- Museum number
- Object: The Hunt Krater
Large pottery Corinthian column krater. Designs black-and-white on red ground, with border of tongue-pattern above; incised lines and purple accessories. Round the mouth, inside, tongue-pattern; outside, network pattern (black, purple, and white); the neck is black, with rosette. (a) Boar-hunt: In the centre is the boar to right, with a hound seizing its hind quarters, and another attacking it from the front; the hounds are white, with black outlines. Above the boar is a bird flying to left. On either side is a nude huntsman, with long hair, fillet, and white chlamys on left arm, attacking the boar with a spear; it is already wounded with four spears (on which are amenta). In front of the huntsman on the left is inscribed : ΓΟΛVΦAΜ, Πολύφας ; in front of the other: MOΡΟΔΥΕ, Εΰδωρος. Behind, on the right one, on the left two, similar huntsmen advancing and thrusting with spears; in front of the first on the left is inscribed: ΑΝΤΕΦATAM, 'Aντιφάτας; below the second: MAΔYΛOΠ, Πολύφας. All are bearded, except the front one on the right
(b) Three horsemen galloping to left, each beardless, with hair in a club, fillet, short chiton, and spear; the middle one has a white horse, its outlines marked in black. Behind the first: MOΠΠITNAΠ, Πάν(θ)ιππος; behind the second, MOROΔON, Πολύδωρος . Behind the last is a bird flying to left; below each horse, a rosette. Under each handle a swan to right with wings back-to-back, preening itself; in front of one of them, a smaller bird to right, also preening itself.
- Production date
- 575BC-550BC (circa)
Diameter: 27.60 centimetres
Height: 30.90 centimetres
- Curator's comments
BM Cat. Vases
D'Hancarville, i. pls.22-25 (i.e. I-IV) and p. 152; Inghirami, Mon. Etr., v. pl. 56; Mueller-WieselerJ Denkmaeler, i. xviii. 93; Moses, Antique Vases, pl. 6; Dubois-Maisonneuve, Introd., pl. 27; Dumont and Chaplain, p. 251; Wilisch, Altkorinthische Thonindustrie, pp. 28, 76, 98; Blass, Dialekt-Inschriften, 3126; Rose, I. Gr. V., i. p. 26, pl. iv. fig. 2; C.I.Gr. 7373.
Jenkins & Sloan 1996
This image of an ancient hunt must have been resonant with reminders to Hamilton of the many expeditions he had joined, in the company of King Ferdinand IV, hunting boar in the woods above the royal palace at Caserta. We can imagine Hamilton, on the occasion he presented the king with a copy of the first volume of his work, attempting to engage the interest of His Sicilian Majesty, who was notorious for his stupidity, by pointing out the subject of this vase. The king might be flattered by the parallel to be drawn between the sport of modern monarchs and that of ancient heroes (AEGR, 1, p. 90).
In the first volume of AEGR d'Hancarville took the view that, since the names of the hunters were not those of the participants in either of the great Calydonian or Erymanthean boar hunts of mythology, this must therefore be an otherwise unknown hunt of legendary fame in Campania itself. He was at a loss to explain the presence of the birds. Later, in the third volume, he revised this opinion, arguing that such was the nature of early Greek art that nothing was without meaning. The birds included in the hunt were therefore more than merely incidental to the action: those shown in flight, accompanying the human protagonists, were intended to signify fate or destiny, birds being one of the media of divination in the ancient world. As owls, moreover, they were birds of ill-omen.
The standing birds also carried particular messages: on the side of the vase showing three horsemen, d'Hancarville saw the smaller bird arranging its plumage as an eagle, aetos in ancient Greek, betokening Aetolia, the region of the Greek world in which the hunt is set. On the other side of the vase, the large bird standing on the left (surely a crested swan) was seen as a Meleagrid, or guinea-fowl. The Meleagrids of mythology were the daughters of Oeneus, king of the Aetolians of Calydon. Their brother Mele-ager was the hero of the hunt for the Calydonian boar and, upon his death, his sisters grieved so much that Artemis turned them into guinea-fowl. The flowers beneath the belly of the horses signified the vineyard which, in the hunt for the Calydonian boar, was being ravaged by the beast. Returning once again to the scene with the three horsemen, d'Hancarville saw the large bird standing on the left of the picture as a swan, in which he was surely right. He saw it as a bird of omen prefiguring the death of one or more of the hunters.
D'Hancarville was clearly frustrated by the lack of any name among those of the hunters that could be associated definitively with the Calydonian hunt. He was, however, determined to link this vase with that legendary episode. Two figures, one on each side of the vase, are without names, and he hypothesised that the unnamed hunters were Meleager and his companion Ancaeus, who was killed in the hunt. Ancaeus is thought to be the unnamed horseman with the long lance, Meleager the unnamed man on foot in the principal scene, his name being ‘dégagé as in the solution to an algebraic problem ... Thus one sees how, phrase by phrase, through the order of discourse represented in the figures, the artist has succeeded in revealing the place, time, nature, cause and conclusion of the action, which he undertook to describe. In his sparing use of both writing and signe he has clearly expressed the names and even the characteristics of those whom he judged it necessary not to name.'
LITERATURE: D'Hancarville, AEGR, i, pp. 152-64, with plates; II, pp. 108 and 118-22; in, pp. 204-9; Winckelmann (Lodge), pp. 380-83; d'Hancarville, MS Catalogue, 11, pp. 610-21; Tischbein, 1, p. 14; Amyx, 1, p. 268, 8, 11, p. 585, 104: kraters of 'Chalcidian type'. Schnapp, 1992, pp. 214-15. For Hamilton's presentation of the first volume of AEGR to the king, see Griener, p. 50.
- On display (G1/wp13)
- Acquisition date
- Greek and Roman
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: 1772,0320.6.*