An Attic Red-Figured Bell Krater attributed to the Black Thyrsus Painter, late Classical Period, ca. 375-350 BC


$15,000 USD


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This beautiful Attic black glazed, red-figure bell krater is attributed to the Black Thyrsus Painter, an Athenian red-figure vase painter who had such stylization characteristics as a preference for painting scenes of Dionysus and his followers, and for stylizing the tops of thyrsoi (a fennel stalk topped with either a pine cone or ivy leaves, and a Dionysian symbol of fertility and prosperity).

The obverse depicts Ariadne riding a winged white griffin, a protector of the divine, wearing a crown and holding a thyrsus, the top painted black rather than the more usual red.   To left is a satyr, facing away with his head turned towards Ariadne and holding a staff. To her right is a maenad wearing a chiton, holding a thyrsus in one hand and a bunch of grapes in the other.

The reverse depicts a scene of three draped youths, two facing to the right and one to the left. The one on the right separated by an altar, holding a strigil, the one on the left holding a libation patera. Earlier Attic kraters during the 5th century have the same quality of artistry between the obverse and reverse images, but later, as seen here, the reverse is treated more cursorily and simply, with two or three draped figures, drawn very hastily.

The top border under the lip is a design of laurel leaves and the bottom a Greek key border.

In Greek vase painting Ariadne, immortal wife of the gold Dionysos is often depicted in Bacchic scenes surrounded by dancing Satyrs and Maenads.  Satyrs, the goat-like males in Dionysus's entourage, represent the wine and fertility attributes of the god. They dance through the woods to pipe music, and celebrate life and fertility through copious drink and carnal pleasures, often depicted aroused and holding cups of wine. Maenads, while similar to satyrs in their following of Dionysus and their love of wine, represent the other side of the god-- that of madness, religious ecstasy, and death and resurrection cycles. Maenads are inflamed into a violent state of ecstatic frenzy through drinking and dancing, and run through the woods ripping apart animals and humans alike along their way. They represent the cult worship of Dionysus, which included frenzied dancing to loud music and drinking in order to reach religious ecstasy.

Ref: Heuer, Keely. “The Five Wares of South Italian Vase Painting.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/five/hd_five.htm (December 2010).

Beazely, John. Attic Red Figure Vase Painting. Second Edition. Oxford: Clarendon Press (1963).

The British Museum. "The Black Thyrsus Painter (Biographical details)." London: The British Museum. http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/search_the_collection_database/term_details.aspx?bioId=97417

McPhee, Ian. "An Attic Red-Figured Bell Krater." Art Bulletin of Victoria 17. London: National Gallery of Victoria (originally published 1976). http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/essay/an-attic-red-figured-bell-krater/

Dimensions: Height: 12 3/8 inches (31.4 cm), Diameter: 12 inches (30.5 cm)

Condition: Rim chip on foot, repaired, and a most charming 19th century staple repair of two original pieces reattached at the rim, otherwise intact and in very good condition overall.

Provenance:  Private NYC collection, acquired between 1970s - 1980s.