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White-ground cup, attributed to the Pistoxenos Painter


Diameter: 24.300 cm

Excavated by Sir Auguste Salzmann and Alfred Biliotti

GR 1864.10-7.77 (Vase D 2)

Room 15: Athens and Lycia

    White-ground cup, attributed to the Pistoxenos Painter

    Greek, around 460 BC
    Made in Athens, Greece; found at Kamiros, Rhodes, Aegean Sea

    Aphrodite riding on a goose

    Aphrodite rides serenely through space, with the curling tendril of a plant held in her outstretched hand. While the goose, with its upright pose and stiffly trailing legs, is ungainly in appearance, the goddess is very elegant.

    The figures are outlined against the white background, with the inner details added in golden-brown glaze; purplish-red clay is used for the goddess's cloak and for the borders of her chiton (tunic). Looking closely at the cup, it is possible to see where the finished version differs from the painter's preliminary sketch. This is likely to have been drawn with a pointed stick of charcoal, and the faint grooves left in the surface of the clay are visible in places through the white slip. For example, the position and form of the tendril held by the goddess have been slightly altered, as have the outlines of the longest feathers on the end of each of the goose's wings.

    White-ground cups are not numerous. They would not have been suitable for daily use, as the white surface is delicate and easily stained or damaged; most have been found either in tombs or in sanctuaries, and are of extremely high quality. White-ground painted scenes can offer clues as to the likely appearance of the many contemporary large-scale wall and panel paintings that have not survived.

    M. Robertson, The art of vase-painting in Cl (Cambridge, 1992)

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


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