Greek Red-Figure Column Krater attributed to the Naples Painter
Culture: Greek-Classical, Attic
Period: Attic, circa 440-430 B.C.
Material: Greek Ceramic
Dimensions: H: 50 cm
Ex-private collection, Mrs E. Joner, Lussy, Switzerland, by descent, collected in the 1950’s.
The vase is complete and recomposed from fragments. Like other types of kraters this vessel, its name derived from the columnar supports for the handle plates, functioned as a large bowl for mixing wine with water. The mix was then ladled into jugs or directly into cups and served to participants at a symposium, a drinking party that could be either a civilized gathering or raucous affair depending largely on the proportions of wine to water. The wide, flat lip of the krater is decorated with a chain of inverted lotus buds; a graceful palmette between volute scrolls, two dots, and two lines forming an inverted V-shape are painted on each handle plate. The tall neck of the vessel is decorated with a chain of thin inverted lotus buds on the front side; the shoulder on both sides of the vase is decorated with a circular band of tongue pattern, with the same design around the roots of the columnar handles. The picture panel on each side of the vase is framed by two rows of dots between lines, and the rim of the vessel is similarly decorated. The torus-shaped foot is in two degrees and, as with the potting and proportions of this krater, is similar to other kraters decorated by the Naples Painter.
Among the more notable artists of the Classical period, the Naples Painter is known as a painter of column kraters. On these vases he depicts primarily scenes of combat, perhaps influenced by Trojan epic and Homer’s account of that war, scenes of symposia, or scenes inspired by Greek myth including centauromachies or Dionysos with his retinue. Like other artists of the period, his scenes of combat may have been inspired by large scale wall paintings in Athens. His painting is often influenced by the vase painter Polygnotos and his Group and he utilizes an iconography and style closely related to their work. In keeping with such Polygnotan influences, the front panel of this krater depicts a detailed and animated combat between a horseman and two hoplites, in which the central figure is in three-quarter view and the action takes place in a landscape of uneven ground. At the left the horseman, with his mount looking upward, open-mouthed and rearing in fearful anticipation of the conflict, enters battle armed with a lance in his lowered right hand. A bow and quiver are held in his lowered left hand, with which he additionally holds the horse’s reins. The baldric running from his right shoulder and across his chest to the left hip hints at the sword and scabbard out of our view. He wears high-strapped, sandal-like boots, a long-crested helmet, and a richly decorated, protective corselet over his chitoniskos (short tunic). The central figure, an older hoplite as evidence by his beard showing beneath the Thracian style helmet, is barefoot and wears only a light tunic decorated with stars and a contrasting dark banded border at the lower edge. The garment is secured over his left shoulder and belted at the waist. This arrangement leaves his right side free of any encumbrance, allowing him the ability to move his lance wielding arm. This he does with great effect as the spear point appears to be aimed squarely at the middle of the horseman’s abdomen. He also wears a baldric slung across his right shoulder to hold a sword and striped scabbard seen hanging down along his left side. The tunic he wears must be of finely woven, or thin, almost diaphanous cloth, since his buttocks are clearly indicated beneath it. Protecting his torso in this otherwise defenseless garment, he holds a large round shield, a hoplon, from which these shield carriers, hoplites, derive their name. The shield is emblazoned with a lion on an exergue decorated with dots connected by a zigzag line. The figure at the far right, a beardless youth with a long-crested Corinthian helmet pushed back upon his head, wears an undecorated, protective corselet over a chitoniskos. He is barefoot, but comes armed with what must be a lance in his lowered right hand, and a sword, the baldric for which hangs down from his right shoulder and across his back, the sheath hanging down his left side. A large shield with a starburst blazon, and with a decorated protective apron hanging down from it, protects his left flank. On the reverse side of the vase, and similar to other kraters by the Naples Painter, two short haired youths hold walking sticks stand to the left and right of a younger boy, identifiable by his longer hair. All the figures are barefoot and wear himatia; the youth at the left and the boy wear fillets around their heads.
A classic pot painter working within the influential realm of Polygnotos, whose style dominated almost the entire second half of the fifth century, the Naples Painter may be considered an active participant in the wider Polygnotan circle of artists. As Matheson points out, spawned by one of the greatest of the Early Classical vase painters, the Polygnotan painters became part of the Classical moment,’ their vases made in the shadow of the Parthenon, of which this column krater is a magnificent example.
For the Naples Painter, named after a column krater, Naples 3351:
BEAZLEY J. D., Attic Red-Figure Vase Painters, Oxford, 1963, 1096-1100, nos. 1-64.
BOARDMAN J., Athenian Red Figure Vases: The Classical Period, London, 1989, figs. 189, 190.
MATHESON S., Polygnotos and Vase Painting in Classical Athens, Madison, 1995, 180, and 299, referencing Polygnotan painters.
ROBERTSON M., The Art of Vase Painting in Classical Athens, Cambridge, 1992, 215-16.
Comparative figures and scenes on column kraters by the Naples Painter, or in his manner:
U. GEHRIG, Antiken aus Berliner Privatbesitz, Berlin, 1975, no. 238 (now Würzburg K 143).
Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum:
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum 2, pl. 95.1-2 (Vienna 774), pl. 95.3-4 (Vienna 871), pl. 96.1-2 (Vienna 647)
Geneva, Musee d’Art et d’Histoire 1, pl. 16.4-5.
Milns Antiquities Museum Inv. no. 87.208, University of Queensland, Australia, www.uq.edu.au.antiquities;
For the influence of contemporary Athenian wall paintings on the work of vase painters:
BARRON J., New Light on Old Walls: the Murals of the Theseion, in Journal of Hellenic Studies, 92, 1972, 20-45.
For Greek hoplite armor:
SNODGRASS A., Arms and Armor of the Greeks, Baltimore, 1999, 48-113.
For a figural composition (hoplite combating an Amazon on horseback) by Polygnotos on the signed pelike from Gela (Syracuse 23507) that is close in many respects to the composition on this column krater by the Naples Painter:
BOARDMAN J., Athenian Red Figure Vases: The Classical Period, London, 1989, fig. 135.
MATHESON S., Polygnotos and Vase Painting in Classical Athens, Madison, 1995, 21-23, pl. 13.