The Euphronios Krater
Analyze the Euphronios Krater in terms of its shape, style, and subject matter, based on what you can tell just by looking.
View the Entire Vessel
More information on the Euphronios Krater
New York Times Article: Ancient Vase Comes Home to a Hero’s Welcome
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