Red-figure Kylix attributed to the Ambrosios painter
Period: Attic, late 6th century B.C.
Material: Red-figure technique, terracotta
Dimensions: Diameter: 25 cm
Ex-Japanese private collection, collected in the 1980s.
Conditions: Complete, but reassembled; minor repairs and chips. Black paint in very good condition and still retaining its original luster; traces of purple paint.
This kylix, supported by a trumpet-shaped foot, is outstanding both for its decorative quality and for its formal delicacy. The body is rounded, but very low, without a neck and with two horizontal handles, like most related examples dated to the late 6th and early 5th century B.C.
It is decorated in the typical Attic red-figure technique, with the background of the vessel painted in black and the decoration (figures, subsidiary motifs) left in the color of the clay. Some details, partially faded now, are overpainted in red (inscription, fillet, upper thyrsus).
Apart from the inner foot, the kylix is entirely painted. Only the tondo is decorated with a figural scene. Within a circle, a young woman runs to the right of the viewer, while turning her head backward. As was customary at this time, her legs and head are shown in profile, while her torso is seen as if from the front. In her left hand, she holds a thyrsus (the long wand covered with leaves and flowers, faded here, usually associated with Dionysus and his followers, the satyrs and maenads). In her other hand, she holds a large bird by the wings (the shape of the tail and the small head recall a pigeon rather than a water bird).
The woman is dressed in a long, short-sleeved chiton; the diaphanous garment reveals the shapes of her body beneath. The lightness of the fabric is also highlighted by the regular pattern of vertical folds that fan out above the ankles. Her short black hair is caught up by a red fillet and ends in thick curls. Her adornment is limited to a beaded necklace.
The thyrsus, the clothing and the hairstyle would suggest that the woman is a maenad, but the presence of the bird, an element that is not part of the iconography of a maenad, does not enable us to confirm this hypothesis.
A.J. Paul attributed this kylix to the Ambrosios Painter (whose name comes from the inscription still legible on one of his vessels, now housed in Orvieto); indeed, the three lines that border the edges of the sleeves and neck of the chiton and the semicircles painted around the belt are a hallmark of his style. The Ambrosios Painter was described by J.D. Beazley as “never dull”, while J. Boardman cites him for “the sheer verve of his figures, not without some skill in posture and composition”. He was active in the late 6th century B.C., a very rich period in the history of Attic ceramic painting, and worked with renowned artists such as Oltos and Epiktetos.
BEAZLEY J.D., Attic Red-Figure Vase-Painters, Oxford, 1963, pp. 173-175.
BOARDMAN J., Athenian Red-Figure Vases: The Archaic Period, London-New York, 1975, p. 62, figs. 119-121.
Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum: Oxford, Ashmolean Museum 1, Oxford, 1927, pl. 1.3.
Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum: The Hague, Musee Scheurleer 2, Paris, 1927, pl. 8.5.