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Sarpedon, in Greek legend, son of Zeus, the king of the gods, and Laodameia, the daughter of Bellerophon he was a Lycian prince and a hero in the Trojan War. As recounted in Homer’s Iliad, Book XVI, Sarpedon fought with distinction on the side of the Trojans but was slain by the Greek warrior Patroclus. A struggle took place for the possession of his body until Apollo rescued it from the Greeks, washed it, anointed it with ambrosia, and handed it over to Hypnos and Thanatos (Sleep and Death), by whom it was conveyed for burial to Lycia. This episode is illustrated on the famous Euphronius Vase, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
In later tradition, found in Apollodorus’s Library and Epitome, Book III, Sarpedon was the son of Zeus and Europa and the brother of King Minos of Crete. Expelled from Crete by Minos, he and his comrades sailed for Asia Minor, where he finally became king of Lycia. There a sanctuary (Sarpedoneum) was erected in his honour.
The pot in the picture is a big (about 45 cm tall) krater (mixing bowl for wine), manufactured in Athens in the late sixth century BC. We know the name of the potter (Euxitheos) and the painter (Euphronios), because both are named on the pot (one signature reads ‘Euxitheos made me’ and another ‘Euphronios painted me’). As we’ll see, we also know something of its history since it was made.
I have been thinking about this recently because I included a seminar on ‘reception’ in my undergraduate module on the Homeric Iliad. The pot was a natural one to choose for part of that seminar, because the scene depicted seems to relate quite closely to a great moment in book 16 of the poem: Zeus’ mortal son, Sarpedon, is killed by Achilles’ companion Patroclus, shortly before Patroclus comes to his own death at the hands of Apollo and Hector. Even though Zeus pities his son, he is persuaded by his wife Hera not to intervene to save him – but he does provide Sarpedon with a burial at home, by sending Apollo to recover the corpse, wash it, and hand it over to Sleep and Death, who take it to Sarpedon’s homeland of Lycia for burial.
I asked the students to look at the image and to think about how it related to the passage in the Iliad, how it was different, and why, and to consider what this might mean for Athenians looking at the pot in the late sixth century. As is common with reception, this took me a bit out of my comfort zone (I am definitely a Literature Person, and late sixth century pottery – any pottery, come to that – is not where I feel most at ease on the other hand, I am very interested in literary receptions of Homer around this period, especially in the work of the poet Simonides, who has occupied a great deal of my research thinking for some years). Anyway, I needn’t have worried, since the students (and my tremendous teaching assistants, who have four of the five seminar groups) did very well, and talked to me in intelligent and interesting ways about why Hermes in this image might have been made to stand in for Apollo in the Iliad, about how an Athenian viewer might have related the depiction of Sarpedon to that of the contemporary Athenian warriors (if that is what they are) on the other side of the pot [see below], and about the way in which the artist has concentrated our attention on Sarpedon’s lovingly depicted corpse, shockingly marred by the bold red diagonals of blood from his wounds.
This was all very interesting, and I hope the students thought so too, but (there were Constraints Of Time: there always are!) we were focusing on only one part of the story: in fact, we can talk about a lot of different moments of reception by thinking about this one object.
Story 1: Euphronios painted the scene some time in the late sixth century (we would like to know, for instance, whether this was before or after the reforms of Cleisthenes, which established the first phase of the Athenian democracy, but as far as I know the dating is not specific enough for that). So we can ask questions about him as a painter, and about his client(s) and the viewers of the pot in late archaic Athens. How did they respond to a reminder of the Iliad at their drinking party (by this time, they probably knew the Homeric poems through competitive recitations by rhapsodes at the Panathenaic festival)? How did they relate the picture of beautiful, doomed Sarpedon to the images of similarly young and beardless soldiers on the other side? This story does not end here, because we now know that this pot found its way to central Italy, where it was buried in the tomb of a high-status member of that fascinating group we call the Etruscans. This is by no means an uncommon story: the Etruscans imported Greek pottery in large quantities, and often used pots as grave goods. Another question opens up (one which I personally know almost nothing about): how did some un-named Etruscans look at this pot? Did they know who Sarpedon was? Could they read the Greek inscriptions? Were they aware of how the story of Sarpedon’s Zeus-sanctioned burial suited the pot’s new status as part of the content of a tomb? Here we can move on to another story…
Story 2: I first became aware of this pot when I was an undergraduate at University College London. One of my teachers – one of the teachers who was most important for me as an undergraduate and during my doctoral research – had a poster of it on the wall. I can remember very clearly hearing him speaking about it. At that time, the pot was in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and that was where I first saw it in the flesh, during my first and only trip to that great city and great museum. The Met had acquired the pot in the 1970s for what was then a very high price, but it now seems clear that it had not been imported into the USA in a way which respected international heritage agreements. When I saw the pot, its label already acknowledged that the pot was now the property of the Republic of Italy. The second time I saw the pot was this summer, in the Museo Nazionale Etrusco in the Villa Giulia in Rome [see http://www.villagiulia.beniculturali.it ]. Now it has its place in the astonishingly wonderful collection of Greek (i.e., Greek manufactured) pottery in Rome’s Etruscan Museum. It is now displayed in a context which reminds us of its intermediate history among those mysterious Etruscans.
So all of this was in my mind when I talked about the pot, first with my TAs and then with my students. Since then, however, I thought about the pot again, partly because I had in mind to write this blog as a response to a suggestion from my colleague Helen Lovatt. At this point, it became natural for me to think about what Helen’s approach to the pot might be, and I was thinking about this in the knowledge that Helen has recently published an important book about vision and the gaze in epic poetry [ http://www.cambridge.org/gb/academic/subjects/classical-studies/classical-literature/epic-gaze-vision-gender-and-narrative-ancient-epic ]. The original scene in the Iliad is of some interest in relation to this subject. We see Sarpedon from the point of view of Zeus, up on Olympus: he looks down, and he pities (but he does not save him). For viewers of the pot, this gaze seems to me to be re-configured in important ways. We see Sarpedon as if from his own level, and his body is carefully framed and exposed to us (it is also very big, as one of the students in my seminar group rightly emphasised to me: if he were standing, he would be much taller than Hermes). We can sense the artist’s close attention to the detail of his body, especially with the musculature of the chest and arms, and the carefully painted (and gravity-resistant) hair. How does an Athenian wine-drinker see this? How eroticised is the image? Beside Hermes’ head is a surprising inscription: ΛΕΑΓΡΟΣ ΚΑΛΟΣ (Leagros kalos, ‘Leagros is beautiful’). The painter includes a little ‘tag’ (these are common on pottery from Athens in this period) commemorating the beauty of a contemporary young male heart-throb. Was this prompted by recognition that the pot is, among other things, about acknowledgement of the youthful body as object of desire? And what does that desire have in common with our feelings when we look at the past, whether we think of curators who really want to own this glorious pot, or whether I think of myself and the history of my own encounters with Euphronios’ Sarpedon, first focalised through my experience as an undergraduate?
So I am glad that I decided to include this pot as one of my examples of Iliad reception. Not only did the students like it, but I think it provokes reflection on the different ways we can approach the past, and on the way in which our own reception stories condition our feelings about the texts and objects we study, and about the unpredictable and valuable ways in which participation in research communities can prompt the questions we ask.
I think my next task is to go to the library, find Helen’s book, and find out whether she did discuss the death of Sarpedon, and if so, what she said about it.
The Sarpedon Krater: The Life and Afterlife of a Greek Vase by Nigel Spivey [Review]
Before I say anything else, I want to know that The Sarpedon Krater by Nigel Spivey has a built-in bookmark! A blue ribbon sewn to the top, ready to mark your page. I read this book on a long lazy Saturday spent following a toddler around from room to room, and the convenience of that book mark earns it the top paragraph spot in this review. Read this book, it has a bookmark.
Most readers of this blog are very, very, very familiar with The Sarpedon Krater (aka The Euphronios Krater, aka “The Hot Pot”). If you know about one illicit antiquity, I’d say chances are good that this is the one you know about. It has been a scandal since the 70s, and even after its return to Italy in 2006, this looted and trafficked artwork remains a textbook example I certainly use it in my teaching. I know the krater’s crime story backwards and forwards, what more could I possibly learn from another book about it?
See, The Sarpedon Krater is not a book about crime, it is a book about an iconographic tradition the krater as art rather than the krater as evidence of wrong-doing. The author devotes chapter 2 to the krater’s sordid recent past, and then swiftly moves on. On to multiple interesting chapters that show how this pot and the imagery on it are one stop on a journey towards an evocative and enduring visual composition.
So back to this Saturday. As my partner bimbled around the room with out toddler and as I lay on the kiddie bed, wrapped up in a dinosaur duvet reading this book, I was pleased to find myself moving away from the physical vase, and towards the Homeric tradition. While learning about the death of Sarpedon and the importance of the scene depicted on the vase for the narrative of the Iliad, I started reading out loud. My partner, who while not an ancient history person likes a bit of Homer from time to time, got sucked in to the narrative, and we ended up spending the next few hours taking turns reading the book out loud. We read through playtime, through dinner, through the toddler’s bath, and then finished it up while doing the dishes. Sad because we didn’t have any more The Sarpedon Krater to read, that evening, my partner and I both went on individual Wikipedia spirals into all articles on Greek vase painting and related iconography.
To sum it up, my family and I spent a lovely Saturday with this book. You could do the same. AND it has a bookmark.
I do want to address a few issues I am having. Two really. One is with a mild assertion made by the other and the other is the content of the book series that this volume is part of.
Much of the book is focused on the construction of the scene on the krater: the dead Sarpedon being lifted by winged Sleep and Death. The author follows this scene through the centuries up to contemporary war photography. Though this is one small point in the book, the places the invention of this composition with Euphronios, a Greek potter and pottery painter who painted the scene on the krater in question. Why? Because he cannot think of an earlier version of it. I couldn’t help but start to pick that apart. Lack of preservation doesn’t mean that earlier versions didn’t exist. How much influence would a pottery painter really have? How could a pot sold on to the private market then shut up in a tomb for thousands of years truly been the seed of this all? It is probably not the author’s intention, but this comes close to ascribing singular genius to Euphronios in a way that I don’t think is either supportable or useful…or fair to Euphronios. To discuss why the scene is spectacular and where it fits into all the art that would follow is interesting enough, you don’t have to force something like that to have a creator.
Issue two: this book is part of a series: The Landmark Library Chapters in the History of Civilization, “a record of the achievements of humankind from the late Stone Age to the present day”. “Uh-oh”, I thought when I read that, “this is likely to go wrong”. Of the 16 books listed in the series that were either published in 2018 or were awaiting publication, only one of them was on a non-European topic…and that one was on Gilgamesh and, thus, gets adopted in to European-ness. Sorry, Africa, Americas, Oceania, or Asia, no “achievements of humankind” for you. I guess it could have been worse, the copy could have said “mankind”. Reading that in the front of this book put me in a grumble mood, but I soon got over it enough to enjoy The Sarpedon Krater for its own merits.
Meanwhile I have just looked up The Landmark Library series and, apparently, the next one to come out is about the settlement of the Pacific, which was the first “achievement of humankind” that I thought was totally missing from this eurocentric series. If you think the Sarpedon Krater is good, REALLY think about people on outrigger canoes getting all the way to Easter Island. Peopling the Pacific is one of the most amazing things humans have done. Another upcoming volume is The Arab Conquests, but that’s just two, and two that aren’t out yet. Improvement though.
I don’t want either of these issues to cause you to think “ehh, maybe not” on The Sarpedon Krater. If every Saturday was like that beautiful Saturday spent reading about Greek art with my family, I’d be happy.
The Pioneer Group
The Sarpedon Krater depicts the moment in the Trojan War when Sleep and Death carry off the slain body of Sarpedon (the son of Zeus). The king of Lycia (Turkey), he was one of the greatest of the men fighting on the Trojan side, but he is felled by Patroclus. The Greeks seize the amour of the fallen warrior, but Zeus asks Apollo to carry his body to Lycia to be buried with honour. Apollo took the body and cleaned it, before handing it to Sleep and Death.
The Sarpedon Krater shows an image of Sleep and Death struggling beneath the weight of the awkward body. The arms dangle pathetically. Blood flows from his wounds. It is visceral and immediate. Even within the limitations of the red figure, the artist Euphronios (active from about 520 BCE) is able to create a powerful and vivid scene with a lucid line.
Death and Sleep carry the corpse of Sarpedon from the war, overseen by Hermes. Sarpedon Krater Side A
A krater is a large dish used to mix water and wine. Ancient wine was harvested slightly later. Sweeter and more alcoholic, it made for a headier drink and wilder nights. The act of mixing was important in the ritualised drinking parties called symposia. At 5 drachma, a krater was the equivalent of a week’s wages. There is a possibility that they were commissioned for individual symposia (as opposed to say the traditional wedding gift of a punch bowl in the Nineteenth century that would last a life time). This one was kept. It shows signs of ancient repairs.
In classical Athens, a symposium was a civilised debauch with music, poetry and debate facilitated by Heterai, female companions or courtesans. Many kraters show images of these women.
The other side of the krater shows Athenian youth arming themselves. Perhaps the krater was used for a symposium of young men (called Ephebes). Yet the contrast is telling and adds a elegiac note to the whole.
Athenian youth donning armour. The Sarpedon Krater, Side B
Many Greek vases that have survived to the modern day have been excavated in Etruria in Italy, the region of the ancient Etruscans. It seems that pots were produced in Athens for export to Italy. At Etruscan drinking parties, husbands and wives drank together. There is a possibility therefore that women depicted on krater were perceived as wives.
Euphronius the painted of the pot signed his name. He was identified as belonging to the Pioneer Group of Greek pot painters by the classicist John Beazley. Beazley studied Greek vases carefully and identified artists based on small details such as earlobes or fingernails. It is a precise science that takes years of slow work to master, but which is largely intuition. Unlike other types of art, no literature survives from the Ancient World detailing or celebrating these pots.
Yet they are clearly masterpieces. The sensuous shape and curve of the krater is just as important as the decoration.
Ancient Vase Comes Home to a Hero’s Welcome
ROME As the restless crowd applauded, and flashbulbs popped, the Euphronios krater, at the heart of a three-decade tug of war between the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Italian government, received a hero’s welcome here on Friday.
When the krater, a 2,500-year-old vase, first appeared at the Met in 1972, seemingly out of nowhere, it was hailed as the acquisition of a lifetime. But the Italian government, suspecting that it had been plundered from Italian soil, soon began pressing the museum for information on its provenance.
This week the krater was finally packed up and shipped to Rome, one of 21 treasures turned over by the Met under the terms of a pathbreaking 2006 accord.
As workers whipped a white sheet off the bowl in a ceremony at the state attorney’s office, Italy’s culture minister, Francesco Rutelli, began reciting a passage from Homer’s “Iliad” illustrated on the vase’s main panel. The Lycian champion Sarpedon perishes from the wounds he has received in the Trojan war the twin winged gods Hypnos (Sleep) and Thanatos (Death) bear him home.
The event was held at the attorney’s office to underscore the persistence of the Italian lawyers who have lobbied for the return of antiquities from American museums, dealers and private collectors over the last three years.
“In these gloomy days, it gives me great pleasure to celebrate something positive,” said Italy’s attorney general, Oscar Fiumara. (The Italian news media has been feasting on grim news this week: the justice minister resigned protests prompted the pope to cancel an appearance at Rome’s main university and Naples is submerged in trash.)
In the last two years Italy has also struck deals with museums in Los Angeles, Boston and Princeton, N.J., and with the private collector Shelby White, a New York philanthropist who this week transferred title to 10 antiquities. Negotiations are under way with other institutions in the United States, Europe and the Far East, Mr. Rutelli said on Friday.
But in the minds of Italians, the Euphronios krater holds a special place, symbolizing the war against clandestine tomb-robbing and illicit trafficking of the nation’s cultural patrimony. So the general mood was victorious.
“The Italian state has won,” said Rocco Buttiglione, the former culture minister who initiated the talks with the Met just over two years ago and took part in the ceremony. “This is a success story.”
The vessel is to go on view on Saturday at the Quirinale, or presidential palace, where 68 other artifacts recovered from museums through similar accords are grouped in an exhibition titled “Nostoi: Recovered Masterpieces.” (Nostoi is ancient Greek for homecoming.)
Fewer than 30 vases by Euphronios, one of the greatest artists of ancient Greece, are known to have survived. The krater returned by the Met dates from around 515 B.C. and is considered one of his finest achievements.
Italian archaeologists have traced most of the existing Euphronios vases to Cerveteri, known as Caere in Etruscan times, an area of steep slopes and raised tomb chambers.
Caere was also “a privileged market for red-figure production, and Euphronios in particular,” said Maria Antonietta Rizzo, an archaeologist whose research on Euphronios persuaded the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles to return a rare kylix, or drinking cup, by that artist in 1999. That piece is signed by Euphronios as the potter, and by his protégé Onesimos as the painter.
Italian court records based on a state investigation say the Met krater was dug up in the Greppe Sant’Angelo area, near Cerveteri, in December 1971 by a gang of tomb robbers. After that, the records say, it passed through the hands of a convicted Italian antiquities dealer and then was sold to the Met by the American dealer Robert Hecht, who is on trial in Rome on charges of conspiring to traffic in looted antiquities. He denies the charges.
If a memoir seized by law enforcement officials during a 2001 raid on Mr. Hecht’s Paris apartment is to be believed, the krater arrived in style in New York in 1972, in its own first-class seat on a TWA flight from Zurich. (Mr. Hecht now discounts that memoir as fiction.)
It returned to Italy on Thursday in somewhat more modest circumstances: a blue box in the cargo hold labeled “Handle With Care.” A few hours after Friday’s ceremony, the krater was transported to the state television network, RAI, and paraded on an evening broadcast, with the culture minister and a news anchor sitting proudly nearby.
“Euphronios could never have imagined that one day he’d find himself featured” on the 8 o’clock news, Mr. Rutelli said on live television. “We are proud to be at the forefront of the battle to fight looted antiquities.”
Art History 2010
Analyze the Euphronios Krater in terms of its shape, style, and subject matter, based on what you can tell just by looking.
More information on the Euphronios Krater
Thanks everyone for your thoughtful comments on this piece. I want to summarize the important points you brought up and also respond to some of them.
It is undoubtedly true that we value this pottery more now because it is ancient and rare and famous.
Just in case you’re wondering about the prices, a high-quality red figure ware volute krater by a well known (if unnamed) painter sold recently for $47,500, a wild goat style oinochoe for $13,164, and a black figure lekythos for $5,000.
The shape of the vessel is a calyx krater.
The subject matter:
Sarpedon, the son of Zeus, and an ally of the Trojans, is dying of wounds he received from Patroclus, who is a cousin and close friend of Achilles.
Hermes, the messenger of Zeus is instructing the gods Hypnos (sleep) and Thanatos (death) to carry Sarpedon away.
Back: Athenian warriors preparing for battle.
“….a dying person being borne away by two others while a surprisingly cheerful person holding a staff is directing them or waving goodbye.” – Linda
“The wounded man in the center is Sarpedon, who appears to be suffering an agonizing death from three wounds. The New York Times article identifies the two winged figures on each side of Sarpedon to be two gods, Sleep and Death.” – Vivian
The style is indeed red figure ware (note the spelling, ware as in “something for sale” or “a particular kind of pottery” rather than “wear” as in something you wear.)
“…Sarpedon (the dying man)’s abdominal muscles are shown in outline, and have some sort of outline around them, as if there wasn’t any skin there. The blood doesn’t flow like liquid instead it waves like stiff red flags attached to his body. The thigh muscles are also outlined.” – Asa
“I can see some influence of ancient Egyptian art also. For example, the heads are turned to the side so that the face is drawn more in profile. However, … this pottery shows a foreshortened foot (on the bottom left), which was never in ancient Egyptian art.” – Jenny
“There are patterns of flower surrounding the Krater which obtained in the Orientalizing period where art patterns where being borrowed.” – Stephany
Stephany also writes, “One man’s shield has a crab on it which implies that the marine life is still important to them.”
“…the artist creates a nice balance in their composition. The Euphronios Krater (on the front) has those two wings extended out in sort of like a mirror image. The man in the center standing up has one of his hands raised, which seems to be balanced out by the object that he is holding.” – Tina
“The whole composition is very balanced, and so even in the chaotic scene, your eye is drawn to falling body.” – Micaela
“…the red figures appear prominent against a deep black background, the ornate patterns on the gods’ wings are balanced by the plainer details of Sarpedon’s body.” – Vivian
“Another point of contrast is the difference between the concept of painful death from war (which is chaotic and bloody) versus the peaceful presence of the gods carrying his body away to eternal sleep. It seems that Euphronios invites viewers to sympathize with Sarpedon’s lamentable fate. The image is also symmetric down the center, with an equal number of figures on either side of the man in the middle.” – Vivian
” [The image on the Krater makes it so that the] family of [a soldier] can remember that his son is being a soldier and helping the country which make them proud of his son.” – Anthony
“On the opposite side, he captured an image of Athenian youths arming for battle. The two sides were undoubtedly planned as a couplet, and at a time when the common men of Athens were beginning to feel their democratic oats, Euphronios saw a parallel between the everyday heroism of his compatriots and that of Sarpedon generations before.”
“This pottery shows that when one soldier dies in battle, more must take his place.” – Feibi
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26 Responses to “The Euphronios Krater”
Because this pot uses the red-figure wear style, the details can be more easily seen. This pot appears to be a calyx krater because it has handles at the bottom which means it may have been used for heavy lifting. Why would a pot that is so beautifully ornamented be used for anything? Was this pot actually used or did it just stand as a decorative piece of art in a household?
This pot depicts some type of story probably from the Iliad by Homer. Just like Exekia’s pot which features Ajax and Achilles, this pot has names by each of the characters, making it easier for one to recognize the story. Again, like the other pots of this era which we have seen, this pot feature a floral border around the central image. In this image there appear to be soldiers, the ones wearing armor, but something is strange about them. They have wings which makes me wonder if these are mythical creatures, or if the Greeks revered the soldiers as so great that they decided to depict them with these mythical qualities.
The krater depicts, in the red figure style, a dying person being borne away by two others while a surprisingly cheerful person holding a staff is directing them or waving goodbye. The person being carried away (in a not-quite-princess style) is probably on his deathbed, but not yet dead, as he is still bleeding. The two people bearing him are quite similar as both are wearing helmets and wings. On the edges of the scene, two soldiers stand guard on either side with their spears and shields, giving the image a sense of symmetry.
I really wonder who this was made for and who appreciated it at it’s conception. How much it was worth monetarily and if it had the same prestige that it does today.
The Euphronios Krater shows a lot of knowledge put together into one piece of art. The anatomy of the body is shown numerous times with the proportions in tact somewhat. It seems that the more important figures have clothes while the less important like the dying man are not clothes at all. The man that seems to be dying is held up by what appears to be two men that are angels or gods. There are patterns of flower surrounding the Krater which obtained in the Orientalizing period where art patterns where being borrowed. This Krater is very different in compared to Exekias’ pot of Achilles and Ajax. The men seem to be preparing for battle all around the Krater except for the front where the man is being killed. One man’s shield has a crab on it which implies that the marine life is still important to them. The patterns surrounding the pottery seem to be symmetrical.
For both the red figure and black figure styles of pottery, I find it interesting how even though the image on them is not completely symmetrical, the artist creates a nice balance in their composition. The Euphronios Krater (on the front) has those two wings extended out in sort of like a mirror image. The man in the center standing up has one of his hands raised, which seems to be balanced out by the object that he is holding. Although the whole entire Euphronios Krater is not symmetrical or balanced, when it is turned so that the shape looks centered, the image on it looks like it could’ve been meant to be a mirror image.
This pot is recognizable as a calyx krater because of its large size and handles. Something that really struck out to me about this piece of pottery was the amount of action and emotion that was shown from the front view. I also noticed that the piece isn’t too overwhelming because of the balance between the more lively figures and then the almost statuesque postures of the guards standing on the left and right of the scene. The whole composition is very balanced, and so even in the chaotic scene, your eye is drawn to falling body.
I think this pottery is talking about a story about a brave soldier. So the story is beginning for the side where has a lot of flower. Then, we can see a naked person who is cleaning his body and then being a soldier. At last, we can see a man who die and some god come down and take his body back to the place that where he come from.
I think this pottery shows that what should a civilian — being a soldier to protect their own land. I think this pottery sent to a soldier or a person who is in the army’s house. That make the family of this person can remember that his son is being a soldier and helping the country which make them proud of his son.
This krater immediately struck me as strange for the period. Earlier in Greek pottery a completely different style was used, but this was only around 200 years previous. For example, the piece of pottery Achilles and Ajax, by Exekias, shows a much different portrayal of the human anatomy. The muscles are shown, but not outlined or exaggerated. In this, however, Sarpedon(the dying man)’s abdominal muscles are shown in outline, and have some sort of outline around them, as if there wasn’t any skin there. The blood doesn’t flow like liquid instead it waves like stiff red flags attached to his body. The thigh muscles are also outlined.
Nonetheless, this krater is very advanced, showing great amounts of motion (and at the same time, inertia) in Sarpedon’s body. Hypnos’ and Thanatos’ body language shows that they are carrying a great detailed weight, as opposed to a light two-dimensional figure.Also, there is a great amount of detail in their wings.
I think the Eurphronios Krater is pretty interesting pottery. I notice the stylized floral pattern on the top and the bottom of the vessel. The depiction of human figures are quite stylized also. The muscles are clearly shown. For example, the abdominal muscles are very evidently defined. I can see come influence of ancient Egyptian art also. For example, the heads are turned to the side so that the face is drawn more in profile. However, the art on this pottery also differs from Egyptian art because this pottery shows a foreshortened foot (on the bottom left), which was never in ancient Egyptian art.
Designed in the red-figure ware style, this krater pot by Euphronis had the purpose of mixing water and wine. The image on the krater is a story from the Illiad, a Greek epic poem about the Trojan War. The wounded man in the center is Sapedon, who appears to be suffering an agonizing death from three wounds. The New York Times article identifies the two winged figures on each side of Sapedon to be two gods, Sleep and Death. This work if full of contrast, balance and symmetry. The red figures appear prominent against a deep black background, the ornate patterns on the gods’ wings are balanced by the plainer details of Sapedon’s body. Another point of contrast is the difference between the concept of painful death from war(which is chaotic and bloody) versus the peaceful presence of the gods carrying his body away to eternal sleep. It seems that Euphroios invites viewers to sympathize with Sapedon’s lamentable fate. The image is also symmetric down the center, with an equal number of figures on either side of the man in the middle.
From reading the article, it seems that that the Italians saw this krater pot as a metaphor of their victory over grave looters.
What is interesting to note is the symmetry in the Euphronious krater. The scene is centered around Sarpedon, Zeus’s son and Trojan ally, with Hermes standing on top. Sarpedon appears to be either dead or badly injured, and thus he is depicted in a reclining position which wraps around half of the vase. On either side of him his Sleep and Death, which appear similiar in appearance. They are carrying Sarpedon, one is holding his legs, while the other is holding his shoulders. These winged gods create that atmosphere of symmetry as I mentioned above. Furthermore, the two nondescript soldiers on either side of Sleep and Death also add to the balance.
The Cater is very interesting because of the near symmetry that is visible from the side views. However, it is hard to tell because there is no view of the back. Also, the astounding detail with which the gods are drawn is quite amazing. It appears as if there are words next to the mouth of the two gods lifting Sarpedon. His death seems almost unrealistic because, even though there are three swords (or arrows and spears), he still has a smile on his face. That is very ironic, until unless he was happy to die. Also, it is somewhat unusual that the scene is of death but the it is portrayed as being not as melancholy as expected. With the effect of the flowers and the smiling gods, it almost appears as if there is no remorse at all. The red figure style makes the detail easier to see as opposed to the black figure style.
I do not think that these pots have the same prestige back in that era as they do today. The reason that they are so important to us is because they are rare. Back in the times when they were manufactured, they were abundant. However, since those days it seems that many have gone missing and the few that we have are placed in museums. They serve great importance today because we can get a glimpse of how they lived, their daily activities, cultural interactions, and their stories. Also, these pots are the only Greek paintings available!
I’m sure this pot krater was used for its utility, too. If something beautiful were made now and put on something we use, we would happily use it, and sometimes defecate it. For instance, a book may contain beautiful words, but that might not stop some from highlighting it. Also, now we have a much greater appreciation for preservation of the past.
I noticed how so many people have noticed the symmetry in the figure, but not really in that there are a few differences that really stand out. I agree with Jenny that there is a lot of part of the body shown in the Krater. I also agree with Vivian when there seems to be contrast in the dead being take away by the gods while others prepare for battle.
I think that the winged figures definitely have to be immortal, but it’s interesting the way that they are depicted as completely human men, just with wings. I guess it supports the Greek ideal of athleticism and sport even their deities had strong, athletic bodies.
In Greek Mythology, the gods were almost identical to humans, save a few mystical powers. They were in general not omnipotent, and were sometimes petty and very human-like.
I feel like these pots would have been of significance to the people because of the intricacy and elaborateness of the designs. Besides that, the image is of a story having to do with their religion and (at least in our society) we probably wouldn’t use items practically that had such a religious meaning for us.
In response to Asa’s first post,
I agree that that Sarpedon’s muscles appear somewhat oddly outlined, maybe it was surprising to see an attempt to depict human anatomy in Euphronios’s work in comparison the the figures of Ajax and Achilles because they were wearing clothes. perhaps if they were not, Exekias might have portrayed the human body in the same way.
In response to Anthony, I agree with the idea that this pottery depicts the relationship between being a soldier and being a citizen. Since Sarpedon was considered a god or demi-god ( I am not quite sure) , he must have had a special and honored place fighting in battle. This pottery shows that when one soldier dies in battle, more must take his place. In the back of the pottery, young warriors are taking up arms. They are portrayed in less detail however, these young soldiers represent the cycle of warfare. Euxitheos is illustrating the idea of duty Greek citizens must have had towards protecting their country. Nonetheless, this theory could be refuted since Sarpedon was an ally of the Trojans, the greeks most hated enemy. But what I am sure of is the glory of a warrior as depicted by Sarpedon’s respectful homecoming.
Feibi – Euxitheos is the potter–they guy who threw the actual pot. Euphronios is the painter. – LS
I really like how you talked about symmetry and balance of the krater. I understand what you meant by if the krater could have been symmetrical and balance. Like what you have said, the wings of the two men on either side of the krater looks like mirrored images, even though it is not since one of it curves up and the other curves down. Also, the men on far left and far right are standing in a same pose. However, one has his shield facing us and the other has his spear facing us.
The scenes on the Euphronios Krater are depicted with a great deal of attention towards proportion and the anatomical structure of the human body every visible muscle is carefully outlined. Perspective is also taken into account, as certain parts of the men’s bodies are not visible due to others being in the way. I am interested by the way Hermes–the “surprisingly cheerful person holding a staff” (haha, Lin) is painted, as he seems to be completely disjointed from his feet (foot?). As to whether this is because I am not comprehending the image correctly, or because this particular painting is still an experimental attempt at perspective, I have no idea. The floral designs on the sides and along the borders are also done so precisely that it’s hard to think of them being painted by hand. I am also interested by the crab on the youth’s shield, which is probably a piece of symbolism that has gone straight over my head.
I didn’t really think about how the blood and sleeping can be a sign of sympathy, but i do agree since it does look like his fate was meant to be dead, but I am not sure whether it is suppose to be positive or a negative thought, since he is being carried off peacefully, yet it is an unfortunate that he can’t avoid this situation.
I agree with your idea that the man’s death is ironic, but this is only ironic to people in the present, because death has become a hated and dark thing. The Greeks are treating it like he is being taken to a better place by winged gods, and he is smiling happily.
P.S. Thanks Stephany for that great interpratation!
Now that you mention it, I realize what you mean. When I look back at the Achilles and Ajax, they actually do show less muscles than in this krater although they show the arm muscles in more detail in the Achilles and Ajax krater. Something I found unusual was the muscles of the leg. In both the left and right legs, the muscles and bones are shown in much more detail than the rest of the body, aside from the abdomen. Also, it seems as if the left foot is broken because it is bent in an unusual way. In addition, the detail in the kneecap is greater than in most of the other Greek images of the time.
I agree with what you said that it have some characteristics from ancient Egyptian art. Most of the figures, including the ones on the back of this has their head turned to the side. I think it is interesting how you said that it has a foreshortened foot. This is something that ancient Egyptian arts do not have.
I do agree that the krater was probably less valued than in the past because of the abundance of such items, but I also think that it was also appreciated for it’s beauty, since it is a pretty pot. These days, there are lots of artists and lots of artworks, but that doesn’t devalue the truly fine pieces of art since they stand above the hoi polloi.
New Interpol App Identifies Stolen Artworks for Collectors, Sleuths
The Euphronios Krater, or Vase. Front side depicting Sarpedon’s body carried by Hypnos and Thanatos (Sleep and Death), while Hermes watches. Records in Italian courts indicate the krater was looted from an Etruscan tomb in Greppe Sant’Angelo near Cerveteri in December of 1971. In 2006, following the trial of Giacomo Medici and related disclosures about antiquities smuggling, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Italian government signed an agreement under which ownership of the Euphronios Krater was returned to Italy. Credit: Jaime Ardiles-Arce /Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
A new computer app from the international police authority Interpol makes it possible for art collectors, museums — and amateur sleuths — to determine if the piece of art they are looking at has been stolen.
The new app not only combats art crime — which Greece has suffered throughout its long history — it also protects the cultural heritage of every nation at a time when there is increased interest in repatriating stolen works of art from around the world.
Amateur sleuths, collectors and dealers alike who care to know whether or not a piece of art was taken illegally can use the new “ID-Art” app to access the international organization’s database of 52,000 stolen artworks.
The world’s largest police organization now has a listing of more than 52,000 pieces of art in its database of stolen works from all over the world.
Technology may prove to be a boon for the scourge of Greece and other nations which have suffered the loss of priceless art and artifacts over the centuries.
Interpol’s database includes the earliest-known looted antiquities to artworks that were stolen very recently – including Van Gogh’s “The Parsonage Garden at Neuen in Spring,” painted in 1884, which was taken from a museum in the Netherlands during a Covid-19 lockdown.
Priceless artworks belonging to world cultural heritage such as Jan Vermeer’s “The Concert,” painted from 1663-1666, stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on March 18, 1990, are also included. The Vermeer has never been recovered.
Twelve other artworks of inestimable value also taken from the Gardner Museum and never recovered are also featured on the database. The Boston heist comprised the largest art theft in modern history.
The obverse of the Euphronios Krater, showing youths arming themselves for battle. Credit: Rolfmueller at the English Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 3.0
Last week, Interpol made the identification of these and much less well-known artworks easier with the debut of a new app that helps to make the process of identifying and reporting stolen art works as simple as a quick search on a database via smartphone.
With a motto of “Capture the Art– Capture the Criminals,” Interpol makes real-time headway into the murky world of art provenance with the new app, enabling those with good intentions to determine the origin of any artwork they suspect may have been stolen at some point in its history.
Users simply upload any images they can get of the artwork or input keywords to find information on objects of art that are currently missing, according to Valentina Di Liscia for Hyperallergic, an online forum for art lovers.
Pop-ups that are built into the app will tell users who indeed do see that they have come across a piece of stolen art that they should report their findings immediately to the police.
According to the Interpol statement, the public can now assist the international policing agency in combatting the ongoing scourge of art and artifact trafficking. Collectors — including those who already own a certain piece of art they suspect may have been stolen — can use ID-Art’s reverse-image search feature to determine if the artwork is indeed of dubious provenance.
A Forbes story by Carlie Porterfield states that UNESCO estimates that the market for looted items of cultural heritage is worth almost $10 billion every year, although it is impossible to determine an exact number since the black market is involved.
Criminal groups — and even militant groups, according to Interpol — often use the trading of looted art and artifacts as a funding base, says David Klein writes in a report for the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).
Incredibly, through careless blunders or the turning of a blind eye to earth thieves, many works of art that were originally looted or even stolen in modern times still show up at major auction houses around the world and in the displays of world-renowned museums.
Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock says in the statement “In recent years we’ve witnessed the unprecedented ransack by terrorists of the cultural heritage of countries arising from armed conflict, organized looting and cultural cleansing.
“This new tool is a significant step forward in enhancing the ability of police officers, cultural heritage professionals and the general public to protect our common heritage.”
The Euphronios Krater (or Sarpedon Krater) is an ancient Greek terra cotta calyx krater, a bowl used for mixing wine with water. Created in approximately the year 515 BC, it is the only complete example of the surviving 27 vases painted by the renowned ceramics master Euphronios and is considered one of the finest Greek vase artifacts anywhere in existence.
Part of the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1972 to 2008, the vase was repatriated to Italy under an agreement negotiated in February 2006, and it is now in the collection of the Archaeological Museum of Cerveteri as part of a campaign to return stolen works of art to their place of origin.
The krater is decorated with two scenes. An episode from the Trojan War is shown on the obverse, depicting the death of Sarpedon, the son of Zeus and Laodamia. In the scene of Sarpedon’s death, the god Hermes directs the personifications of Sleep (Hypnos) and Death (Thanatos) to carry the fallen away to his homeland for burial.
The reverse of the krater shows a contemporary scene of Athenian youths from the sixth century BC arming themselves before battle.
Records in Italian courts indicate the krater was looted from an Etruscan tomb in Greppe Sant’Angelo near Cerveteri in December of 1971.
In 2006, following the trial of Giacomo Medici and related disclosures about antiquities smuggling, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Italian government signed an agreement under which ownership of the Euphronios Krater was returned to Italy.
Jan Vermeer’s masterpiece “The Concert,” stolen from the Isabella Steart Gardner Museum in Boston. Never recovered. Credit: Public domain
Interpol officials state that, by making its stolen artwork database fully accessible and searchable by the public, it hopes to make it easier for all those who view, sell or buy art to certify that their actions are legal, according to the Forbes report. Using languages such as Arabic, English, French and Spanish, the app is searchable by most people around the world.
Interpol points out in their statement that the app’s pilot phase has already proven successful incredibly, Italian police have already employed it to identify two stolen statues earlier this year.
And in Holland, the Dutch Art Crime Unit was able to locate and recover two stolen paintings after looking at the database of the online sales catalogue published by an auction house in Amseterdam.
New Interpol App can even map threatened churches, other sites
Perhaps most notably, the new Interpol app is also geared toward the preservation of buildings and sites that are currently threatened.
The ID-Art app also allows Users to take and upload photos of threatened heritage sites of any kind for example, a church in a war zone or where there is a danger of becoming a victim off religious cleansing to create what the users call a “site card” with a timestamp, a geographic location and a detailed description of the scene, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
Such images from interested people all around the world can create a “bank of digital evidence” if the site is ever looted or destroyed or if artifacts from it suddenly appear on world markets, the Smithsonian report says.
In the Hyperallergic article, DeLiscia states, however, that Interpol’s database of stolen art can only record some of the innumerable world treasures that have been stolen over the history of humanity.
She notes that the Benin Bronzes —one of the greatest examples of art looting on the part of British colonialists — are not listed as being “stolen” despite the well-recorded looting of the African treasures in 1897.
As Di Liscia says, “I guess the definition of ‘stolen’ is subjective.”
In Greek mythology, the name Sarpedon referred to at least three different people.
Son of Zeus and Europa
The first Sarpedon was a son of Zeus and Europa, and brother to Minos and Rhadamanthus. He was raised by the king Asterion and then, banished by Minos, his rival in love for the young Miletus or Atymnius, Ώ] he sought refuge with his uncle, Cilix. ΐ] Sarpedon conquered the Milyans, and ruled over them Α] his kingdom was named Lycia, after his successor, Lycus, son of Pandion II. Β] Zeus granted him the privilege of living three generations.
Son of Zeus and Laodamia
The death of Sarpedon, depicted in Lycian attire, at the hands of Patroclus. Red-figure hydria from Heraclea, c.400 BCE.
The second Sarpedon, king of Lycia, a descendant of the preceding, was a son of Zeus and Laodamia, daughter of Bellerophon. Γ] Sarpedon became king when his uncles withdrew their claim to Lycia. Δ] He fought on the side of the Trojans, with his cousin Glaucus, during the Trojan War Ε] becoming one of Troy's greatest allies and heroes.
He scolded Hector in the Iliad (Book 5, lines 471–492) claiming that he left all the hard fighting to the allies of Troy and not to the Trojans themselves, and made a point of saying that the Lycians had no reason to fight the Greeks, or no real reason to hate them, but because he was a faithful ally to Troy he would do so and fight his best anyway. Ζ] When the Trojans attacked the wall newly built by the Greeks, Sarpedon led his men (who also included Glaucus and Asteropaios) to the forefront of the battle and caused Ajax and Teucer to shift their attention from Hector's attack to that of Sarpedon's forces. He personally held up the battlements and was the first to enter the Greek encampment. This attack allowed Hector to break through the Greek wall. It was during this action that Sarpedon delivered a noblesse oblige speech to Glaucus, Η] stating that they had been the most honoured kings, therefore they must now fight the most to repay that honour and prove themselves and repay their loyal subjects. While he was preparing to plunge into battle, he told Glaucus that together they would go on to glory: if they were successful, the glory would be their own if not, the glory of whoever stopped them would be the greater.
The death of Sarpedon, depicted on the obverse of Euphronios krater] c.515 BCE.
When Patroclus entered the battle in the armour of Achilles, Sarpedon met him in combat. Zeus debated with himself whether to spare his son's life even though he was fated to die by the hand of Patroclus. He would have done so had Hera not reminded him that other gods' sons were fighting and dying and other gods' sons were fated to die as well. If Zeus should spare his son from his fate, another god might do the same therefore Zeus let Sarpedon die while fighting Patroclus, but not before killing the only mortal horse of Achilles. During their fight, Zeus sent a shower of bloody raindrops over the Trojans' heads expressing the grief for the impending death of his son. ⎖]
Sarpedon carried away by Sleep and Death, by Henry Fuseli, 1803.
When Sarpedon fell, mortally wounded, he called on Glaucus to rescue his body and arms. Patroclus withdrew the spear he had embedded in Sarpedon, and as it left Sarpedon's body his spirit went with it. ⎗] A violent struggle ensued over the body of the fallen king. The Greeks succeeded in gaining his armour (which was later given as a prize in the funeral games for Patroclus), but Zeus had Phoebus Apollo rescue the corpse. Apollo took the corpse and cleaned it, then delivered it to Sleep (Hypnos) and Death (Thanatos), who took it back to Lycia for funeral honours. ⎘]
One account ⎙] holds that the first and second Sarpedon are both the same man, and that Zeus granted Sarpedon an extraordinarily long life that had to end at the Trojan War. However, the favoured account is that Sarpedon, brother of Minos, and Sarpedon, who fought at Troy, were different men who lived generations apart. A genealogical link is provided between the two Sarpedons, through Laodamia. Laodamia (called Deidamia in that particular account) is said to have married Evander, son of the first Sarpedon, and to have presented Evander with a son named Sarpedon (in reality her son by Zeus). ⎚]
See: Iliad books: II, IV, XII, XVI.
An asteroid is named after the Trojan hero, 2223 Sarpedon.
Son of Poseidon
A third Sarpedon was a Thracian son of Poseidon, eponym of a city Sarpedonia, and brother to Poltys, King of Aenus. ⎛] Unlike the other two Sarpedons, this Thracian Sarpedon was not a hero, but an insolent individual who was shot to death by Heracles as the latter was sailing away from Aenus. ⎜]
The Critic’s Notebook
On Turner, Charlemagne, the Sarpedon krater & more.J. M. W. Turner, Venice: Looking Across the Lagoon at Sunset, 1840, Watercolor on paper, Tate.
King and Emperor: A New Life of Charlemagne , by Janet L. Nelson (University of California Press): Claims that Charlemagne was entirely illiterate are exaggerated, but it’s true that the first ruler of a unified Europe was not man of letters in the strictest sense. This has rendered the biographer’s task all the more difficult—apart from a few dictated missives and asides recorded by chance, we have nothing in his own voice by which to judge him. His legacy in letters, however, is immense: a staunch protector and patron of education and the arts, Charlemagne filled his cabinet with scholars and luminaries from across his kingdom, considering the stewardship of high culture a prerequisite for effective political rule. In crafting her new biography of the tremendous king, the British historian Janet L. Nelson has trawled well-traveled waterways and obscure rivulets alike to fish out the historical figure as he acted and thought—coming “as close as one can,” in the opinion of the historian Patrick J. Geary , “to approaching this extraordinary man.” —REJ. M. W. Turner, Whitby, ca. 1824, Watercolor on paper, Tate.
“J. M. W. Turner: Watercolors from Tate,” at the Mystic Seaport Museum (through February 23, 2020): Water gives and it takes. In his 1950 book The Enchafèd Flood: or, The Romantic Iconography of the Sea, W. H. Auden writes that the sea represents “that state of barbaric vagueness and disorder out of which civilization has emerged and into which, unless saved by the effort of gods and men, it is always liable to relapse.” In his watercolors, J. M. W. Turner likewise mixed the waters of content and medium for his own deep dive into compositional disorder and painterly abstraction. Now at Connecticut’s Mystic Seaport Museum, a major exhibition of ninety-seven Turner watercolors is on loan from the Tate, pairing his waterly works with historical workers of water. In the first exhibition of its kind, the show offers a selection of Turner’s watercolors of life on land and sea alongside America’s leading collection of maritime relics. —JPThe former Astor Library in Noho, now home to the Public Theater. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
“Historic Walking Tour of Nineteenth-Century NoHo,” hosted by the Merchant’s House Museum (October 13): New York City’s SoHo neighborhood tends to get the attention these days, but, back in the nineteenth century, the area known today as NoHo was home to some of New York City’s most famous families—the Vanderbilts, Delanos, and Astors among them. On Sunday, the Merchant’s House Museum is leading a walking tour of the area that will take you to landmark buildings from the time and will describe how the neighborhood has changed from its days as a quiet residential part of town. —RH
The Sarpedon Krater: The Life and Afterlife of a Greek Vase , by Nigel Spivey (University of Chicago Press) : When non-specialists think of Greek vases, the Sarpedon (or Euphronios) krater surely is the first to spring to mind. I remember slides of it from my high school art history survey class and my college survey, too. Surely this dazzling red-figure calyx-krater is one of the icons of Western art. But the vase doesn’t just possess a pretty face. It also has a compelling backstory. Nigel Spivey , a senior lecturer in classics at Cambridge and a frequent contributor to The New Criterion, tells the tale in his new book, from the vase’s 1971 looting, to its long stint in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to its 2008 repatriation to Italy. Spivey’s first sentences draw the reader in: “As vases go, the Sarpedon krater is relatively large. As landmarks go, it is almost ridiculously small . . .” Look out for a full review of the book from Sean Hemingway, the head curator of Greek and Roman art at the Met, in a future issue of The New Criterion. —BR
“Roger Kimball introduces the October issue.” The Editor and Publisher of The New Criterion discusses highlights in this month’s issue and reads from its opening pages.
By the Editors:
“The Two Minutes Hate Comes to New York’s Subway,” by James Panero. “That is your legacy! Dead children!” yelled the young man, triggered by my arts magazine’s tote bag.
From the archive:
A Message from the Editors
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