Black-figure krater

Greek; Attic
first half of 6th century BCE
more object details

General Description

The primary scene on this black-figure column krater is of a boisterous group of dancing satyrs and maenads who cluster about a single bearded male figure. These wildly gesticulating revelers are the companions of Dionysus, who is recognizable as the central figure, clad in a long robe and holding a drinking horn in his left hand. Dionysus was a latecomer to the Olympic pantheon, yet he was especially favored by Athenian vase painters from about 580 BCE. Dionysiac revelry was a popular subject in Greek art soon after this date. Satyrs, with their equine ears and tails, are uninhibited creatures with strong tastes for wine, women, and song. Maenads are "crazed women" who draw the inspiration for their ecstatic mood from Dionysus, the god of ecstasy and abandonment of the rational. The frenzied state of the revelers, however, is contrasted with the sedate and restrained pose of Dionysus himself, as seen on this vase. The direction of Dionysus's slow pace indicates a movement of the group to the right with the god in the center of his fold. Such scenes on Athenian vases are sometimes expanded to include the returning outcast Hephaestus, god of crafts and magic, being led back to Olympus by Dionysus, who intoxicated his half brother with wine.

The reverse of this column krater does not, however, include an image of Hephaestus, but simply a single bearded male figure clad in in robe similar to that of Dionysus. He is flanked by two pieces of cloth, which seem to float mystically in midair but are actually draped over pegs on the wall, and in turn by two heraldically placed lions with flicking tails and reversed heads. The man has been segregated from the lions by vertical rows of black dots, thereby excluding any narrative theme and leaving the lions with little more than a decorative function. The two sides of the krater are separated from one another by a great bird in flight under each handle. Bearded male heads adorn the handleplates on the vase rim, which is decorated with wavy lines that recall the rippling action created by stirring the vase's contents.

Adapted from

Anne R. Bromberg, and Karl Kilinski II, Gods, Men, and Heroes: Ancient Art at the Dallas Museum of Art. (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996), 63.

Fun Facts

  • This krater, which was intended for mixing water and wine for symposia, has been reconstructed from fragments.