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The Amasis Painter Ovoid Lekythos

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


The Amasis Painter Ovoid Lekythos




Amasis Painter 2012  by Stacey



















This is the fifth of the set works that need to be looked at.  It is very much inferior, in my view to the Exekias works.  The next work is by the same person, so will serve as a useful contrast: do try not to get them confused.  You might like to begin by reminding yourself what lekythoi were used for by the Greeks.  They were used for…………..



Date:              550- 540 BC

Type:             Shoulder Lekythos-Black figure

Potter:           Amasis-unsigned 

Painter:         "Amasis Painter"-unsigned

Height:          17.2 cms

Subject:        Every day weaving scene


Since both of these vases are quite simple in their form we will do two quite new things with them.  We will firstly look at some of the background associated with them.  And when we have looked at the vases in details, we will do a comparison with the work of Exekias.  More on that after we've looked at the second one.  Who then was Amasis, and who was "The Amasis Painter"?



Potter: Learnt his trade in Athens, but aspects of his work are distinctly foreign.  Amasis signed 8 pots as potter and all were painted by the same painter: Boardman argues that it is the same person.  The name "Amasis" is the Greek form of the Egyptian name "Ah mosis" Two other things suggest his Egyptian origins.  Firstly, the introduction of the alabasteron shape from Egypt which occurred about this time.  Secondly, Exekias named two negroes on one of his pots, "Amasis" and "Amasos": this suggests that the Amasis that he knew (our vase painter) was a negro from Africa.  He potted no hydriae or kraters, but his large vases include belly amphorae and neck amphorae.  These two lekythoi are amongst his earliest surviving works.


Painter:           His early work is like that of the Siana cup painters in that

a)    Early figures have foldless drapery (like Kleitias)

b)    Later figures have flat angular folds (like Lydos)

            c)     Finally he develops sinuous drapery (like Exekias)


Both the Lekythoi come from the early period.  Did some fine drapery, especially fringed hems.  Used stippling for beards and hair on heads.  He was fascinated by armour and shields, which he incised rather than painting whole.  His groupings of characters show careful symmetry.  Dionysis was a favourite subject, often depicted supervising the vintage, accompanied by satyrs and maenads.  His satyrs are depicted as hairy, with low-hanging buttocks and skinny penises.  His son was Kleophrades a famous red-figure potter.


Subject matter

This vase is an early work, showing largely foldless drapery.  It is novel in that it presents non-heroic subject matter, it is a domestic scene, which shows complexity on a human level.  Both the Upper and Lower friezes encircle the vase.  The figures on both are rather blobby and lacking in detail.


Main (lower) Frieze:

Women at work.  In the centre there are two women at a large upright loom.  Other women are involved in weighing, carding, and spinning the wool, while some fold clothes.  Little attempt to suggest movement.  Note, though, the careful symmetry of the figures.


Upper Frieze:

Very small.  Four maidens are dancing, then two youths.  Next there is a seated figure, (a goddess?), followed by 2 more youths and 4 more maidens.


Composition:The two friezes are separated by a crisscross line around the shoulder



This is the person who was responsible for the previous vase.  This one will take much less time because there is not the same amount of background to do.  Once again for the sake of completeness, you should now revise exactly what lekythoi were used for by the Greeks.  They were used for…………



Date:              550 -540 BC

Type:             Shoulder Lekythos-Black figure

Potter:           Amasis-unsigned

Painter:         Amasis Painter-unsigned

Height:          17.1 cms

Subject:        Wedding procession


Again the scenes portrayed on this vase, are very straightforward.  What you should do now, is to make a comparison  between these two works and those of Exekias.  You should make your comparison in the following areas:

1)    Drapery

2)    Animals

3)    Humans

4)    Composition - how well is it set out ?

5)    Incision details

6)    Emotions and Movement

            7)     Perspective

Your answers need not be in essay form, but must be clear, precise, detailed, and backed up with specific reference to vases.


Subject matter 

Main (lower) Frieze:

A wedding procession with the newly-wed couple and the best man in the cart.  The cart is drawn by two donkeys (white muzzles and stringy tails).  These are far less realistic than even Exekias' animals.  Behind this cart there is another (drawn by mules) containing three further males.  Both carts are led by two women and a man.  The front-most woman leading each cart carries two torches to show that this is taking place in the evening.  The procession is heading for the bridegroom's house, which is under the handle.  There is a woman waiting inside, this is probably the bridegroom's mother awaiting their arrival.  The bride is carrying a garland of some sort.


Upper Frieze:

Three maidens have their hands linked; a youth faces them, playing a double flute; then three maidens facing the other way watching another youth play a lyre; finally three other maidens facing the first youth.  All maidens are singing and dancing.  This is almost certainly a wedding dance, thereby providing a link between the two friezes.

Composition            Exactly the same as the Weaving Lekythos.

Style and Technique

This vase is vastly superior to the other lekythos is terms of the quality of the artistry.  The details are more precise, and more realistic.  There is a sense of motion and direction, which does not exist in the other vase.  The clarity of the incision work is also most impressive.  The upper frieze also sits more easily on the shoulder and has some relationship to the main frieze.



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