- Museum number
Pottery spouted krater.
Clay: orange-buff clay, brown and white grits, lustrous brown paint.
Shape: short inward-leaning lip, flat above, with bridge across spout; shallow hemispherical body, high ring foot; rising round handles.
Decoration: Groups of bars on rim, dots below on lip. Between handles, figured zones: (A) ship scene: from left, woman with long hair and latticed skirt holding circular object surrounded by dots; her forearm is grasped by a man looking towards her and advancing towards the ship, his forward leg overlapping with the two steering oars. Ship: nineteen and twenty rowers shown in two registers, presumably seated on opposite sides of the vessel; near the stern, a small Dipylon shield in silhouette; above the prow, a silhouette bird. As filling ornaments, single zigzags, columns of double chevron, loose pile of zigzags, double axes. (B) two chariot groups with single horses, followed by one horseman. Both charioteers wear long robes. The horseman, holding the reins in his left hand, crosses his legs below the animal. A silhouette bird behind the horseman. Filling ornaments: latticed lozenges with double outline, loose piles of zigzags, columns of single chevron, double axes. Below: massed lines interrupted by a zone of floating sigmas; paint on and above foot. On handles, curved stripes; zigzags above, large hatched bird below.
- Production date
- 735BC (circa)
Diameter: 38 centimetres (of rim)
Height: 30.50 centimetres
- Curator's comments
The painter, working in the tradition of the Dipylon Master, seems to have broken new ground in his iconography. On side (B) are the earliest known Attic horsemen, and among the earliest charioteers to wear a long robe (preceded only by those on the monumental krater Athens 806, Ahlberg fig. 20). On side (A) we see the first woman to be portrayed convincingly as such, with long locks of hair and a latticed skirt; also the first ship showing two ranks of rowers, presumably the port and starboard rowers on the same level.
Much discussion has centred round the possible significance of a fifth innovation: the circular object that the woman so ostentatiously flourishes in her right hand. This, together with the ‘heroic’ Dipylon shield inserted near the stern, has been thought to militate against any interpretation as a genre scene drawn from everyday life. The energetic forward gesture of the man, gripping the woman’s wrist while preparing to embark, suggests that she is to accompany the ship’s departure; and the circlet held by her has been viewed as an early experiment in displaying a personal attribute, identifying a personage in a mythical narrative. Although several legendary heroines have been proposed, the most persuasive interpretation is that advanced by C. Robert (Archäologische Hermeneutik, [Berlin, 1918], 38-9, fig. 24). In his view, Ariadne here displays the Crown of Light with which she had illumined the Knossian labyrinth to help Theseus in his combat with the Minotaur; this attribute is mentioned by Pausanias (v.19.1) as being held by Ariadne in her portrayal with Theseus on the seventh-century BC Chest of Kypselos at Olympia. In this ship scene, then, where she departs by sea from Crete with Theseus, the circlet is thought to identify Ariadne, and to explain how their escape became possible.
For a full bibliography of various mythical interpretations, as well as arguments in favour of a non-mythical genre scene, see K. Fittschen, Untersuchungen zum Beginn der Sagendarstellungen bei den Griechen (Berlin, 1969), 53, nn. 270-73; G. Ahlberg, Myth and Epos in Early Greek Art, representation and interpretation (Jonsered, 1992), 26-7. On the synoptic narrative technique, compressing several episodes of a story into a single picture, see A. Snodgrass, Homer and the Artists: text and picture in Early Greek Art (Cambridge, 1998) 55-66.
As a portrayal of a long ship with its crew, though shown in only a single register, this maritime scene has a successor of c. 700 on a spouted krater of similar shape: Toronto 919.5.18, of which the clay has most recently been diagnosed as Attic: J.W. Hayes, Greek and Greek-style painted and plain pottery in the Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto, 1992), 31-5, with full bibliography.
Bibliography: A.S. Murray, JHS 19 (1899), 198-201, pl. 8; Davison 138-9 (further bibliography), fig. 98; J.S. Morrison and R.T. Williams, Greek Oared Ships 900-322 BC (Cambridge, 1968), 28-9, Geom. 19, pl. 4e; GGP 55-6, V.4; Rombos 159.
- On display (G12/dc9)
- Exhibition history
2008 17 Mar-17 Aug, Basel, Homer: The Myth of Troy in Poetry and Art
2019-2020 21 Nov-8 Mar, London, BM, SEG, Troy
- Partly restored, worn in parts.
- Acquisition date
- Greek and Roman
- Registration number