Signed by Andokides, as potter; Attributed to the Andokides Painter (red-figure decoration); Attributed to Psiax (black-figure decoration)
H. 22 5/8 in. (57.5 cm)
Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1963 (63.11.6)
The striving for more expressive renderings of figures in Attic vase paintings eventually led to the emergence of the red-figure technique, sometime around 530 B.C. As on this amphora, subjects could be drawn with glaze lines, which allowed the artist more freedom when rendering contours and details of anatomy. This particular amphora, one of the earliest executed in the red-figure technique, was made in the workshop of the potter Andokides, where, quite possibly, the new technique was first established. The painter of the red-figure scenes on this vase is anonymous, but he has been called the Andokides Painter after the potter with whom he worked; in fact, the potter's name is incised on the foot of the vessel.
The decoration on the front of the amphora shown here illustrates the struggle between Herakles and Apollo over the sacred tripod at Delphi, the sanctuary of Apollo and one of the greatest sanctuaries in the Greek world. On the tripod at Delphi sat the Pythia, the prophetess who gave oracles, prophetic answers to questions put to the god Apollo. In the illustrated myth, Herakles goes to Delphi to find out how to atone for having killed a man; however, the prophetess refuses to answer him. Enraged, Herakles seizes the sacred tripod, hoping to establish his own oracle, and, thus, becomes involved with Apollo in a tug-of-war. On the amphora, Apollo holds the right side of the tripod in one hand, and his characteristic bow and arrow in the other. Herakles, depicted as a muscular figure, holds his club above his head; his protectress, Athena, accompanies him. Artemis, armed with her bow, accompanies Apollo. Most likely, the Andokides Painter was familiar with the frieze and pediment of the Siphnian Treasury at Delphi, for his style recalls many of the conventions first observed in that monument, particularly the rendering of the gods' muscles. Since we know the approximate dates of the erection of the treasury, stylistic analysis compels us to date the beginning of the Andokides Painter's career to the same datearound 530 B.C.
The exploits of Herakles typically involved human adversaries and monstrous animals. On the white lip of this amphora, the black-figure painter Psiax, who was well versed in the miniature style, painted one such exploitHerakles strangling the invincible Nemean lion, here in the presence of Athena and Hermes.