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Red-figured storage jar (pelike), attributed to the Marsyas Painter


Height: 43.300 cm

GR 1862.5-30.1 (Vase E 424)

Room 20: Greeks and Lycians

    Red-figured storage jar (pelike), attributed to the Marsyas Painter

    Greek, around 360-350 BC
    Made in Athens, Greece; found at Kamiros, Rhodes, Aegean Sea

    Peleus and Thetis, surrounded by other sea nymphs

    In Greek mythology, Thetis was a Nereid (sea-nymph), loved by Zeus, king of the gods, and Poseidon, god of the sea. However, Themis, the goddess of Justice, revealed that Thetis would bear a son who would be mightier than his father, so the two gods 'gave' her to Peleus, king of the Myrmidons of Thessaly. Thetis was unwilling to wed a mortal, and resisted Peleus' advances. Peleus was forced to wrestle with her while she changed into fire, water and a variety of animals. These transformations are represented on this jar by the sea-serpent that entangles Peleus's leg. Thetis herself is shown in a boldly twisted and three-dimensional position. The three-quarter back view of the fleeing nymph in the upper right-hand corner of the scene is also an unusual and ambitious pose for a vase painting, and both these figures may have been influenced by contemporary large-scale painting.

    The painting on this pelike is characteristic of the so-called Kerch style, which developed in Athenian red-figure vase painting from about 375 BC onwards. The name comes from the modern city in the Crimea on the site of ancient Pantikapaion, where many vases of this style have been found. The Kerch style is characterized by a rather sketchy treatment of the figures and by the lavish application of added colour. White, yellow and gold are the most popular colours, but pink, blue and even green are also found.

    J. Boardman, Athenian red figure vases: t-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1989)

    D. Williams, Greek vases (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)


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    On display: Room 20: Greeks and Lycians

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