Attic Greek Black-Figure Amphora with Herakles and Amazons

Greek · Attic, ca. 530-520 B.C, Attributed to the circle of the Antimenes Painter




H: 40.3 cm (15.8 in)





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The shape of this neck amphora, which is typical for its period, is remarkable for well-balanced proportions. The ample and perfectly ovoid body with a deep shoulder narrows towards the bottom and rests on a wide and stable torus foot. The arching triple handles join a slightly flaring cylindrical neck; a massive echinus mouth completes the design. The mouth, handles and the base, as well as the interior of mouth and neck, were painted in black glaze; the ornamental bands frame the figural depictions. The neck, reserved by red lines at the junctions with mouth and shoulder, is decorated with ornamental motif of palmette-lotus chain with twisted links. On shoulder, there is the enclosed tongue pattern with alternative red and black. A configuration of four palmettes and three lotus buds connected by crossed tendrils, with a glazed dot in the center, is placed below each handle. Below the figures there are bands of a leftward meander, upright lotus buds, and rays divided by glazed lines.

The figural scenes occupy almost the entire space of the body on both sides. The obverse of the amphora (side A) represents Herakles fighting the Amazons. Heracles, who is depicted in the center, is fully recognizable by his attribute, the Nemean lion skin worn over his tunic; the animal’s head with wide-open mouth serves as the hero’s helmet. Herakles is advancing and directing his sword (the scabbard is seen at his waist) at, most probably, Hippolyta, the queen of the Amazons, who is already wounded and down to one knee. She is wearing a short chiton, a corselet, and an Attic helmet with high crest, armed with a sheathed sword, a spear, and a shield. Another Amazon similarly armed and dressed (with the addition of a short cloak, a chlamys, wrapped around the shoulders) is approaching from the side in her defense. Behind Herakles, there is a figure of the third Amazon, armed with a large quiver and holding a long spear horizontally, who is rushing to attack the hero (this movement is stressed by the opposite directions of the head/torso/spear and the lower part of her body). The depicted scene is related to the Ninth Labor of Herakles, when, according to the order of the king Eurystheus, he had to retrieve the girdle of Hippolyta, an emblem of her dignity, given by her father Ares. In a different story on his adventures, Herakles killed Andromache, another queen of the Amazons.

The observation of the third Amazon’s’ right foot which overlaps the palmette ornament, the same way as the Herakles’ right arm and the warrior’s high crest overlaps the tongue pattern, suggests that in the making procedure the decorative motives were painted first (probably by a workshop’s attendant), and that the main depiction was executed after by a vase painter, before the vase was put into the kiln. There could be a sketch made by a thin brush, no more visible; many shapes and details were defined by engraving, as well as the added red and white were employed for more detailing. One can recognize a white baldric across the Heracles’ torso, white balls as the shield’s device, or the red edge of the shields. There was a custom in the black-figure technique to depict the female bodies in white, which has vanished completely but can be still detected on this present vase.

The side B represents a composition of three fighting warriors. The figure in the center is flanked by two lateral figures: the opposing directions of the head and feet of the former bring a greater dynamic to the symmetrical structure. They all have Corinthian helmets differed by low and high crests; the sizeable cheek-guards cover the faces and men beards almost entirely. The outfit of a warrior on the left side is distinguished by a corselet with two volutes marking the chest and the Beotian type of his shield (with scooped indentations on the sides which allow to maneuver the weapons). Again, the technique is based on the combination of incised lines and additional red and white coloring over the black glaze.

The Antimenes Painter was named by Beazley after a kalos name on a vase in Leyden. He was active around 530-510 B.C. and was very prolific, some 150 vases have been attributed to him. He established a range of favorite subject matters: the olive pickers, fountain-houses, Dionysiac scenes, adventures of Herakles, and fights of warriors; a neck-amphora of standard shape was his preferrable shape. The style and the manner of Antimenes, especially his way to form the composition to convey the narrative, his study of details, were appreciated by the contemporaries at the time when the new red-figure technique made its appearances. Several followers and imitators create the circle of the Antimenes Painter, an important and large group of the Athenian vase-painters of the Late Archaic period.


No damage to body, handles and neck; the foot broken and reassembled from fragments; a few chips on echinus; a few slight dents on side B; black glaze faded in places; drying cracks in places; glazed thinned in places; glaze worn on handles; glaze misfired and abraded on part of the neck and lower part of the body; traces of added red and white.


Ex- property of a Canadian dealer;
Sotheby’s New York, 20 May 1982, lot 92A;
Sotheby’s New York, 2-3 December 1982, lot 125;
Ex- New York private collection;
US private collection


Sotheby’s New York, 20 May 1982, lot 92A;
Sotheby’s New York, 2-3 December 1982, lot 125


The Salon Art + Design, Park Avenue Armory, New York, November 2021, no. 8


BEAZLEY J. D., The Antimenes Painter, in Journal of Hellenic Studies 47, 1927, pp. 63-92.
BEAZLEY J. D., Attic Black-Figure Vase-Painters, New York, 1978, p. 266-282.
Beazley Addenda: Additional references to ABV, ARV2 & Paralipomena, Second edition, Oxford, 1989, pp. 69-74.
BOTHMER D. von, Amazons in Greek Art, Oxford, 1957.
BUROW J., Der Antimenesmaler, Mainz am Rhein, 1989. 2
MOORE M. B., A New Hydria by the Antimenes Painter, in The Metropolitan Museum Journal 18, 1983, pp. 29-38.

Museum Parallels

Los Angeles County Museum

Black-figure neck-amphora. Attributed to the circle of the Antimenes Painter. Ca. 520 B.C

Toledo Museum of Art

. Black-figure neck-amphora. The Antimenes Painter. Ca. 525-500 B.C.

The Louvre

Black-figure neck-amphora. The Antimenes Painter. Ca. 510 B.C.