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Title

: An Attic Black-Figures Vase

Author

Sir John Davidson Beazley

Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
The handsome black-figured vase recently acquired by the Institute was made in Athens in the third quarter of the sixth century B.C. (figures 2 and 3). It is what archeologists call a "neck-amphora" to distinguish the shape from the "one-piece amphora," in which the neck passes into the body with a gradual curve instead of being set sharply off from it as in our vase. There are other essential differences, and it is desirable to keep the two shapes well apart and not to use the same word amphora to cover them both. The majority of Attic neck-amphorae are later than ours: longer-necked and less broad-shouldered, they have a less massive and powerful look. In shape, our vase resembles those made by the famous Attic potter Exekias, and the potterwork, if not by him, is by an artist working under him and thoroughly in his manner. Exekias was a famous vase-painter as well as a famous potter, and two of his vases bear the double signature Exekias egrapse kapeose me, "Exekias painted me and made me." The figure-work of our vase is not by Exekias, but it is in his manner: the figures are quiet and staid like his, but lack his refinement and his solemnity. The rendering of the details, too, is different. A vase in the Vatican (figure 1), both for shape and decoration, stands in just the same relation to Exekias as the Minneapolis vase, and the figures as well as the patterns are by the same hand. The subjects of the Vatican vase are, on one side, Dionysos, a goddess with two children in her arms, and Hermes; on the other side, a man seated, a woman standing before him and drawing his attention, and two youths looking on (figure 1). The Minneapolis case is somewhat more elaborate, for the shoulder is decorated with figures as well as the body. On each side of the vase in the small, shoulder figures, there are two warriors in combat, and onlookers; beyond each warrior, a naked youth on horseback, a youth and a woman. In the front picture there is an additional figure on the right, a herald-whether Hermes or a mortal-holding a caduceus and raising one arm. The warriors ought to have spears in their hands, but the artist has forgotten to draw them.The chief picture on the front of the vase (figure 2) is a four-horse chariot standing still, with two persons, one male and one female, in the car. The male holds a trident and is therefore Poseidon; his companion must be his wife, the goddess Amphitrite. They are accompanied by Hermes and by a goddess whom we cannot name. On the back of the vase (figure 3), a warrior, walking, turns around towards a woman who stand behind him; behind the woman is a man, wearing a short cloak, who raises his hand; behind the warrior is a youth, fully dressed. The warrior is fully armed, and ought to carry a spear, but as in the small pictures, the spear is omitted. He seems to be setting out, and the woman to be bidding him farewell. The informal dress of the man on the left suggests that he is not the father, but a subordinate rather then a principal. The youth on the right is a mere spectator. The attitudes are vague, and it is impossible to say that for the warrior the artist has any particular hero in mind.It is as a piece of fine pottery, adequately decorated with figures and patterns, that the new vase must be judged.Referenced Works of Art
  1. Attic Vase, 6th century, Vatican Museum.
  2. Attic Vase (front), 6th century, 15 1/2 inches high. The John R. Van Derlip fund, 1958
  3. Attic Vase (back), 6th century, 15 1/2 inches high. The John R. Van Derlip fund, 1958
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Source: Sir John Davidson Beazley, "An Attic Black-Figures Vase," <i>The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin</i> 47, no. 3 (July-December, 1958): 40-41.
Rights: ©MIA
Added to Site: March 10, 2009