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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Funerary Vase of a Child

The Eleusis Amphora

   While this vase may appear to be another, simple black figure vase, this piece proves to be extraordinary both in style and in history.  This proves to be a transitional piece, "proto-Attic", as this period during the mid 7th century proved to be the end of the simple Geometric period.  Also known as the Orientalizing period, black figure pottery began to rise in popularity.  With this style came clear depictions of specific characters, never before so unambiguous.  For example, on the neck, highest frieze of this piece, we can clearly see Odysseus blinding the cycloptic son of Poseidon, Polyphemus.  Works like these begin the later common practice of telling common stories with famous characters. through pottery.  While not as visually stunning as a vase like the François, this Attic black figure is a milestone.
   Found in Eleusis, Greece, this amphora was used to hold the ashes of a small child.  Usually for storing wine or oil, this use of the amphora is rather interesting.  Furthermore, the message given by the vase if fascinating.  First we see Odysseus blinding the drunk giant and then convincing him to tell his father that "no one", the name Odysseus gives him self in this act, did this to him; a demonstration of incredible cunning.  Moving downwards, a lion is seen on the shoulder, or frieze under the neck, having sneaked up onto a boar and now preparing an assault.  Furthermore, in the widest portion of the vase, or the body, Perseus is shown fleeing from the Gorgon sisters after discovering how to approach Medusa undetected and kill her without being seen.  While none of these acts were done entirely by fair play, a theme clearly develops.  This cunning means of defeating a formidable enemy occurs often enough that assumptions could be made.  Most vases following this period would be painted to demonstrate a theme or appreciation to a specific god or demigod.  However, this fledgeling vase most likely reflected the theme of cunningness towards the child inside.  The amphora was most likely painted with these specific figures in order to permanently mark this child as a sly and clever boy.

http://www.archaeologychannel.org/video-guide/video-guide-menu/video-guide-summary/106-the-amphora-of-eleusis
http://www.artres.com/C.aspxVP3=ViewBox_VPage&VBID=2UN365YYC5KV&IT=ZoomImageTemplate01_VForm&IID=2F3C2S6W9DQW&PN=2&CT=Search&SF=0
http://www.beazley.ox.ac.uk/tools/pottery/painters/keypieces/protoattic/eleusis.htm
http://employees.oneonta.edu/farberas/ARTH/arth200/politics/greeks_other.html
http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ht/?period=04&region=eusb
http://www.utexas.edu/courses/introtogreece/lect10/img7erlyprotattic.html

H. W. and Anthony F. Janson, History of Art: the Western Tradition Pearson/Prentice-Hall Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2004

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