jacobsthal, vol. 8 (Leipzig 1935) 21, no. 15c, and pl. 19a; ARV1, 425, no. 9; E. Simon, Opfernde Götter (Berlin 1953) 102, n. 67; Caskey & Beazley, ii, 78 and 80; ARV2, 610, no. 21.

Louise Berge

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