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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Legend in the Vase; The Red Figure Beauty

The Death of Sarpedon

   It is hard to believe how beautiful and informative crater vases can be since they were once simply used for mixing water and wine.  As promised, this is a pristine example of a red figured vase.  As one can see, the characters, while now with more of a brown/gold hue, were originally painted in a red color with a black background.  For an example of black figure, look into our prior post about the François vase.
   However, what is notable about this vase painting is the great deal of history set behind this.  Sarpedon was the son of Zeus, who took part in the Trojan War.  The gods in Olympus foresaw the death of his son, along with various other demigods, on the battlefield.  However, as the lord of the gods, he realized any attempt at intervention would cause chaos and revolution.  Therefore, as told in the Iliad,  Zeus had to watch as his son was killed by an enemy, Patroklos.  The other characters surrounding the dying Sarpedon are θανατος and 'Υπνος (Death and Sleep) with Hermes in the center, leading the wayward man to his final resting place.  Pottery like this helps to strengthen the popularity of myths and fill others with wine.
   Ephroinius, the painter of this vase around 510 BCE, is incredibly famous because he helped to make red figure ware popular.  By choosing a commonly known story, Ephroinius was able to bring together a popular theme.  He painted the story where: "There she sought out Sleep, the brother of Death, took him by the hand and asked his help: ‘Sleep, master of gods and men, if ever you answered a request of mine, do what I ask you now, and I will always owe you thanks. As soon as I lie down in Zeus’s arms, close his gleaming eyes in slumber, and I will give you a fine throne of everlasting gold, that my son, the lame god Hephaestus, will fashion with all his skill, and a stool as well where you can rest your shining feet, when you sip your wine.’ (Iliad 225-229)
Works Cited:
http://litmed.med.nyu.edu/Annotation?action=view&annid=10357

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