Column–krater (bowl for mixing wine and water), ca. 350–320 b.c.; red–figure
Attributed to the Group of Boston 00.348
Greek, South Italian, Apulian
Terracotta; H. 20 1/4 in. (51.51 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1950 (50.11.4)
Obverse: artist painting a marble statue of Herakles
Reverse: Athena surrounded by other deities
The vase provides a rare example of the painting of marble sculpture—a common practice in antiquity. At work on a marble statue of Herakles, the artist is recognizable by his cap and garment, an exomis, which affords maximum ventilation and freedom of movement. Two steps of the process of painting sculpture can be distinguished in this scene. First, the mixture of mineral-based pigments are heated and mixed. Second, the artist applies the color to the surface of the marble with rods that are likewise kept warm in the charcoal brazier by the young assistant of seemingly African descent on the left. To the far left is a column, which indicates that the scene takes place inside a sanctuary. The god Herakles, who is invisible to the artisans, approaches from the right. Zeus and Nike are seated above. On the reverse of the krater, Athena, the protectress of Herakles, is seated in the center and converses with one of the Dioskouroi, either Castor or Pollux. To the left, Hermes, the messenger god, turns away from Pan, his son, while Eros plays with a bird below. Surely complementary, the pictures may refer to the apotheosis of Herakles. Rather than driving to Mount Olympos in a chariot, Herakles sees himself monumentalized in stone, while Athena, her task accomplished, takes her ease between divine travelers.