Height: 63.500 cm
GR 1848.8-4.1 (Vases E 468)
Room 15: Athens and Lycia
Red-figured volute-krater attributed to the Berlin Painter
Greek, about 500-480 BC
Made in Athens, Greece; Found at Cerveteri, Lazio, Italy
Achilles fighting Hector on one side, Achilles fighting Memnon on the other
The figure scenes on this volute-krater are confined to a narrow, frieze-like band that encircles the lower element of the neck. This has the advantage of providing a limited and almost straight-walled field on which the painter can work. The uninterrupted, glossy black surface of the body emphasizes its perfect contours, while the lighter clay ground of the curled volute handles and the immaculately painted double lotus and palmette chain draw the eye upwards to the figure scenes.
On one side Achilles fights the Ethiopian king Memnon, brother of Priam, king of Troy and son of Eos, goddess of the dawn. Achilles attacks from the left (as victors generally do in Greek art) and Memnon falters before his onslaught. Behind each hero stands his mother - the sea-nymph Thetis behind Achilles, Eos behind Memnon. According to tradition, the anxious mothers rushed to Zeus, who weighed the destinies of the pair in his balance and found that Memnon's weighed the heavier.
More crucial to the defeat of the Trojans was the death of the Trojan prince Hector at the hands of Achilles, as shown on the other side of this vase. Achilles again attacks from the left, and this time the heroes are backed by their patron deities: Athena signals encouragement to Achilles, while Apollo turns away, abandoning Hector to his fate. Once more Zeus got out the balance, and Hector's fate proved heavier.
M. Robertson, The art of vase-painting in Cl (Cambridge, 1992)
L. Burn, The British Museum book of G-1, revised edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)