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Currently on view at: Getty Villa, Gallery 103, Athenian Vases
Attic Red-Figured Kylix
Attributed to Brygos Painter (Greek (Attic), active about 490 - 470 B.C.)
Athens, Greece (Place Created)
11.2 × 39.1 × 31.4 cm (4 7/16 × 15 3/8 × 12 3/8 in.)
He must not be seen! I will cover his body, I will wrap him completely in my mantle. No one who loved him could bear to see the dark blood pouring from his nostrils and the raw wound in his breast.
So declared Tekmessa when she discovered the body of her dead lover Ajax in an Athenian tragedy by the playwright Sophokles. Ajax was one of the greatest of the Greek heroes in the Trojan War. The matter of his suicide was recounted in epic poetry now lost to us, but Athenian vase-painters in the early 400s B.C. drew on this tradition in showing his death.
The interior of this red-figure cup attributed to the Brygos Painter shows Ajax impaled on his sword and Tekmessa running to cover the body. The corpse lies supine, with the head cast back, beard projecting upwards, and hair trailing behind the head. Beneath Ajax, the Brygos Painter attempted to convey the texture of the pebble beach where the hero went to die.
The exterior of the cup presents the events leading to Ajax's suicide. After Achilles had been killed, Ajax recovered his body from the Trojans. He expected to be rewarded with Achilles' armor, but Odysseus, who had fought off the Trojans as Ajax carried off the corpse, also laid claim to the armor. One side of this cup shows the two heroes with swords drawn, quarreling over who deserves the prize. Their comrades have to restrain them as Agamemnon tries to keep them apart. On the other side, the Greeks cast votes in the form of stones piled on a low plaform in front of the opponents. The despondent Ajax clutches his bowed head, having lost by one vote.
Greek Vases and Modern Drawings from the Collection of Mr. & Mrs. Walter Bareiss (June 13 to October 5, 1969)
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), June 13 to October 5, 1969
Poets and Heroes (November 4, 1986 to February 28, 1987)
- Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University (Atlanta), November 4, 1986 to February 28, 1987
Ancient Art from the Permanent Collection (March 16, 1999 to May 23, 2004)
- The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 16, 1999 to May 23, 2004
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