Greek Lekythos Representing Eos and Kephalos or Tithonos (The Nikon Painter)
Period: ca. 460-450 B.C.
Dimensions: H: 26 cm
Ex-Japanese private collection, acquired in 1997.
Complete but reassembled (neck and foot), excellent condition. Chips, painting partially flaked.
The neck of the lekythos is decorated with dotted ovolo pattern where it joins the shoulder. An arrangement of palmettes, lotus flowers, and volutes decorate the shoulder. Painted in the red-figure technique, the figural scene on the side of the lekythos is framed above and below by a band of meander design. A winged Eos pursues a beardless, short-haired youth. She is clothed in a long-sleeved chiton and wears a fillet on her head. With outstretched arms she holds on to the shoulder and upper arm of a fleeing youth, who holds a staff in his left hand and is dressed in a chlamys, a short cloak. He wears high boots, indicated by the three bands on each leg, and a petasos, a wide-brimmed traveler’s hat, which hangs down from the back of his neck. The youth’s right hand is extended outward toward Eos, as if beseeching the goddess to release her grasp. Described as “rosy-fingered” and “saff ron robed” in Homer, the myth of Eos focuses on her role as a predatory lover: she is known for carrying off handsome hunters, such as Kephalos, as they stalk their prey in the morning twilight, or she seizes the Trojan prince, Tithonos, to be her heavenly lover. It is Tithonos and his bed which she leaves when day breaks and by whom she became the mother of Memnon, the eastern prince and Trojan ally. Eos begged Zeus to grant her beloved Tithonos immortality, which he did, but the goddess forgot to ask that it be accompanied by eternal youth, hence he withered away until nothing was left until a piping husk, which resulted in the ancient Greek explanation for the origin of cicadas. Eos’ love was used as a metaphor for death, and is connected with the Greek practice of conducting burials at night, with the soul departing at daybreak.
The Nikon Painter was a follower of the talented and prolific Providence Painter, who himself was a pupil of the Berlin Painter, and hence under his artistic influence. Like the later work of the Berlin Painter, these artists decorated Nolan amphorae and lekythoi, both popular shapes with vase painters of the Early Classical Period. As with the work of the Providence Painter, the Nikon Painter’s work is neat and unpretentious, but not oblivious to the rich patterns created by draped figures. Although a number of divinities, most often Nike, are represented in his work, the Nikon Painter seldom depicts scenes from myth, which makes this beautifully painted early Classical vase all the more significant.
For the Nikon Painter:
BEAZLEY J.D., Attic Red-Figure Vase-Painters, Oxford, 1963, pp. 650-52, 1581, 1663-64, 1699.
BEAZLEY J.D., Paralipomena: Additions to Attic Black-Figure Vase-Painters and to Attic Red-Figure Vase-Painters, Oxford, 1971, pp. 402-03.
BOARDMAN J., Athenian Red-Figure Vases: The Archaic Period, London, 1975, p. 195, fi g. 364-66.
CARPENTER T. et al., Beazley Addenda, Oxford, 1989, p. 276.
ROBERTSON M., The Art of Vase-Painting in Classical Athens, Cambridge, 1992, pp. 158, 177-78.
On the relation of the Nikon Painter to the Providence Painter, see:
PAPOUTSAKI-SERBETI E., O Zographos tis Providence, Athens, 1983, pp. 225-26.
Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC), Vol. III, Zurich, 1986, s.v. Eos, p. 337, pl. 582.
Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC), Vol. VI, Zurich-Munich, 1992, s.v. Kephalos, pp. 1-6.
Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC), Vol. VIII, Zurich-Munich, 1997, s.v. Tithonos, pp.34-36.