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Cleveland 66.114

Attic White-Ground Lekythos Douris ca. 500-490 B.C.

(Not exhibited)., The Cleveland Museum of Art; purchased from the Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Bequest (66.114).

The Vase: h. 32.5 cm; d. of body 12.2 cm; d. of rim 7.2 cm; d. of foot 8.8 cm. Intact. The black glaze has mostly fired brown. Some of the floral ornament has been repainted.

Decoration: Atalanta wears a himation and a long, transparent but beautifully bordered chiton, the hem of which she daintily lifts with her left hand to facilitate her running. She is chased by three individualized Erotes on the wing, each carrying ornate tendrils and one a garland as well. The lower border alternates two clockwise meanders with one checkerboard. The upper border alternates two clockwise meanders with a single, dotted foursquare. The shoulder is decorated with palmettes, and on the neck, a tongue pattern. (On the unique decoration of this vase, see Kurtz 1975, pp. 29 ff., and 78, n. 2).

Beazley dated the vase 500-490 B.C. and indeed both in composition and in detail the vase fits well into this period. The figures are given some breathing space and great attention is paid to complex embroidery patterns and delicate, curvilinear floral vines. The frontal Eros displays hook-ended clavicles or collarbones and the two other Erotes and Atalanta bear the oblique ankle designations which are Douris' trademarks during this period. The pose of Atalanta's upper body and the drawing of her face are very similar to the Athena on the Vienna kylix, Vienna 3695, dated to Douris' early middle period. The borders on both these vases with their double meanders are precociously ornate for their dates.

José Dörig has pointed out the nearly identical proportions of the Cleveland lekythos to a similar vase in a Swiss private collection and concludes that they were both made by the same potter (J. Dörig, Art Antique, Collections priveés de Suisse romande [Mainz 1975] no. 205, pp. 179-182). The vase is in a private collection in Geneva. The scene itself, the arming of two hoplites, is far less kinetic than the Atalanta scene. Yet the drawing of figures and drapery and especially of the shoulder decoration demands a date contemporary with the Atalanta vase.

The exact meaning of the main scene on the Atalanta lekythos is unclear. The central action takes place between Atalanta running towards the right (the direction of victory) while she glances back over her shoulder toward the well-muscled Eros, who stretches to overtake her. Boulter believes that this Eros is taunting Atalanta with the alternatives of Love should she decide to lose her race. Eros holds the garland representing the joys of Love in his left hand and in his right hand he holds an improperly restored flail representing the torments of Love (See CVA, p. 21). Atalanta flees from him, reaching out her right hand to stave him off, "while flying from delightful wedlock, gift of golden Aphrodite" (Theognis, 1283-1294). She seems not to realize that there are still two more Erotes awaiting her around the body of the lekythos.

It is this need for the cylindrical shape of the lekythos to portray the drama of Atalanta's race that drew Douris away from his unusual form, the kylix. The sharply curving surface isolates the scene into facets; the overlapping of these facets causes the observer to turn the vase, thereby instilling movement into the drama.

The action begins just to the left of Atalanta with the powerful upward diagonal of a lavishly articulated Eros. His body stretches around nearly one-half of the vase's circumference. The forceful 45-degree angle of his body directs the observer's gaze from the toes of his right foot through his torso to the moment of interaction between Atalanta and himself at the intersection of their two arms. Atalanta's running figure covers more than a quarter of the vase on the most important side opposite the handle. The second Eros awaits to the right. The observer is drawn into turning the vase toward this new figure by the upward curving lines of Atalanta's heavily bordered skirt-hems below, by the windblown curve of her head cloth above, and by the direction of her race. The third, a red-haired Eros, hovers on the back of the vase below the handle, and seems capable of turning in either direction. He is closer to the second Eros behind him yet he is separated from the first Eros, whom he faces, by a series of tendrils. Thus, compositionally, he provides a two-directional link completing the circle and continuing the conundrum of Atalanta's race.

The inscriptions are as follows: above and to the right of her head; above the heads of the first and third Erotes; and in reverse in front of the second Eros. In his review of Boulter's CVA, USA 15, Cleveland 1, Frank Brommer suggested that all of the inscriptions might not be entirely ancient and that the name of Atalanta might be an imperfect restoration of the name Aphrodite (F. Brommer, review in Gnomon 46 (1974) 426-7). Cedric Boulter replied that under ultra-violet examination the inscription appears untouched (C. G. Boulter, "The Douris Lekythos in Cleveland," AJA 79 [1975] 282-3). Furthermore, it is far more plausible to consider Atalanta, rather than Aphrodite, as fleeing from the Erotes.


J.D. Cooney, "Atalanta in Cleveland," CMA Bulletin 53 (1966) 318-325; Para., 376, no. 266 bis; CVA, USA 15, Cleveland 1, pp. 21-23, pls. 32-34 and 35, 1, with additional bibliography; Kurtz 1975, 27, 29 ff,. 78, n. 2, 128, 200, pls. 10.2 and 11; Boardman 1975, 229, ill. 294.

Arielle P. Kozloff, The Cleveland Museum of Art

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