What is going on here? In vino veritas? Francois Vase by Kleitias (painter) and Ergotimos (potter) Black figure volute krater from Chiusis, Greece c570BCE

Francois Vase by Kleitias (painter) and Ergotimos (potter) Black figure volute krater from Chiusis, Greece c570BCE

Now in the Museo Archeologico, Florence, Archaic, black-figure
(ProtoAttic Style)

Proto means early and Attic refers to the region that it is from.

Formal Analysis
This is called a “volute krater” because the handles on either side are very similar to the volutes that are found in architecture. It’s also called a krater because it was used as a large bowl to mix wine and water together in. Look back at the beginning of this chapter and you’ll see the different shapes.

The reason why the formal elements of this vase are important is basically because it becomes more realistic than earlier pottery we’ve looked at. The vase that represented Polyphemus although it’s orientalized and the figures are outlines and are fairly realistic it doesn’t represent a high degree of naturalism. In this vase the figures are little bit more lifelike and defined more clearly. Most of the figures are almost silhouettes that are done in what’s called “black figure style.” The black figure style is a style of representing the human form in which the artist completely paints a silhouette of the figure in dark glaze and then etches away with a sharp needle the details of the figure. In this black figure style vase some of the figures have faces that are glazed with a lighter color glaze than the clay is. However, a majority of the figures are represented in complete black figure.

The other formal qualities that are important about this vase are that the vase is much busier and has many more frets or bands to it than the earlier vase representing the blinding of Polythemus. In fact it’s packed with more than 200 figures. ) exhibits “ horror vacui” but does not contain the rosettes and ornaments of the Orientalizing period. Another interesting innovation is the introduction of the written word into vase painting. Interspersed between all of the figures almost like labels in a comic book are the names and titles of the different characters represented on the vase.

The vase, signed twice by Kleitias (painter) and Ergotimos (potter).  The ornamentation of this vase is organized into a series of registers or frets of almost equal size and this appears to be fairly common in black figure vases of the Orientalizing period.  Each register is devoted to a scene which depicts mythological creatures or people.  The ornamentation of these registers contains more than 200 naturalistic figures.  These figures exhibit correction on  the earlier Geometric or Orientalizing periods' designs by taking the the level of realism up a degree or two.

Iconographic Analysis

My Theory is that pottery was designed more or less with stories on it that people thought were valuable. And the things that were valuable about the stories were that they demonstrated shared beliefs and values. The Iliad and the Odyssey are almost like pattern books for good and bad behaviors for heroes. In the same way that we have war movies today that show people who are willing to die for their country, as well as works of intense fantasy like superhero movies, these films are stories that teach us our values. It is the same thing for the ancient Greeks.
The pot tells a story about Greek mythology, focusing on the exploits of Peleus and his son Achilles, the great hero of Homer's Iliad, and of Theseus, the legendary king of Athens. The detail scene depicts a centauromachy ( a battle between centaurs and humans).  In this episode the Lapiths (whom Theseus aided) and and centaurs (half horse half man creatures) do battle after the wedding of Pirithous, king of the Lapiths. The centaurs, drunk after the celebration become unruly, and attempt to rape (in this case it means sexually and to abduct or steal them) the young boys and young girls. Apollo stops the battle and sends the centaurs home.

You’ve probably seen or heard the phrase “in Vino Veritas” kicked around on TV and in film. It’s just Latin for the phrase “in wine is truth.” While I have some friends who when they drink too much wine tend to act half assed. Isn’t this the description of a centaur. Half the animal, and notice it’s the bottom half, runs away with the centaurs when they get drunk. They are literally thinking with their bottom halves. So the centaur kind of represents the battle in all of us when we’ve had too much to drink in which are animal nature gets hold of us and makes us not thoughtful.


For the ancient Greeks the idea that man had a wild side and a rational side, a sort of Jekyll and Hyde conception of humankind, and they referred to this as an Apollonian Dionysian conflict. The Apollonian Dionysian conflict is one in which the God Apollo, who represents rationality and orderly thinking, is conflicted with the God Dionysus who is the God of wine, drama, and freethinking. Literally the sacrament associated with Dionysian rites is wine. So when you are drinking you’re in the throes of ecstasy which is associated with freethinking and/or loose thinking. This isn’t always a bad thing. My belief is that in many representations of centaurs and of stories in which heroes fight monsters and other creatures are meant to be lessons. The lessons are also possibly political.
There are many theories concerning representations of centaurs as being symbolic of representing the Greeks’ enemies. For example, we will be studying the Parthenon built around 450 BCE. There are rows of relief sculptures called metopes in the entablature, the topmost portion of the building above the columns, that represent Centaurs fighting Lapiths. One interpretation of the centaur is that it represents the Apollonian Dionysian conflict but some scholars believe that these representations are of the Persians who the Athenians just defeated. A safe interpretation is that it’s probably a little bit of both.

Contextual Analysis

 Found by an archeologist named Francois, often you will see this vase referred to as an "Attic" vase or Attic black figure vase.  The term Attic refers to its origins as Athenian but this Attic vase was found in Italy.  This demonstrates the importance of trade and the reverence for the quality of Athenian workmanship.

Interlaced throughout the figures are the names of the character's on the vase and the vase is also signed.  This indicates two things.  The written word was at least in some circles fairly commonplace and that the status of the artist must have been on the rise in Athens as well because this is one of the first examples of artwork that has been signed.  The indication that Kleitias was the painter and Ergotimos was the potter also gives us a clue into the fact that there was a refined division of labor.

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