Black-figure kylix



c. 550–530 BCE
more object details

General Description

This black-figure kylix consists of a black foot and a bowl with a black offset lip, an ornamental frieze on the handle zone, and a black lower zone, with an ornamented red area where the bowl attaches to the foot. Inside is a tondo with a siren (female headed bird) surrounded by a tongue pattern. The decorated middle zone features small vignettes of Herakles fighting the Nemean lion, flanked by elders and palmettes on each side. There are swan ornaments under the handles. This type of cup is called Siana, after a site in Rhodes where some examples of the type were found.

Cups like this are intermediate between the animal style vases of Corinthian ware (1966.23), which was one of the first major types of Greek ceramics to be widely sold and exported, and the development of black-figure wares in Athens, which began to use figural styles to illustrate mythic narratives (1965.29.M). Although black-figure vase painting (where the figures were outlined by engraved lines and filled in with a slip that turns black in firing) often tend to look abstract and patterned, experiments with the technique could produce lively scenes, like the Herakles here. Such a cup anticipates "Little Master Cups" and band cups, where figural scenes appear either as a motif isolated on the cup lip or as an elegant frieze of figures.

Like another black-figure kylix featuring apotropaic eyes (1972.5) in the Dallas Museum of Art's collection, it illustrates Herakles' labors and has the siren as a protective apotropaic tondo inside the bowl. (In the eye cup the tondo image is a gorgoneion.) The siren is a figure of both enchantment and death, since its song can lure men to ruin, but it, like the fearsome gorgon, can be an image to ward off evil.

Adapted from

Anne Bromberg, DMA unpublished material, 2004.