Art

Bell Krater (mixing bowl for wine and water): Scene from a Comic Play

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Attributed to The McDaniel Painter
Bell Krater (mixing bowl for wine and water): Scene from a Comic Play, 400-370 BC
Vessel
Greek
,
4th century BC
Classical period, Late, 404-323 BC
Creation Place: Apulia
Terracotta
30 cm h x 33.5 cm diam (11 13/16 x 13 3/16 in.)
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Transfer from the Alice Corinne McDaniel Collection, Department of the Classics, Harvard University
, 2007.104.4
Department of Ancient and Byzantine Art & Numismatics
,
Description
Pinkish-buff fabric with glossy black slip, misfired below handles, in the area between the two youths on the B-side of the vase, and within the doorway of the A-side scene. Added white and yellow in a good state of preservation. Low, thick, circular base tapers upward very slightly to a reserve band, and is flat on top. Narrow foot curves tightly outward to form a broad bell, with broad lip. Horizontal loop handles turn slightly upward and inward at ends and project as far as the lip of the vessel. A laurel band runs just beneath the lip. Beneath A- and B-side scenes is a meander border broken periodically by an X-shape within a square. The vase is in very good condition, unbroken with only minor cracks on the interior surface, and minor chipping, particularly around the lip.

On the obverse is a simple stage (Type I, Trendall, Phlyax) without supporting columns. A phlyax stands on the left with a Doric column behind him. He wears padded tights and jacket and a black bordered cloak. Concealed within the folds of the cloak are yellow and white objects. He wears a headband and his hair and beard are white (Type L, Phlyax). In his right hand he holds a crooked staff.

To the far right is a double door through which has just come an old woman, who advances towards the phlyax with outstretched arms. She wears a long-sleeved peplos with a thick black border. She has short white hair and a straight nose, and her mouth is open (Type R, Phlyax). Hanging above and between the two figures is a comic mask with a good head of hair, short beard, and open mouth (Type B, Phlyax).

On the reverse, two youths stand facing each other. The one to the left holds a staff in his right hand; his right shoulder is bare. The youth to the right has both arms concealed in his himation. Between them hang a pair of weights, symbol of the palaestra.

This is the name-piece of the McDaniel Painter. Particularly characteristic of this artist are the thin laurel leaves around the rim and the relatively small meander.
Commentary
Re-View Exhibition, Spring 2008, gallery label information:

Red-Figure Bell Krater: Phlyax Scene
Attributed to the McDaniel Painter
Greek (South Italy), Apulian, c. 370 BC
Terracotta
Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Transfer from the Alice Corinne McDaniel Collection, Department of the Classics, Harvard University, 2007.104.4

From the later fifth century BC onward, Greeks in South Italy produced their own red-figure pottery. This krater, for mixing wine with water, depicts two phlyakes, comic actors with masks and padded costumes. Such scenes provide important information about ancient theater production. The otherwise anonymous McDaniel Painter is named after this vase.

Further commentary:

In the fourth century, South Italian red-figure ware provided stiff competition for the Attic pottery industry, eventually replacing it as the import of choice in many markets. The so-called phlyax vessels, produced in greatest numbers in the workshops of Apulia and Paestum, are widely thought to show scenes either from a form of South Italian comedic drama parodying the heroes and themes of Attic tragedy, or from the re-performance of Attic comedy in South Italy (see Cambitoglu and Trendall 1978. See also S. Douglas Olson, Broken Laughter, Oxford University Press, 2007, p. 14ff). The actors, known as phlyakes, are depicted in masks and padded suits, and often sport exaggerated phalluses. Their appearance on these vases, along with components of stage buildings and sets, gives some insight into ancient Greek theater production. The McDaniel Painter, an otherwise anonymous Apulian vase painter, derives his name from this krater's attribution to him. His work is characterized by the thin laurel leaves below the rim of the vessel and the small meander pattern at the ground line of the scene.
--Andreya Mihaloew, 2008
Provenance
Purchased by the Department of the Classics from the sale of the collection of Dr. Jacob Hirsch, held on December 7, 1957 in Lucerne, Switzerland. Agents: Adolph Hess AG, Lucerne and William H. Schab, New York. See auction publication titled "Bedeutende Kunstwerke aus dem Nachlass Dr. Jacob Hirsch". Provenance uncertain but Apulian and identified with a Tarentine workshop.
Bibliography
Dr. Anneliese Kossatz-Deissmann, Medeas Widderzauber als Phlyakenparodie, J. Paul Getty Museum (2000), p. 201, fig. 13

Harvard University Art Museums, Harvard University Art Museums Annual Report 2006-7, (Cambridge, MA, 2008), p. 13, repr.

Stephan Wolohojian, ed., Harvard Art Museum/Handbook, exh. cat., ed. Stephan Wolohojian (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2008)

Exhibition History
Re-View: S422 Ancient & Byzantine Art & Numismatics, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 04/12/2008 - 06/18/2011