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Exekias Kylix or Eye Cup

Page history last edited by Ms Allaker 11 years, 10 months ago


 Exekias Kylix























This is the fourth of the set works  that must be looked at.  This one is a cup which was worked by the same artist as the Belly Amphora we looked at last time.  Like the previous work, it marks a break away from tradition in many ways: this we will look at.



Date:              550-30 BC

Type:             "Eye-cup" Black-figure

Potter:           Exekias-signed

Painter:         ? ? Exekias-unsigned

Width:            30 cm

Subject:        Inside: Dionysos in a ship.


The presence of two large eyes on each side of the outside of this cup have given rise to its popular name, the "eye-cup".  Looking back, what were these cups used for? They were used for __________________ probably at _________________ . This being the case, when the cup was held up to drink, the person drinking would be seen to be "looking" at the person opposite him.  It seems quite likely that Exekias was the inventor of this particular type of cup, which shows a development from earlier models.  The details of this cup are very simple and easy to remember, therefore the level of analysis is a little deeper.


The THREE main ways in which this cup marks a break away from tradition in the potting and painting of cups are:






This kylix is a new shape, possibly invented by Exekias.  It has no offset rim, and the only break in the contour is between the foot and the bowl of the cup.


Subject Matter

Outside:          Painted on the outside are large eyes, hence its common name of an "eye-cup".  These eyes may have been apotropaic.  Under the handles on each side there is a battle scene from the Trojan Wars.  Under one handle, three figures on the right stand over a body, while three figures on the left drag it away.  One of the figures does the dragging, while the other two "ride shotgun" over the body.  Under the other handle there are three men on each side of the body: here the body is clothed.


Inside: The normal decoration for the inside of a kylix was a small framed square in the bottom of the inside.  This vase marks a break with that tradition.  The scene ranges over the whole of the inside of the vase, and is only bordered by the rim of the bowl.  Dionysis is in the centre of the cup surrounded by grapes and dolphins.  Robertson suggests that they were pirates who had tried to capture Dionysis.  Dionysis responded by making the mast turn into a vine, which cracked the boat.  At this the pirates jumped overboard and Dionysis turned them into dolphins.  It may also be his arrival into Greece from Asia Minor in pre-Homeric Times, which was celebrated annually at the City Dionysia.



The background is coral red slip, supposed to resemble both wine and "the wine dark" sea of the Mediterranean.  This slip was produced by mixing ochre and black slips.  Note also the presence of some white to add variety.



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