Classical Antiquities :
Lucanian : Lucanian Red-Figure Bell Krater
Lucanian Red-Figure Bell Krater - PF.5606
Origin: Magna Graecia
12.75" (32.4cm) high
Additional Information: Art Logic—Wijermars Antiquairs, Amsterdam, 2000
| Photo Gallery
The Greek colonies of Southern Italy,
known in antiquity as Magna Graecia, or
“Greater Greece,” were marked by their
initial allegiance to the ceramic styles
of the Attic mainland. However, over the
years, native traditions and innovations
heavily influenced the works of Magna
Graecian potters. Unorthodox forms and
painting-styles were seamlessly merged
with the standard Greek style, creating
distinctive works of art unique to the
Hellenistic world. Lucania was one of
the chief cities of Magna Graecia and
was inhabited both by Greek colonists as
well as local Samnite populations.
Situated along the Tyrrhenian Sea, this
port quickly became one of the centers
of pottery manufacturing in the
burgeoning colonies of Southern Italy.
Today, the eastern half of this ancient
land corresponds to the modern Italian
region of Basilicata, while the western
half lies in modern Campania.
Kraters are a group of vessels with wide
mouths, a narrow, footed base, and
handles. Foremost among the different
types of kraters is the bell krater, so-
called because it emits a pleasant
ringing sound not unlike a bell when
gently struck with a finger. Kraters
were an essential piece of equipment in
the symposium, a type of diner banquet
immortalized by Plato where drinking and
revelry were the encouraged activities.
After the food was consumed, the group
of men retired to a special room with a
floor that sloped into a central drain
(to facilitate cleaning the morning
after) where drinks were served and
female consorts entertained with music
and dancing. Before the wine was served,
it was first diluted with water inside a
krater such as this one.
This extraordinary vessel is a
masterpiece of ancient painted pottery.
What chance encounter is depicted on its
sides? The male youths clad in
himations converse on the front. The
two on either end hold walking sticks.
On the reverse, a nude male is depicted
holding a similar walking staff, now
conversing with two ladies wearing
himations and chitons. What is the
interrelation between these scenes? Is
the man proposing to the women and then
bragging to his male cohorts later on?
This does not seem too far-fetched.
While the meaning behind the images will
remain elusive, the beauty of the
painting is a clear today as it has ever
been. A reserve band with a painted
meander motif frames the bottom of the
scenes while a band of leaves decorates
the upper rim just below the lip. The
gentle curves of the vessel are
remarkable. The slight swelling of the
body, the smooth tapering of the rim and
foot all show that this was vessel was
thrown by an expert potter.