- Museum number
[Text from CVA British Museum 9 Great Britain 17]
Pottery: Red-figure kylix (drinking cup) depicting a symposium.
INTERIOR: komast. A bearded komast moves to the right with head turned back to left. He wears a chlamys over his upper arms and a red apicate fillet in his hair. He holds a cup back in his right hand and a knotty stick across his body in his left. Relief line for vertical strokes of fringe over forehead and for horizontal lines of hair tied up at back (relief line fringe for beard); dilute glaze line above and below eye. Preliminary sketch indicates that the chlamys was intended to be longer on the right. Border: alternating false maeander (twelve-stroke, alternately clockwise and anticlockwise) and blackened cross-square.
EXTERIOR: symposium. Side A (lower): three banqueters on couches attended by two boys. On the couch on the left a bearded man reclines to the left, his head turned back to the right. He wears a himation over his left shoulder and around his waist and legs and a red apicate fillet in his hair. He rests against a folded cushion decorated with pairs of stripes, while he grips a cup in his left hand and holds out his right hand palm upward as if holding another. Above him hang two cups, seen from underneath, and a flat-bottomed oinochoe. His couch rests on a dais, the corner of which is visible on the left, and in front of it (ie. alongside) is a three-legged table on which are three red garlands.
In front of the left hand end of the central couch stands a naked boy with a red fillet in his hair. He holds an oinochoe in his right hand and stretches out his left hand towards the symposiast on the central couch. Here a bearded man reclines to the left (cushion decorated with a pair of stripes and a stripe flanked by pairs of lines). He holds out a cup high in his right hand; his left hand is empty. He wears a himation in the same manner as the first symposiast, but has a thick reserved fillet (alternately vertical line and rows of dots at each bunching) in his hair. Above him and the boy hang two footless oinochoai and a cup seen from underneath. Alongside his couch is a three-legged table over which hang three red garlands.
The couch on the right is seen in end view from the back. On it reclines a bearded man with a himation round his waist and a red apicate fillet in his hair. He is seen from the back, his left elbow resting on his cushion and his raised right knee splayed out to the right. He holds a cup up to his lips in his left hand and gestures with his right to the boy who stands between him and the central couch. Either side of the end of the couch project the ends of his striped cushion. Alongside the couch is a three-legged table, also seen from the end, the two legs in profile in the foreground, the third in back view beyond. The naked boy attendant who stands on the left of the couch, behind the table, has a frontal torso and left leg. His hair has a long straight fringe of relief lines over his neck. He holds an oinochoe in his left hand, tipped down so that the trefoil mouth is shown foreshortened. He gestures with his right hand as he looks at the symposiast. Above these two figures are two cups seen from underneath and a small foodess oinochoe.
Side Β (upper): three couches and one boy attendant. The couch and its occupant on the left repeats the form of the central couch on side A, although the symposiast's himation has a line border and his cushion pairs of lines. As on the first couch on side A, the corner of the dais is visible. Above this couch hang two cups seen from underneath and a footed oinochoe.
At the left hand end of the central couch stands a naked boy with a red hair-band, holding a small chytra in his right hand as he holds up his left hand. The bearded man on this couch repeats the scheme of the central couch on side A, save that here he holds a cup in his left hand and extends his right arm out towards the boy. From the fingers of his right hand hangs a red circlet. Above hang a footless oinochoe, a cup seen from underneath and a small chytra.
The couch on the right is seen from behind, as on side A. The man here, however, holds a cup in his left hand as he leans on his left elbow, and his right hand is held out further to the left (no hair-band). The corner of the dais is visible and there is a three-legged table alongside the couch, but no attendant, nor are there any red garlands on the table and the cushion is plain. Above hang two cups seen from underneath and a small footless oinochoe.
At either handle: floral complex with a circumscribed palmette either side of the handles and a large and a small palmette addorsed under the handles; spiral terminals and dots.
Ground line: single reserved line. Graffiti under foot
Relief line contours throughout (double for hair, except on AI); dilute glaze for minor interior markings; reserved line inside and outside lip; added red for inscriptions.
Inscriptions on interior and exterior.
- Production date
- 485BC-480BC (circa)
Diameter: 39.80 centimetres (with handles)
Diameter: 31.60 centimetres (without handles)
Height: 12.60 centimetres
- Curator's comments
‘The signature on the vase identifies the painter as Douris. Douris worked with a number of potters but most of his career was spent working with the potter Python. He is understood to have been active beginning in the final years of the 6th century BC until circa 470BC. His pieces have been separated into four distinct periods and BM 1843,1103.15 fits into his Middle Period, to which almost half his work belongs. Cups from the Middle Period tend to be decorated around the tondo with a distinctive maeander and cross-square pattern and the handle zones have elaborate palmettes and tendrils. Most of the figural decorations on vases from his Middle Period can be placed into a small number of themes of which symposia feature frequently.’
‘Unlike his earlier pieces where revellers reclined primarily on cushions, symposiasts are now depicted on couches and the arrangement he prefers on the exterior surface of cups is the composition of two couches in profile and the third from behind, as is seen on this cup. Whilst he was not the most innovative of painters, Douris was an extremely accomplished vase-painter; his works were evidently in demand and influenced a number of later Classical artists.’
'Large quantities of Greek vases were imported into ancient Etruria with a great many being found in the 19th century, particularly when tombs were opened up in the extensive necropoleis at Vulci, the source of this kylix. At the time, these fine Greek vases were thought to be Etruscan and much of the interior décor and pottery which they inspired was called ‘Etruscan’. Ironically much of the truly Etruscan pottery, a great deal of it bucchero, was trampled underfoot during these ‘excavations’ as it did not have sufficient monetary value.'
(Bergeron in Bruschetti et al. 2014, III.76a-b)
See also comments of Blanchard who contrasts the restrained homoeroticism of this symposium scene with one shown on a vase in Turin depicting what appears to be a homosexual orgy (2018, 105-107 and fig. 64, 110 note 33).
Bruschetti, P. et al 2014, Seduzione Etrusca. Dai segreti di Holkham Hall alle meraviglie del British Museum (Cortona: Scira)
Blanchard, A. 2018, 'Fantasy and the homosexual orgy. Unearthing the sexual scripts of ancient Athens', in M. Masterson, N. Rabinowitz, J. Robson (eds), Sex in antiquity: exploring gender and sexuality in the ancient world (Abingdon: Routledge), 99-114.
[Text from CVA British Museum 9 Great Britain 17]
All the cups held by the symposiasts have offset lips and the stem of the foot does not continue the contour of the bowl. They may be of metal or of clay, if of clay perhaps of the so-called Acrocup type (see most recently K. Vierneisel and B. Kaeser [eds.], Kunst der Schale - Kultur des Trinkens [Munich 1990] 180-1). The presence of chytra is also ambiguous, for, although chytra are regularly cooking pots of coarse fabric, they were sometimes imitated in black glaze and bronze (e.g. GR 1864.10-7.336 [black glaze]; GR 1882.10-19.18 [bronze]). See further Agora xii 224-6. Chytra are also held by the servant boys on three other Dourian symposia (ARV2 432, 55 and 5 8; 438, 140; 792, 5 3) and are to be seen hung up on a head kantharos, a late work of Douris (Swiss private, ex Holger Termer, Galerie Neuendorf: Kunst der Antike [Hamburg 1978] no. 10; see also J.R. Guy, Arts in Virginia 21:2  6 and 8). The appearance of these small chytra at symposia suggests the serving of warmed wine, perhaps heavily spiced.
Cups hung up and viewed from underneath seem to have been particularly liked by Douris. They recur in symposium and komos scenes on a. good number of Dourian cups: see Vase E50 and Vase E53; and ARV2 432, 53-6; 436, 98; 438, 140; Centre Island, private. They also occur in a school scene (ARV2 431, 48), in scenes involving warriors (ARV2 435, 92-3 and 436, 110) and in what seems to be a mixed conversation scene (ARV2 800, 7). The idea is sometimes imitated by contemporary painters (e.g. Vase E70) and Early Classical artists (e.g. ARV2 258, 21, Copenhagen Painter; ARV2 567, 3, Leningrad Painter), but it also recurs later (e.g. Vienna IV 824: CVA 2 pl. 89, 1-3). There can be no doubt that cups were in fact hung up on hooks on the wall (cf. the Tomba dei Rilievi, where even the hooks are shown: H. Blanck and G. Proietti, La Tomba dei Rilievi di Cerveteri [Rome 1986] pl. 6a, 15 c).
The symposium is first represented by Douris on the very early cup in the Vatican (ARV2 427, 2; compare also fragments in a Centre Island private collection, attributed by D. von Bothmer) and here the participants recline on the ground-line in the manner of many late sixth-century symposium scenes. Participants reclining on a couch set on a dais and accompanied by a table first appear in the works of Douris on a 'bare' cup in the Louvre (ARV2 430, 36 with 345, 68 and 434, 82; see Beaz/ey Add2 236). This becomes the norm on middle cups (e.g. ARV2 432, 53 and 5 5 and 57) and was imitated by Douris' followers (e.g. ARV2 432, 58 and ARV2 438, 140; both now attributed by J.R. Guy to his Painter of London Ε55; and two earlyish works of the Euaion Painter, ARV2 792, 48 and 51).
For the motif of the couch seen from one end, compare Vase E50, with commentary, and Florence 3922 (ARV2 432, 55). For the thick reserved headbands, see Vase E54. On boys at symposia see J. Bremmer in Sympotica 135-48.
The graffiti appear to be Etruscan: they may have recorded ownership.
CVA British Museum 9
Bibliography: Mus. Étrusque no. 1184; De Witte Fabricants 32 xviii no. 2; Klein M2 154 no. 7; Hartwig M 605-6, 685 no. 18; Murray DGV no. 30; Frucht Duris 15 no. 23 and 5861; Hoppin i 240-1 no. 17; AV 203, 51; ARV 283, 50; Beazley CF 33 no. 11, Villa Giulia fragment, pl. Z, 25; Bloesch FAS 98 no. 15; ARV2 432, 52; Wegner Duris 95-7, fig. 30 a-b (A-B); Robertson HGA 232 and pl. 78 c (A); M. Robertson, MüJb 27 (1976) 40 and 37 fig. 11; J. Bazant, Les Citoyens sur les Vases Athéniens (Prague 1985) pl. 39 fig. 65 (A); Open Univ. ii figs. 44 (I), 45 (A-B) and 46 (detail B); Beazley Add2 237; Robertson Art of Vase-painting 87 with fig. 79 on p. 89; Buitron-Oliver Douris no. 96.
- On display (G69/dc31)
- Exhibition history
1980 5 Jun-26 Oct, London, BM, The Ancient Olympic Games
2014 Mar 22-30 Sep, Museo dell'Accademia Etrusca e della Citta di Cortona, ' La Gran Bretagna e gli Etruschi '
2018 25 Sep– 2 Dec, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Desire, love, identity: exploring LGBTQ histories
2018-2019 14 Dec-3 Mar, National Justice Museum, Desire, love, identity: exploring LGBTQ histories
2019 15 Mar-26 May, Bolton Museum, Desire, love, identity: exploring LGBTQ histories
2019 8 Jun-31 Aug Norfolk & Norwich Millennium Library, Desire, love, identity: exploring LGBTQ histories
2019 21 Sep-17 Nov Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum, Dorchester, Desire, love, identity: exploring LGBTQ histories
- Made up from fragments; missing fragment under one handle recognized by Beazley in the Villa Giulia.
- Acquisition date
- Greek and Roman
- Registration number