2 - 6 - 3 Great Masters (c.550-530)

Painters of Larger Pots

The painter who inherited Nearchos' style and became the master of black figure is Lydos[1]. Although he also painted on cups, his style is well established on larger vessels. Even though the figures on a column krater in New York (31.11.11), dated to c.550-540, are less detailed than those of Nearchos, the each figure moves lively and freely in different movement from each other. The scene on this krater is Dionysos leading Hephaistos to Olympos accompanied by Satyrs and Maenades.

Unfortunatelly scattered into many pieces, his dinos from the Acropolis and now in the National Museum of Athens (Acr.607) must be his masterwork. Although the vase is too fragmental to understand the composition, the figures can be compared with Nearchos'[2]. The scene depicted on this vase is Gigantomachy, the battle between deities and giants and the painter added names to the figures.

Of smaller vessels, oinochoe in Berlin (1732) has an animal frieze on the lower body, while the battle between Herakles and Ares is depicted on the main panel. Part of Athena in this scene is drawn with outline technique, which is often used by his contemporary, the Amasis Painter. The name Lydos implies he was Lydian and he signed himself as a slave[3].

The Amasis Painter is named after the potter Amasis who produced vessels for this painter, though it is often supprsed that they are identical [4]. The name Amasis is not Greek but Hellenized version of a common Egyptian name[5]. In his style we can find strong East Greek elements, which reflects on his lively style.

His style can be found on a belly amphora in Basel (Ka420). The subject is Dionysos and his companies, which is the most favorite subject in his repertorie. On this vase, Satyrs are making wine while Maenades drawn with outline technique attend. He also painted cups and a cup in Boston (10.651) has the shape "B type", which has continuous outline from lip to foot and is favoured by red figure painters. Eyes on the exterior are copied from East Greek cups and the Amasis Painter arranged the eye as the body of Siren.

A neck amphora in Paris, Cabinet des Medailles (cab.med.222) is one of his masterpiece. Dionysos and two Maenades are arranged on the wide surface in lively composition, which can be rarely found on Lydos' vases. Again the flesh of Maenades is depicted with outline technique.

Exekias signed both as potter and painter. His masterpiece is the belly amphora in Vatican, dated to c.540-530 (fig.1,vatican344)[6]. Its detailed representation, especially the patterns on garments and armours, cannot be found any other painter's works.

Fig. 1

The composition of Achilleus and Aias playing chess at Troy is also outstanding. The painter made viewer's eyes concentrate on the chess board at the centre led by the heroes' eyes, hands and spears. Also the spears lead our eyes to the handles. Although the figures are symmetrically arranged, Exekias differenciate both figures in every details. It is also noticeable that depth is represented by overlapping spear, board, legs and mantles.

The belly amphora in Boulogne shows his grandeur style (boulogne558). The subject on this vase is Aias' suicide. Again the painter introduced simple composition consisting of Aias, his shield and helmet and a tree. He chose not the climax of the hero's suicide, which is chosen by later painters, but its preparation. Although black figure technique can hardly represent emotion, we can feel the tension and the hero's distress. Since Exekias often depicted Aias, some scholars believe that he is from Salamis, the birth place of this hero[7].

Exekias introduced new technique on the cup in Munich (munich2044). The shape is so called A type which has a shallow bowl with plain lip and a splaying foot offset from the bowl. The tondo has Dionysos lying on his ship surrounded by dolphins. Exekias filled around the tondo with coral red, though this technique was rarely followed. Other than these, he also painted on series of funeral plaques (fig.2).


There are more painters specialized in larger pots. The Affecter painted characteristic figures with tiny heads and angular bodies [8]. His colleargue the Elbows Out painted mannered figures with exaggrated posture. The Swing Painter chose outstanding scenes [9]. Group E is closely related to earlier works of Exekais and some vases attributed to this group can be depicted by this master.

Painters of cups

Painters who preferred cups in this period are named Little Masters after the miniatuaristic representation which was already attempted on the Francois Vase [10]. There are two types of cups after the shape and decoration, though the differene of the shape is slight.

The band cup has a decorative band on the handle zone while other areas are filled with black. The tondo rarely has figures. Lip cup has figures at the centre of the lip and the surfece is reserved except for narrow black bands, while the handle zone occasionally has potter's or painter's signature. A figure or two is sometimes decorated within the tondo.

The Tleson Painter often decorated cups made by Tleson, son of Nearchos. On the band cup in Munich (SL 462) he painted cockfighting, in which we can find no trace of Corinthian influence anymore. While the band cup signed by Neandros in Boston (61.1073) has animal frieze of Corinthianized style.

More detailed representation can be found on another band cup in Munich (2243). Although the cup has the signatures by Archikles and Glaukytes, it is uncertain which is the painter or potter. On one side has Kalydonian boar hund, while Theseus fighting against Minotaur on the other side. It is surprising how the painter drew such small but detailed figures, more than 10 figures on either side, within the frieze of about 3cm height. He even added the name to all the figures.

The lip cup signed by Xenokles and attributed to the Xenokles Painter in London (B 425) has Zeus and his brothers flanked by a winged horse. Another lip cup in London by the Phrynos Painter has the birth of Athena and Herakles led by Athena to Zeus (londonB424). Sakonides preferred to depict female heads on the lips with outline technique [11].

Other than these cups, smaller cups so called Droop cups were also produced [12]. Decoration scheme is similar to that of band cups, though detailed patterns are often depicted on the lower body, which recall decoration on Lakonian cups.

While these painters exploited the potential of black figure technique, they also reached the limitation of this technique. It gave the birth of new technique, red figure, about 530. Black figure technique, however, still used by lesser painters under strong influence from red figure painters.

[1] For Lydos, see, Tiberios, M. A., O Lydos kai to ergo tou, (1976), Rumpf, A., Sakonides, (1937), Richter, G. M. A., "Lydos", MMS 4, pp.169-178.
[2] For the reconstruction of the dinos, see, Moore, M. B., "Lydos and the Gigantomachy", AJA 83, pp.79-99.
[3] For the signature as slave by Lydos, see, Canciani, F., "Lydos,der Slave?", AK 21, pp.17-21.
[4] For Amasis and the Amasis Painter, see, Beazley, J. D., "Amasea", JHS 51, pp.257-284, Karouzou, S., The Amasis painter, (1956), Bothmer, D. v., The Amasis painter and his world, (1985), True, M. (ed. ), Papers on the Amasis painter and his world, (1987), Boardman, J., "The Amasis Painter", JHS 78, pp.1-3, Bothmer, D. v., "AMASIS,AMASIDOS", JPGMJ 9, pp.1-4, Isler, H. P., "Der Topfer Amasis und der Amasis-maler", JdI 109.
[5] For the relationship between Amasis and Egypt, see, Boardman, J., "Amasis: The implications of his name", in: True, M. (ed.), Papers on the Amasis painter and his world, pp.141-152, (1982).
[6] For Exekias, see, Technau, W., Exekias, (1936), Mommsen, H., Exekais I: Die Grabtafeln, (1997), Boardman, J., "Exekias", AJA 82, pp.18-24.
[7] For the discussion about Exekias and salamis, see, Moore, M. B., "Exekias and Telamonian Ajax", AJA 84, pp.417-434, Shapiro, H. A., "Exekias, Ajax and Salamis:a further note", AJA 85, pp.173-175.
[8] For the Affecter, see, Mommsen, H., Der Affekter, (1975).
[9] For the Elbows Out, see, Bothmer, D. v., RA 1969, pp.3-15. For the Swing Painter, see, Bohr, E., Der Schaukelmaler, (1982).
[10] For the little masters, see, Beazley, J. D., "Little Master cups", JHS 52, pp.167-204.
[11] For Sakonides, see, Rumpf, A., Sakonides, (1937).
[12] For Droop cups, see, Ure, P. N., "Droop cups", JHS 52, pp.55-71.