Black-figure kylix

Greek; Attic
last quarter of 6th century BCE
more object details

General Description

On one side of this kylix, or drinking cup, Herakles is shown relaxing while a satyr fills his wine cup. On the other side, he turns to look backward at some threat and pulls his sword from its scabbard. Behind him hang his bow and skin of the mythical Nemean lion. In the briefest way, the scenes tell us that the hero is always prepared for a fight. Herakles, a skilled athlete and warrior, was one of the most popular of Greek heroes and one of the rare human heroes to join the immortal gods on Mount Olympus. The scene of the hero reclining with a wine cup may suggest this apotheosis. The rest of the ornamentation indicates a wine-party setting where the cup would have been used. The eyes on the exterior are apotropaic, intended to protect the drinker and ward off evil (and possibly drunkenness), as is the gorgon head in the circular medallion inside the cup. The painted designs are in black-figure style, where decorations are painted on the vase in a slip that appears black against the natural red background of the clay body.

This vase can be placed with a series of type A cups known as the Group of Walters 48.42 from its name piece in Baltimore. The vase shape, feminine eyes, grape vines in the handle zones, alternating outline and silhouette rays from the foot, and the style of the Gorgoneion are all characteristics of vases in this group. The draftsmanship of this particular cup, however, is far superior to most examples in the group, and incorporates a number of elements adopted from contemporary Attic red-figure painting, such as the attempt at foreshortening of Herakles' left foot on side A, and the oblique angle of his abdominal muscles, to create the impression of his twisting motion. The undulating lines of his cloak on side A are a welcome change from the stiff banded folds of earlier black-figure vases.

Drawn from

  • Anne Bromberg, "Black-figure kylix," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, ed. Charles Venable (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 23.

  • Anne Bromberg, Dallas Museum of Art: Selected Works (Dallas, Texas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1983), 98.

  • Anne Bromberg, "Black-Figure Kylix," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, ed. Charles Venable (New Haven, NJ: Yale University Press, 1997), 23.

  • Karl Kilinski II, "Attic Black-Figure Eye-Cup" in Art, Myth, and Culture: Greek Vases from Southern Collections, (New Orleans Museum of Art: Tulane University, 1981), 74.