- Museum number
Pottery: red-figured amphora type B.
The vase is painted in black glaze with white on the stemmata and added red for the inscription. The figured scenes on both sides are bordered at the top by an ivy-wreath within reserved bands. Below runs a continuous egg-pattern within reserved bands. The amphora bears the inscription Πολύγνωτος έγραψεν. (Polygnotos painted), but since the name Polygnotos was used by at least three different Athenian vase painters, the modern sobriquet of the painter of this vase, the Nausicaa Painter, is retained by scholars to avoid confusion.
On side A two women, back to back, are represented preparing bulls for sacrifice by adorning them with stemmata (sacrificial fillets) in a nearly symmetrical composition. The woman at the left bends over the lowered head of the bull, which stands facing her. She wears a peplos with an overfold (apoptygma) and a head band; her loosened hair flows down over her back. The woman at the right stands upright, also preparing the bull facing her. She wears a peplos with an overfold and a thick black border that runs the entire length of the peplos. Her hair is held in a sakkos (snood) with a leaf-decorated diadem, and she wears earrings. Like the woman behind her, she is arranging a fillet around the horns of the bull facing her. Behind each of the bulls, a tall tripod stands on a raised platform.
On side B a group of two women and two men is represented. At the far left, a woman, standing frontally, looks to the right. She wears a cloak over a chiton, and her hair is tied up. To the right of her, a bearded man facing right and wearing a himation lifts his right hand as he holds up a walking stick in his left. To the right of him is another woman, who wears a patterned chiton and a cloak wrapped around her body and folded over her left arm. In her right hand, she holds an oinochoe and in her left hand a phiale. To her right, a bearded man, facing left, stands wrapped in a himation that obscures his left arm. In his right hand he holds a long stick, possibly a scepter.
The scene on side A depicts the preparations for a sacrifice of two bulls in the context of a choregic festival in a sanctuary of Dionysos. The two tripods, typical prizes for victors in theatrical or musical competitions in Athens, suggest a double victory celebration by a phyle (tribe). The women who prepare the bulls for the sacrifice to Dionysos may be personifications of the phyle, or embodiments of victory, Nike, albeit seen here wingless. It seems less likely that they are ordinary mortal women. They are performing a task typically assigned to young unmarried women (parthenoi) in the sacrificial ritual, namely that of adorning the sacrificial animal with stemmata, special woollen sacrificial fillets. The sacrifice that is about to follow, however, would usually have been performed by men.
The scene on side B is probably linked to these celebrations and depicts a liquid offering, a libation, about to be poured. The precise identity of the figures, however, remains enigmatic: the standing figure may be Dionysos himself or, perhaps more likely, one of the mythical kings of Athens, patrons of the phylai.
- Production date
- 450BC (circa)
Height: 44.45 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- BM Cat. Vases
Gerhard, A. V. iv, pl. 243, p. 10 (gives the form wrongly as a stamnos); Stephani, Nimbus und Strahlenkr. p. 244, fig. 2428 (a); Brunn, Künstlergesch. ii, p. 730, no. 2; Klein, Meistersig2 p. 199, no. 1; Reisch, Gr. Weihgesch. p. 68, fig. 3 (cut on right side of a); cf. Kekule, Balustrade, p. 17, and Winter, Jüng. Att. Vas. p. 22.
For the scene on a, cf. Arch. Zeit. 1880, pl. 16, and p. 182, where the instances of this form of sacrifice for a Dionysiac victory are collected.
The central support of the tripod is analogous to the twisted snakes of the Delphian dedication for Plataea, see Müller, Handbuch der Cl. Alt. V, 3, pl. 4, 3.
CVA British Museum 3, pi. 17 (GB x82).y, ARV2 1107, 7; Para 452, 7; Add2 330; Froning 1971, 17-18; Kron 1976, 239-40. 281, no. 10, pi. 32; van Straten 1995, 207, no. V 87, fig. 45; LIMC VIII 996 Phylai 1* (U. Kron); Mannack 2001, 103-4, 137> no- N7, pi. 14; Dillon 2002, 63, fig. 2.14; Connelly 2007, 164, 183-85, fig. 6.12.
- On display (G20a/dc6)
- Exhibition history
2008-2009 Dec-May, New York, Onassis Cultural Center, Worshiping Women: Ritual and Reality in Classical Athens (Cat. no. 108)
2009 20 Jul-30 Nov, Athens, National Archaeological Museum, Worshiping Women: Ritual and Reality in Classical Athens
- Mended and restored in various parts.
- Acquisition date
- Greek and Roman
- Registration number