Attic Red-figure Hydria: The Ransom of Hector

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Greek (active early 6th century BCE)
Attic Red-figure Hydria: The Ransom of Hector, 510-500 BCE
6th century BCE
Archaic period
Creation Place: Athens (Attica)
38.1 cm h x 38 cm diam at handles (15 x 14 15/16 in.)
Beazley Archive Database #352403
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Frederick M. Watkins
, 1972.40
Department of Ancient and Byzantine Art & Numismatics
Re-View Exhibition, Spring 2008, gallery label information:

"Respect the gods, Achilles. Think of your own father, and pity me. . . . I have borne what no man who has walked this earth has ever yet borne: I have kissed the hand of the man who killed my son."

With these words in Book 24 of Homer's Iliad, the Trojan king Priam implores the Greek hero Achilles to let him ransom dead Hector. The scene on this hydria (water jar) is a dense visual rendering of the narrative. Hector's mutilated body is prominent; his wounds and tied ankles recall Achilles dragging the corpse behind his chariot. Just arrived, Priam clasps Achilles' knees in supplication and begins to speak. The reclining hero is startled; his big dinner knife and the now-faded strips of red meat hanging from the table lend him an air of brutality. At right, a suit of armor reminds the viewer of the events that led to the poignant encounter.
[Munzen und Medaillen AG, Basel, May 6, 1967, Auction 34, lot 149], sold; to Frederick M. Watkins, New Haven, CT, (1967-1972), bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1972.
The Frederick M. Watkins Collection, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1973)

George M. A. Hanfmann and David Gordon Mitten, "The Art of Classical Antiquity", Apollo (May 1978), Vol. 107, No. 195, 8-15, fig. 8.

David Gordon Mitten and Amy Brauer, Dialogue with Antiquity, The Curatorial Achievement of George M. A. Hanfmann, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1982), p. 12, no. 17.

Kristin A. Mortimer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums/Abbeville Press (Cambridge, MA; New York, NY, 1985), p. 103, no. 113, ill.

James Cuno, Harvard's Art Museums: 100 Years of Collecting, Harvard University Art Museums/Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (Cambridge, MA, 1996), p. 98-99, ill.

Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC), Artemis (Zürich, Switzerland, 1999), Achilleus 655.

Luca Zoppi, "Reinventing the Iliad", The Word, ed. Sarah MacDonald, Boylan Group (Drogheda, 2004), Vol. 53/No. 9, p. 23

Exhibition History
Dialogue with Antiquity: The Curatorial Achievement of George M.A. Hanfmann, Fogg Art Museum, 05/07/1982 - 06/26/1982
The Frederick M. Watkins Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 01/31/1973 - 03/14/1973
To Bid Farewell: Images of Death in the Ancient World, Rhode Island School of Design, Museum of Art, Providence
Re-View: S422 Ancient & Byzantine Art & Numismatics, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 04/12/2008 - 06/18/2011
Ancient to Modern, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2012 - 06/01/2013