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Baltimore, Hopkins BMA 60.55.1

Lekythos by the Athena Painter ca. 490 B.C.

60.55.1 Baltimore Museum of Art from Robinson Collection. "Gela." Ht, 31.8 cm; diam, 12.6 cm; diam foot, 8.5 cm. Crack across lower part of body. Surface chipped.

Neck glazed inside. On shoulder is band of five nine-petal palmettes with central one inverted, others upright and angled toward handle. Dots flank base and topmost petal of each palmette. Above is band of tongues beneath red line. Glazed handle with underside reserved.


Youth in right profile astride a dolphin extends right arm with phiale toward a satyr who crouches on a rock, right knee drawn up, right arm extended with oinochoe in right hand. Vine tendrils grow from rock. Behind satyr are another youth and dolphin seen in right profile. Added white for bellies of dolphins, lines on rock, flowers on satyr's oinochoe.

Above picture is band of zigzag between two pairs of bounding lines. Red line beneath scene and another between body and foot.

The Athena Painter1 was one of a number of artists who continued to work in black figure long after many of his contemporaries had taken up the new red-figure technique. The artist was trained in the workshop of the Edinburgh Painter, together with a colleague of similar style, the Theseus Painter. The Athena Painter began work around 490 B.C. and devoted himself primarily to oinochoai and lekythoi. His lekythoi resemble those of the Edinburgh Painter in their standard shape, with straight outline and torus foot, and in the shoulder pattern, which consists of five palmettes amid dots. Our lekythos dates from the early years of the artist's career, before he painted the neck black, enclosed his row of bars within black lines, and added a tendril with bud to the palmettes on either side of the handle. Still later lekythoi are often in white ground.

The Athena Painter treated a variety of subjects, usually active scenes, and on his early vases he often depicted riders, satyrs, and silens.2 His figures do not stand upon a groundline, in the traditional manner, but instead upon two red lines directly beneath the scene or upon the black field.3 Characteristic features of the artist's work are the oval heads, the incised outline at the top of the beard and hair, and the reverse E pattern for the kneecap.4 Typical of the date at which the painter was working is the inaccurate depiction of the dolphin's flukes, which are here set vertically instead of horizontally.5

The subject of our vase has been variously described as Arion.6 Taras,7 or Theseus.8 The last identification is especially appealing since both Bacchylides (Bacchyl. 16.97-100) and Hyginus (Poet. Astr. II.5) tell us that Theseus rode a dolphin on his visit to the Nereids or to Amphitrite. Beazley believed that the second rider was merely one of the repeat figures that characterize late black-figure lekythoi, and he suggested that the satyr, with whom Theseus is occasionally shown, was derived from a satyr play.9 The satyr's presence in this scene would not be inappropriate, since there was a traditional connection between wine and the sea, and consequently between dolphins and Dionysiac figures, such as satyrs.10

Haspels, followed by Beazley, tentatively suggested that the Athena Painter was identical with a red-figure artist, the Bowdoin Painter.11 The lekythoi attributed to the latter artist are similar in shape to those of the Athena Painter (BL) and exhibit the Athena Painter's distinctive innovations, which consist of the black neck, outlined bars, and black-figure palmettes with added tendril and bud. Should the identification be correct, the career of this artist extended into the second half of the fifth century.


Haspels 1936, 255, no. 14; CVA, USA fasc. 4, Robinson fasc. 1, 51, pl. XXXVII.

1 ABV, 522-25; Para., 260-62; Haspels 1936, 147-65, 254-58; Kurtz 1975, 14-16; Boardman 1974, 148. To these add Hornsbostel, 292, no. 254, and Dörig 1975, nos. 210-11.

2 Haspels 1936, 254-55.

3 Haspels 1936, 148.

4 Haspels 1936, 148-49; Boardman 1974, 48.

5 Stebbins 1919, 6, 9, 16.

6 CVA, USA fasc. 6, Robinson fasc. 2, 27. See J. D. Beazley, JHS 58 (1938):268.

7 See J. D. Beazley, JHS 54 (1934):90.

8 See Haspels 1936, 151, and CVA, USA fasc. 6, Robinson fasc. 2, 27.

9 J. D. Beazley, JHS 58 (1938):268 and JHS 54 (1934):90.

10 M. Davies 1978, 72-81. Our vase is discussed on 78.

11 Haspels 1936, 157; ARV2, 677; Kurtz 1975, 16.

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  • Cross-references from this page (1):
    • Bacchylides, Dithyrambs, 16
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