Terracotta plate

Signed by Epiktetos as painter

Period: Archaic

Date: ca. 520–510 B.C.

Culture: Greek, Attic

Medium: Terracotta; red-figure

Dimensions: Diam.: 7 3/8 in. (18.7 cm)

Classification: Vases

Credit Line: Purchase, The Bothmer Purchase Fund, and Schimmel Foundation Inc. and Christos G. Bastis Gifts, 1981

Accession Number: 1981.11.10


The plate shows the rare subject of a boy perched on a rooster, his toes braced against the framing line, reserved in red, of the tondo border. It was found in Vulci on the property of Lucien Bonaparte, prince of Canino, in 1828 and twenty years later passed into the collection of the second marquess of Northampton at Castle Ashby, where it remained until his great-great-grandson, the seventh marquess, sold the entire collection of vases at Christie's (London) on July 2, 1980. It has since been cleaned. The plates by Epiktetos are all by the same potter and differ from other contemporary plates in that they are not equipped with two holes on the rim for suspension. Nine complete plates by Epiktetos are known (of which two are now lost), as are fragments of three others. One of the latter, found on the Acropolis in Athens, bears the signature of Epiktetos as potter, and it is not too farfetched to credit Epiktetos in his capacity as potter with the creation of a special shape of plate. Seven of his complete plates were found in Vulci in the excavations of Lucien Bonaparte: perhaps they were exported as a set.
The great vase scholar Sir John Beazley wrote, "The best of [Epiktetos] is in his plates. You cannot draw better, you can only draw differently. Epiktetos' people are all lightness and fairy grace, as if they belonged to a world where passion and pain were unknown, to those 'woods of Athens' where Oberon reigned in the days before 'the middle summer's spring'" (Attic Red-Figured Vases in American Museums [1918], p. 18).
In ancient Athens the youth riding a rooster undoubtedly made reference to homosexual relations between older men and boys, as well as the practice of giving a rooster as a gift.