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Black-figured plate, attributed to the painter Psiax

 

Diameter: 19.300 cm

Blacas Collection

GR 1867.5-8.941 (Vases B 591)

Room 14: Greek vases

    Black-figured plate, attributed to the painter Psiax

    Greek, about 520-500 BC
    Made in Athens, Greece; from Vulci in Etruria (now in Lazio, Italy)

    An archer blowing a trumpet

    The archer on this plate wears a flapped and pointed cap, patterned trousers and a long-sleeved top. His costume is unusual, and is mostly Scythian in origin, as is the combined bow-case and quiver hanging from his waist. Scythian archers were employed as mercenaries in Athens from the mid-sixth century until 514 BC, when the Persian conquest of Thrace cut lines of communication and recruitment with Scythia. After this, Greek archers start to appear on vase paintings: they retain many elements of Scythian dress, but unlike the generally bearded Scythians, they are shown clean-shaven, as here. The trumpet this figure blows is the salpinx, blown in battle.

    This plate was painted by Psiax, who worked in both the conventional black-figure and the new red-figure techniques. The design, with the single black figure set on a plain clay background, looks like a translation into black-figure of a contemporary red-figure decorative scheme. Comparing it with a red-figure plate by the painter Epiktetos, which also shows a single archer, the opportunities offered by the newer technique are clear. The red-figure archer stands out more boldly against his black background; more varied and intricate patterns can be achieved because the details of his costume are painted rather than incised.

    J. Boardman, Athenian black figure vases (London, Thames and Hudson, 1974)

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    On display: Room 14: Greek vases

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