Column Krater depicting a Departure Scene
Period: Attic, middle of the 5th century B.C.
Material: Red-figure technique, terracotta
Dimensions: Height: 37.1 cm
Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, January 20, 1967, no. 210
Vessel complete but reglued, with small repairs; paint in a good state of preservation. Decorated in the red-figure technique.
A very large vessel with a heart-shaped body, a low, straight neck, a flat, broad lip, a foot molded at two levels. Cylindrical and vertical handles which give this type of krater its name.
A lip decorated with a stylized plant pattern (lotus with stems), beautiful palmettes drawn between the volutes on the small plaques located above the handles. The two scenes painted in the metopes, delineated by a reserved edge decorated with rows of dots and languettes, depict activities of daily life. The main scene includes three figures: a) a young man, at the center, nude but with the attributes of the traveler, i.e. the petasus (a wide-brimmed hat) and the chlamys (a cloak fastened at the neck or on the shoulder), seen frontally, stands in front of his horse, which seems to slowly move to the right: the attitude of the young man, with his swaying hips and his bent, raised right arm leaning on spears, recalls the large statues of heroes or athletes from the early Classical period; b) on the left, apparently behind the horse, is an adult man with a thick beard, wearing a large cloak, who makes a gesture with his right hand towards the young man; c) the scene closes with the figure of an old man, characterized by a white beard and hair, wrapped in a himation (cloak) and holding a stick in his raised right hand.
By analogy with the depictions of the departure of warriors, this scene probably represents the departure for a military campaign of a young horseman, who takes leave of his family, represented by the generations of the father and of the grandfather (the female figure holding the libation cup does not appear here). Rarer than the departures of hoplites (foot soldiers of the Greek army) and sometimes difficult to distinguish from scenes of dokimasia (inspection of the riders and horses, recounted by Aristotle), images of the departure of horsemen are nevertheless observed in contemporary Attic pottery, especially on the outside of cups.
In the metope of the reverse side, more hastily painted, three figures are quietly conversing: two young men holding a stick are turned towards the center, in the direction of a young woman (identified by her hair), and appear to talk with her peacefully. Although there is no clear indication, this scene might be of an erotic nature.
Despite the slightly stereotypical, hasty style and subject of the reverse side, this krater is of a high artistic quality: the shape is well proportioned and turned, the main scene is finely balanced, rich in painted details that embellish the fabrics (play of folds) and the anatomy of the figures and of the horse.
The vessel has not been attributed to a specific artist yet, but it would be the work of a Classical painter who lived in Athens in the middle of the 5th century B.C., almost at the same time as the construction of the Parthenon. His style is related to that of the painters of the Florence-Boreas group, to which he would belong: acknowledged by J.D. Beazley, these artists were specialized in the production and decoration of kraters and large vessels of the same type as ours.
The krater, one of the most important and typical vessels of Attic pottery in the 5th century B.C., was the centerpiece of the area dedicated to the Greek banquet. It contained a mixture of wine and water that was consumed by the guests at the symposium. This mixture was then poured with a ladle into jugs (oenochoe) or directly into cups, and served to all participants.
BEAZLEY J.D., Attic Red-Figure Vase Painters, Vol. I, Oxford, 1963, ch. 32, p. 536
BOARDMAN J., Athenian Red-Figure Vases: The Classical Period, London, 1989, p. 37
On the departure of horsemen, see:
LISSARAGUE F., L’autre guerrier: Archers, peltastes, cavaliers dans l’imagerie attique, Paris-Rome, 1990, pp. 216-231