A Corinthian Black Figure Column Krater
Period: ca. 590-570 B.C.
Material: Greek Ceramic
Dimensions: H: 29.8 cm
Sotheby’s London, 13-14 July 1987, n. 448; ex-american private collection.
This grand krater, which is in an optimal state of preservation, is decorated in the black figure technique: the animals and people are painted in black on a light ground, while many details are highlighted in purple, enriching the polychromy of the vase.
Already in Antiquity Corinth was known as the place of origin for this type of vase, which, like the other types of kraters (bell, kalyx and volute) was used to mix the water and wine that men consumed at banquets: the krater was, therefore, part of the canon of Greek drinking vessels, and its development was directly related to the world of the symposium – the krater was even the pivotal piece at the banquet, physically placed in the center amongst the guests – and the world of wine that developed in Greece at the end of the 8th century B.C. In the Corinthian repertory, dominated by small perfume and drinking vessels, the column krater is the single large form that enjoyed a certain amount of success, especially during the first half of the 6th century B.C.
The body is globular with a small base with inclined walls and a low neck ; the large, flat lip presents two symmetrical square plaquettes under which are attached two semi-circular handles. The decoration of this example is organized into two large friezes of uninterrupted figures, one painted at the level of the handles, the other painted below: the upper register is dominated on one side two young horsemen sitting on their mounts and by two monsters (a sphinx and a siren) on the other side, while the space near the handles is occupied by wild cats (panthers, standing or crouching lions). Below, grazing ibexes alternate with four standing panthers. Two panthers seated on their haunches are represented on the plaquettes at the lip. As is often the case on contemporary Corinthian ceramics to help fix a rather irregular spatial organization, the artist utilized different graphic strategies: the body of the lion is cut in two by the base of a small column in the frieze above ; a panther has a very elongated body below, etc. The style of the drawing, sure and without hesitation, continues in the grand tradition of the Corinthian painters: much more than mythological scenes, processions of animals are one of the classic subjects of Corinthian painting. Their style was of great importance throughout the continental Greek world (for example, contemporary Attic ceramics were largely influenced by the animal friezes of Corinth) and the colonial. Well-known for a number of years, this krater has nevertheless never been attributed to a precise artist: the styles of the figures nevertheless possess many similarities with the painters of the Gorgoneion group, whose classification proposed by H. Payne was also repeated by A. D. Amyx.
Amyx, A. D., Corinthian Vase-Painting of the Archaic Period, Berkeley, 1988, vol. II, pp. 194-205 (and the update in Neft, C. W., Addenda et Corrigenda
to P.A. Amyx, Corinthian Vase-Painting of the Archaic Period, Amsterdam, 1991).
Payne , H., Necrocorinthia, Oxford, 1931, p. 311.
For the typology and decorative syntax:
Meisterwerke griechischer Keramik aus der Sammlung G. Sinopoli, Mayence/Rhin, 2000, pp. 24-26, n. 17.