Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Terracotta pelike (jar)

Attributed to Polygnotos
Period:
Classical
Date:
ca. 450–440 B.C.
Culture:
Greek, Attic
Medium:
Terracotta; red-figure
Dimensions:
H. 18 13/16 in. (47.8 cm) diameter 13 1/2 in. (34.3 cm)
Classification:
Vases
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1945
Accession Number:
45.11.1
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 159
Obverse, Perseus beheading the sleeping Medusa
Reverse, King Polypeithes between two women

Perseus was sent to obtain the head of Medusa the Gorgon so as to forestall the prophecy that he would kill his grandfather. Perseus accomplished his mission with the help of Athena and returned to the island of Seriphos whence he had set out. By the mid-fifth century B.C., the story and the motif of the Gorgon's head had become popular in Attic art. The rendering here is unusual, however, because it is one of the earliest in which Medusa's face is that of a beautiful young woman, not of a monster whose gaze turned mortals to stone. Perseus looks unwaveringly at his protectress, Athena. Another important feature here, although not longer readily visible, is that rays surround the hero's head, indicating special stature or power.
Compared with the movement and detail on the obverse, the reverse shows a grand and quiet scene of a king—who is not otherwise known—between two women holding the standard offering utensils.
Polygnotos was a rather current name in classical Athens. It is most often associated with Polygnotos of Thasos who painted large-scale wall paintings in Athens and Delphi that are described in ancient literary sources.
#835. Terracotta Pelike (jar)
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Inscription: The name of King Polypeithes is inscribed.
Richter, Gisela M. A. 1946. Attic Red-Figured Vases: A Survey. p. 128, fig. 86, New Haven: Yale University Press.

Milne, Marjorie J. 1946. "Perseus and Medusa on an Attic Vase." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 4(5): pp. 126–30.

Richter, Gisela M. A. 1953. Handbook of the Greek Collection. pp. 100, 240, pl. 80h, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Richter, Gisela M. A. 1958[1946]. Attic Red-Figured Vases: A Survey, Revised Edition, 2nd edn. p. 128, fig. 86, New Haven: Yale University Press.

Beazley, John D. 1963[1942]. Attic Red-figure Vase-painters, Vols. 1 and 2, 2nd ed. p. 1032, no. 55, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Beazley, John D. 1971. Paralipomena: Additions to Attic Black-Figure Vase-Painters and to Attic Red-Figure Vase-Painters [2nd edition]. p. 442, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Kossatz-Deissmann, Anneliese, Brigitte Servais-Soyez, Fulvio Canciani, Giovannangelo Camporeale, Hans Peter Isler, Ingrid Krauskopf, Odette Touchefeu-Meynier, Marcel Le Glay, and Dr. Jean-Charles Balty. 1984. Aphrodisias-Athena, Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae, Vol. 2. Astra, no. 100, Zürich: Artemis Verlag Zurich und Munchen.

Moret, J.-M. 1984. Œdipe, la Sphinx et les thébains: essai de mythologie iconographique, Bibliotheca Helvetica Romana 23, 2 vols. p. 101, n. 2, Rome: Institut suisse de Rome.

Kossatz-Deissmann, Anneliese, Brigitte Servais-Soyez, Fulvio Canciani, Giovannangelo Camporeale, Hans Peter Isler, Ingrid Krauskopf, Odette Touchefeu-Meynier, Marcel Le Glay, and Dr. Jean-Charles Balty. 1988. Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae, Vol. 4: Eros-Herakles. Gorgo, Gorgones, no. 301, Zürich: Artemis Verlag Zurich und Munchen.

Boardman, John. 1989. Athenian Red Figure Vases: The Classical Period, a Handbook. fig. 136, London: Thames and Hudson, London.

Kossatz-Deissmann, Anneliese, Brigitte Servais-Soyez, Fulvio Canciani, Giovannangelo Camporeale, Hans Peter Isler, Ingrid Krauskopf, Odette Touchefeu-Meynier, Marcel Le Glay, and Dr. Jean-Charles Balty. 1994. Oidipous-Theseus, Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae, Vol. 7. Perseus, no. 115, Zürich: Artemis Verlag Zurich und Munchen.

Reeder, Ellen D., Sally Humphreys, Prof. Mary R. Lefkowitz, Francois Lissarrague, Prof. Margot Schmidt, Prof. H. Alan Shapiro, Christianne Sourvinou-Inwood, Prof. Andrew F. Stewart, Froma Zeitlin, Carol Benson, and Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway. 1995. "Women in Classical Greece." Pandora: Women in Classical Greece. pp. 413–15, fig. 136, detail p. 17, fig. 3, Baltimore: Walters Art Gallery.

Woodford, Susan and Cambridge University Press. 2003. Images of Myths in Classical Antiquity. p. 134, fig. 101, Cambridge.

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