Nestoris (Two-Handled Jar) With Mythological Scenes
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
1960.367
People
Attributed to Choephoroi Painter, Greek ( 360 - 330 BCE)
Title
Nestoris (two-handled jar) with Mythological Scenes
Classification
Vessels
Work Type
vessel
Date
340-320 BCE
Places
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Lucania
Period
Classical period, Late, to Early Hellenistic
Culture
Greek
Location
Level 3, Room 3400, Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Art
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Physical Descriptions
Medium
Terracotta
Technique
Red-figure
Dimensions
65.7 cm h x 48.3 cm diam. (25 7/8 x 19 in.)
Provenance
Cambaceres colleciton (by 1842). David M. Robinson, Baltimore, MD, (by 1960), bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1960.
Aquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of David M. Robinson
Accession Year
1960
Object Number
1960.367
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
Descriptions
Description
Red-figured Lucanian Type II nestoris. Broad ring foot with mid-length stem. Body flares from stem, rounds up, and turns in sharply to form a relatively narrow, flat shoulder. Neck curves up from shoulder and continues almost vertically to the slightly flaring rim. Narrow lip.

Two sets of handles. One set is upswung, beginning at shoulder, continuing above rim, and then curving downward abruptly to attach to rim. These handles are composed of two straps connected at points along the interior with struts. They are decorated along their exterior faces with a delicate black-figure ivy scroll with berries. Two sets of discs, decorated with black-figure sunbursts, are attached to each handle, one approximately half way up from shoulder, one at the topmost point. The topmost discs are likely modern additions. The other two handles are rolled, and are affixed to the body of the nestoris just below the shoulder. These curve upwards, and are decorated with an elongated tongue pattern at the point of attachment.

The vessel is elaborately decorated with four scenes covering the body and neck of the vessel: Orestes at Delphi; Phrixos leading the ram to sacrifice; a battle between Greeks and Easterners; the death of Aktaion.

Separated from its stem by a series of rays and surmounted by a line of meanders with a periodically intervening cross that serves as a groundline, the vessel's obverse shows Orestes at Delphi. In the center of the scene, Orestes, who is naked except for boots and a cape that billows behind him to the left, kneels on a rock, presumably the omphalos. He holds a long dagger up in his right hand, the sheath of the dagger in his left, and he faces left to look at the winged fury who stands behind him with each of her arms bent upwards. Below the fury sits a draped woman with her hand at her chest. Apollo, draped from the waist, stands to the right of Orestes with his right hand up and holding laurel branches in his left arm. The wings of the fury, two bucrania above the scene, the laurel branches, and some other details are in added white. Bordering either side of the scene are florid palmettes.

A broad lotus and palmette register separates this scene from that on the neck showing Phrixos' sacrifice of the ram with the golden fleece. Phrixos, wearing only shoes and a cape at his neck, leads the ram by its horns to an altar of Zeus, which is place at the far left of the scene. The altar is surmounted by an ionic column. Aietes stands between Phrixos and the altar, holds a stick, and faces front. Behind Phrixos stands a veiled, front-facing Chalkiope with her right arm bent up. Behind her is a male in eastern garb who mimics her stance, except that his head faces left and he holds a long staff in his left hand. Bordering the scene on either side are double rows of dots. Above the scene is a thick laurel band, and then above this is a narrow egg and dart register at the rim of the vessel.

Decorative registers and borders on the reverse are identical to those on the obverse.

On the body of the vessel's reverse two bearded Greeks at the left of the scene battle two eastern warriors on the right. The figures are shown in two rows in what appears to be an attempt at representing recession in space. Those in the upper row are presumably meant to be behind those below. The Greeks charge forward with spears in their right hands and shields in their left. Each holds his shield so that the viewer can see its interior. Both are naked except for the chlamys attached around the neck that billows behind. The helmet of the Greek warrior above has slipped backwards. The crested helmet of the Greek warrior below sits firmly on his head. The eastern warrior in the upper row is naked except for his billowing chlamys and an elaborate, slouching headdress. The spear he holds in his right hand is pointing down. In his left hand he holds a bow. The warrior below wears a crested helmet, tunic and trousers decorated with rows of wavy lines. He holds a shield and spear in his right hand. In his left, he holds up an axe.

On the neck of the reverse, antlers sprout from Aktaion's head as he is attacked by four of his dogs. He faces forward and is naked except for his shoes and chlamys. His right arm is bent behind his head and he holds a thick dagger in his right hand. Artemis stands to the left watching. Another woman sits at the right and watches. Vegetal filler indicates that the scene takes place outdoors.

[Andreya Mihaloew, 6/13/2008]
Commentary
This red-figure funerary vase depicts four scenes from Greek myth: Orestes' purification at Delphi, Phrixos leading the golden-fleeced ram to sacrifice, and, on the side visible here, Greeks fighting barbarians (perhaps Trojans) below, and the death of Aktaion above. The nestoris, with its large, up-swung handles decorated with disks, is a local vase type. The rich, dynamic decoration-including a laurel wreath, palmettes, a meander pattern, ivy tendrils, and star rosettes-is also characteristic of South Italian vases.

The hunter Aktaion is shown being transformed into a stag and attacked by his own dogs, as divine punishment for his impudence. The divine huntress Artemis (Diana in the Roman pantheon) stands on the left, observing the scene. A nearby painting by Washington Allston, Diana on a Chase, depicts the goddess hunting, dwarfed by the alpine landscape. On this Greek vase, the surrounding landscape is indicated by stylized foliage and a mound of rocks.

Virginia Anderson label text for Re-View, Opening September 13, 2008
Publication History

A. D. Trendall, "The Choephoroi Painter", Studies Presented to David Moore Robinson, ed. George E. Mylonas and Doris Raymond, Washington University at St. Louis (St. Louis, MO, 1953), Vol. 2, 114-126, pl. 38-44, 124, pl. 43.b.

Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC), Artemis (Zürich, Switzerland, 1999), Aietes 8; Aktaion 45; Artemis 1404; Erinys 59; Gargaphia 3; Nymphai (S) 110; Orestes 19; Phrixos et Helle 45.

Judith M. Barringer, The hunt in ancient Greece, The Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, 2001), p. 240/no. 45

Thesaurus Cultus et Rituum Antiquorum, J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles, CA, 2004-2012), III 6.a Divination, Gr. 159 [illust. pl. 3].

Exhibition History

The David Moore Robinson Bequest of Classical Art and Antiquities: A Special Exhibition, Fogg Art Museum, 05/01/1961 - 09/20/1961

The Art of South Italy: Vases from Magna Graecia, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, 05/12/1982 - 08/08/1982

Re-View: S424-426 Western Art from 1560 to 1900, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/16/2008 - 06/18/2011

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

Google Art Project

Artstor Digital Library

Verification Level

3 - Good. Object is well described and information is vetted