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Greek Amphora with two horsemen, in the manner of Lydos painter

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: Greek
: Attic, Mid 6th Century B.C.
: Ceramic
: Height: 36 cm

Ex-Dr. Thoma collection, Germany, acquired in 1958.

Published in :

Auktion VI, Kunstwerke der Antike (Lullies R.), Kriecheldorf H.H., Stuttgart, 22 October 958, n. 35.


The amphora is intact, the surface and the paint are in a very good state of preservation.


Reference 18954

The vessel is painted entirely black, with the exception of the neck and the two large metopes on the body; a purple slip covers the molding at the base of the neck and certain details of the painted scene (the anatomy of the horse, the hair of the horsemen, the beard and fillet of the male head). The drawing is precise and the contours clear, even if as a whole the images lack extensive technical and thematic elaboration: the side with the male bust painted on the neck is certainly the finer of the two.

The images, painted in the two metopes using the black figure technique, are very similar, but not identical: a young nude horseman rides bareback on a black horse. The young man, whose thinness and elongated form make the animal look huge and disproportionate, guides his mount with the help of reins that he holds in his hands: in spite of the apparently calm attitude of the horseman, the positioning of the front hooves of the horse, which are extended horizontally, is a conventional way to indicate the speed of the rapid gallop or of the race. This type of scene is frequently seen on Attic black figure ceramics of the 6th century B.C.: it certainly attests to the important role played by the horse in the Greek world as a status symbol, a costly animal, more delicate and less useful than the cow, that only the aristocrats were allowed to possess.

On the neck, the decoration is differentiated: on the body, zigzags frame a male bust in profile sporting a long hairstyle tied back with a ribbon and a pointed beard – these heads appear especially throughout the first half of the 6th century. According to the classifications of J.D. Beazley, they are characteristic of the painting of Lydos and especially of his “contemporaries”. On the other side, the geometric motif composed of a circle framed by vertical zigzags painted on either side recall those on large Attic amphorae for the transport of oil (SOS amphorae) but it rarely appears on fine ceramic vases decorated with figurative scenes.

This amphora, probably the work of a contemporary of Lydos but unattributed to a precise personality has been known since the 1950’s. In spite of their rather heavy shape, the horses are again near the style of Lydos; on the other hand, the often repeated scene and the human figures with rather naive expressions and static postures can be attributed to a less innovative artist. The best parallel for the horseman is painted on a contemporary Type B amphora at the Louvre (Camp. 10635), whose painter has yet to be identified. Some other very close stylistic and typological images were painted on two other amphorae, one at the Louvre (E 824) and the other at the Villa Giulia in Rome. These last two pieces were attributed to a painter called the Painter of Louvre E824 (J.D. Beazley).


For the Louvre amphora:

Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum Louvre, vol. 11 (France 18), pl. 128, 1.

For the Painter of Louvre E 824:

BEAZLEY J.D., Paralipomena, Additions to Attic Black-Figure Vase-Painters and to Attic Red-Figure Vase-Painters, Oxford, 1971, p. 54.

Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum Louvre, vol. 3 (France 4), pl. 9, 3 and 6.

MIGAZZINI P., I vasi della collezione Castellani, Rome, 1930, p. 236, n. 468, pl. 62, 3.

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