Red-Figure Kylix with the Departure of Antilochos, and Scenes of Courting attributed to the Macron painter
Period: Attic, ca. 490-480 B.C.
Material: Red-figure technique, terracotta
Dimensions: Height: 12.5 cm Diameter of bowl: 34 cm
Formerly in the collection of C.J.D., Switzerland
Conditions: Recomposed from fragments, but largely complete with
only minor in-painting of cracks. There is a small part restored on side B.
Active for nearly two decades, from about 495 to shortly after 480 B.C., Makron was one of the most talented and prolific artists working in the Late Archaic Period. More than 350 vases have been attributed to him, nearly all of them cups. To date his signature appears only once, on a skyphos in Boston. He worked regularly for the potter, Hieron, whose signature appears on more than thirty vases painted by Makron. In most cases where Hieron signs as potter, as on this cup, the inscription ΗΙΕΡΟΝ ΕΠΟΙΣΕΝ – “Hieron made this,” appears on the handle. On this example the letters are actually inscribed into the black glaze with a pointed instrument; on other cups Hieron’s signature as potter is also done in red or black letters. Most of Makron’s cups depict groups of men, women, and youths in various combinations of Dionysiac, symposium, courtship, or athletic subjects. Mythological scenes are more rarely represented. This monumental kylix is a masterpiece of Makron’s mature period, the decade after 490 B.C. Recent discoveries concerning its iconography confirm it as one of the most important works of Greek vase painting still in private hands.
The scene depicted within the tondo of the cup’s interior is particularly significant. Within a border of continuous meanders is a well balanced arrangement of two bearded male figures: a young warrior standing and leaning upon his spear, and an older, seated man holding a long T-shaped walking stick. The warrior has a fillet around his head and is dressed in the armor of a Greek hoplite. Over a finely pleated short tunic, or chitoniskos, he wears an elaborate, belted cuirass from which hang two rows of protective flaps, ptergyes, which served to shield the groin and upper thighs in battle while allowing the wearer ease of movement. The corselet is covered with fine, dotted scales, possibly of bronze, and the shoulder straps are ornamented with multi-pointed stars. A small cloak drapes over his shoulders. To the left of the warrior, an ornate helmet decorated with foliate volutes is set on a small block-shaped seat. The helmet is of Thracian type, with a visor, neck covering, cheek pieces, a type that first appears at the beginning of the fifth century B.C. To the right of the warrior, an elderly man, balding and with a furrowed brow, looks downward as he rests upon a large block-shaped seat. He wears a long chiton and is wrapped in a himation that drapes over his left shoulder and forearm.
The scene depicts the departure of a warrior, and a recent discovery of an inscription near the standing figure identifies him as Α[Ν]ΤΙΛΟΧ[ΟΣ] – “Antilochos.” In Greek mythology, Antilochos is the son of Nestor, king of Pylos, and is described several times in the Iliad as youngest among the Achaeans, swift footed, and valiant in the art of fighting. As with many ancient Greek heros, Antilochos was admired for his physical prowess as well as revered for the manner of his death. He is mentioned also in the Odyssey, where Nestor describes him as “my own dear son, strong alike and flawless, Antilochos, preeminent in speed of foot and as a warrior.” The poet Pindar celebrated his memory as “that man of might, Antilochos, who died for his father’s sake, by awaiting the onslaught of Memnon,” recalling that Antilochos came to the aid of his elderly father, whose chariot had become entangled, and Memnon was about to spear him. Nestor cried out for his son, who came to save him, but Antilochos himself was slain by Memnon while his father escaped. Antilochos, said Pindar, “was deemed by those of a younger generation to have proved himself, among men of old, supreme in filial devotion.” It is likely that the elderly man on the cup is Antilichos’s father, Nestor, although this figure has a faint painted inscription associated with it, which may be read as ΛΥΚΟΜΕΔ[ΕΣ] – “Lykomedes,” a name in ancient literature referring to various individuals, including the son of the Theban king Kreon, a Cretan suitor of Helen, and a king of Skyros. Considering Antilochos’ fame as a paragon of filial devotion, this mislabeling is almost certainly an error on the part of the artist. The figures do not make eye contact, and with their heads lowered they seem deep in thought or overcome with feeling, conveying an aura of sadness at the thought of separation between father and son. For Nestor it is especially tragic, since he has a premonition of the death of Antilochos, and knows that soon their separation will be for eternity.
The scene on the interior of the cup, inspired by heroic myth, is a world removed from the activities of the figures on the exterior, which instead are drawn from Athenian daily life. On side A, three pairs of men and women face one another in polite courtship, conveyed by delicate gestures and well-mannered poses. Two of the men are older and bearded; the third is a beardless youth. All three males strike similar poses: leaning on a walking stick held in the left hand, the weight on the left leg, the torso in three quarter view, the head in profile. Their right arms are bent upward and their hands hold red flowers, now largely worn away, which they present to the women. The men are wrapped in himatia of heavy, simple folds, very typical of Makron, and wear leafy wreathes on their heads. At the left, a woman holds a small, foliate branch or flower in added red slip. She has short hair and is elegantly dressed, wearing a fillet around her head, a necklace, and a himation draped like a shawl over both shoulders. Her shapely body is revealed beneath a diaphanous, heavily pleated chiton whose overfold hangs down to the knees. Depictions of shapely women beneath sheer garments is favored by Makron and a hallmark of his style. Over the chiton she wears a short over-mantle, the hem of which is clearly visible above the waist. She is receptive to the man’s advances, encouraging her suitor by supporting his bent arm with her hand as he leans toward her. The central pair is more restrained in their courtship, both the man and woman standing upright and not physically touching. The woman wears the same attire as the one previous, however the overfold of the chiton hanging down to her knees is marked with diagonal lines of dilute slip, allowing a clearer view of her thighs and genital area. The woman at the far right is more animated than the two previous, engaging the youth before her with outstretched arms. She, too, wears a chiton and himation, as well as earrings, a necklace, and a kekryphalos, or headscarf. The youth seems attracted by her charms, leaning slightly towards her and copying the pose of the first male figure. A pillow with a zig-zag design sits upon a small stool, a diphros, which is depicted to the right of the youth, under the handle. A convention used by Makron on his larger cups, it functions as a convenient space filler while at the same time helping separate the scene from that on the opposite side. In addition to floral ornaments combining palmettes and lotuses, he also employed vases, small boys, crouching satyrs, and small animals, like goats and dogs, to occupy the areas beneath the handles.
The figures on side B are generally analogous to those on side A, except that women have been replaced by male youths, who are wrapped loosely in himatia and leaning on their walking sticks. The sticks of the three male couples overlap each other to form crosses, perhaps providing a visual premonition regarding their relationships. The three couples are engaged in a scene typical for homosexual courtship, where an older man or lover, the erastes, vies for the attention and favor of the younger man or beloved, the eromenos. The youth at the far left has gathered the folds of his himation to drape over his walking stick, which supports his left arm. His head is in profile and the sparse, side whiskers of youth are indicated on his cheek in dilute glaze. His torso, the well-detailed musculature of which is indicated in lines of dilute glaze, faces frontal. His right hand rests on his hip and his left hand is raised up with thumb and index finger together: like the figures on side A, he may have held a flower that now has eroded away. A string bag containing gaming pieces hangs between the youth and the bearded male figure to the right. The latter bends forward from the waist and, leaning heavily on his walking stick, seems smitten with the beautiful youth.
The central couple is comprised of two youths, the one at left probably the younger. He is wrapped completely in his himation, except where it drapes low across his chest to reveal well-formed pectoral muscles. His right arm is muffled in the cloak, which drapes across his left forearm as it rests on the walking stick. The pose is both alluring and modest, contrasting with that of the older youth opposite, in pursuit as the erastes. This youth, whose left hand is muffled in his himation while leaning on his stick, bends forward from the waist and lifts his right arm, his hand posed as if holding a flower. His head is in profile and his torso, with detailed musculature done in dilute glaze, is in three quarter view.
The couple at the far right is in closer physical contact than the two previous ones. A youth, with head and body in profile, leans forward, leaning on the stick in his left hand while raising his right hand near the forehead of the bearded man who courts him. The man holds a walking stick, which he leans heavily on with both hands, a pose similar to that of the other bearded man at the far left.
For the shape, see Richter and Milne 1935, XX; Noble 1988, 57; Schreiber 1999, 148-63.
For this kylix, see ARV2 471.185; BAdd2 245; Jacques Chamay in Dörig 1975, no. 207; Boardman 1975, fig. 315 (tondo); Sutton 1981, 399, no. G51; Kunisch 1997, no. 342, pl. 115. For Makron see ARV2 458-81; Paralipomena 377-79; BAdd2 243-47; Kunisch 1997.
For Hieron see ARV2 458, 481-82; Paralipomena 379; BAdd2 247.
Boston 13.186, ARV2 458.1.
For Makron and Hieron see Hartwig 1893; Furtwängler 1909; Leonard 1912; Richter 1917; Beazley 1918, 101-106; Beazley 1921; Richter and Hall 1936, 72-80; Beazley 1954; Richter 1958, 81-83; Shefton 1962, 332-33; Caskey-Beazley 1963, 30-41; Boardman 1975, 140; Nachbauer 1978; Stadler 1981; Bothmer 1982, 29-52; Cohen 1982; Simon 1982, 80-83; Nachbauer 1983; Karouzou 1983; Isler-Kerenyi 1984, 164; Kunisch 1984, 19-27; Kunisch 1988; Immerwahr 1990, 89-90; Beazley 1989, 84-97; Robertson 1992, 100-106; Williams 1993, 46-53; Kunisch 1997.
The two inscriptions in the tondo, overlooked in previous publications of this cup, were first noted by J. Robert Guy. They are termed “ghost inscriptions,” since they misfired a matt black in the kiln rather than red, which makes them difficult to see, especially against the black glaze of the background. However ghost inscriptions are clearly readable when illuminated under bright, raking light.
Makron is known for his misspellings of contemporary names, as pointed out in Immerwahr 1990, 90. Although it is most likely that the old man here is intended as Nestor, it is possible that instances of interaction between Antilochos and Lykomedes in ancient myth are now lost to us.