Hydria (Water Jar): The Ransom Of Hector
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

This vessel calls attention to the importance of proper burial. The heroes of the Iliad are afraid that their bodies will lie unburied in the battlefield, ripped apart by dogs and vultures. Trojan Hector escapes this fate when his father, Priam, ransoms his body from the Greek hero Achilles. In this rendering, the wounds and tied ankles of Hector’s body recall how Achilles dragged it behind his chariot. The prominent corpse identifies the scene for the viewer and is appropriate for a water jar: washing the body was an essential part of Greek funerary ritual. In the narrative of the Iliad, in contrast, Hector’s corpse remains hidden while Priam and Achilles converse. Telling a story in word and image requires different strategies. In this image, every element is significant. Achilles’ dinner knife lends him an air of brutality, and the armor on the right evokes the events preceding the ransom.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
1972.40
People
The Pioneer Group, Greek (active early 6th century BCE )
Title
Hydria (water jar): The Ransom of Hector
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Attic Red-figure Hydria: The Ransom of Hector
Classification
Vessels
Work Type
vessel
Date
510-500 BCE
Places
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Athens (Attica)
Period
Archaic period
Culture
Greek
Location
Level 3, Room 3410, South Arcade
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Terracotta
Technique
Red-figure
Dimensions
38.1 cm h x 38 cm diam at handles (15 x 14 15/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: in Greek, "Priamos"
Provenance
[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.
State, Edition, Standard Reference Number
Standard Reference Number
Beazley Archive Database #352403
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Frederick M. Watkins
Accession Year
1972
Object Number
1972.40
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
Publication History

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

Dr. Sheramy D. Bundrick, Selling Sacrifice on Classical Athenian Vases, Hesperia, American School of Classical Studies at Athens (Athens, 2014), vol. 83, no. 4, pp. 653-708, pp. 673-674, fig. 6

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

32Q: 3410 South Arcade, Harvard Art Museums, 11/01/2014

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu