The J. Paul Getty Museum

Apulian Red-Figure Loutrophoros

Object Details

Title:

Apulian Red-Figure Loutrophoros

Artist/Maker:

Attributed to Painter of Louvre MNB 1148 (Greek (Apulian), active 350 - 330 B.C.)

Culture:

Greek (South Italian, Apulian)

Place:

Apulia, South Italy (Place Created)

Date:

about 330 B.C.

Medium:

Terracotta

Object Number:

86.AE.680

Dimensions:

90.2 × 26 cm (35 1/2 × 10 1/4 in.)

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Object Description

With elaborate scenes on both sides, this loutrophoros or ritual vase is characteristic of the work of vase painters in southern Italy around 330 B.C. It was made for the grave and has a hole in the bottom, so could not have served as a container. It was instead a showpiece, made to be seen by mourners. On the shoulder of the vessel stands a Siren. Part bird, part woman, the mythical figure is a symbol of grief and lamentation.

The multilevel composition on the front shows successive moments in one of Zeus's many seductions of a mortal woman. Above, the king of the gods meets with Aphrodite to enlist her help. The goddess of desire, accompanied by Eros, carries an iynx, a wheel-shaped form on strings that served as a love-charm for the seduction. To the left, bearing a flaming torch and thunderbolt, is Astrape, the personification of lighting and attendant to Zeus. To the right sits Eleusis, the personification of the Greek town that was home to the Eleusinian Mysteries, an annual festival that promised its initiates good harvests and a happy afterlife. She is accompanied by a young boy bearing a cornucopia full of wheat. Clearly conveying the idea of agricultural fertility and so an appropriate companion for Eleusis, he is named as Eniautos, the personification of the Year. Below, Zeus reappears in the form of a swan and kisses the Spartan queen Leda. Hypnos, the personification of Sleep, assists Zeus and stretches out his staff as though to lull Leda to sleep. Further to the right, a woman, presumably one of Leda's companions, plucks fruit from a tree, seemingly oblivious to the events, while at the left, another girl flees from the scene in fright.

The reverse of the vase, like so many Apulian vessels made for funerals, depicts a grave monument (naiskos). Within stands a young woman—presumably the deceased—holding a ball of thread, surrounded by visitors bringing gifts to the grave. Given this explicit funerary context, the depiction of Zeus and Leda on the front is more than a simple representation of the myth. Images of individuals being carried off or seduced by gods often served as consolatory metaphors for death in Apulian vase-painting, and here the depiction of Eleusis, with her association to beliefs about fertility and the afterlife, further support this reading. 

Provenance
Provenance
- 1986

Fritz Bürki & Son (Zurich, Switzerland), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1986.

Exhibitions
Exhibitions
Beyond Beauty: Antiquities as Evidence (December 16, 1997 to January 17, 1999)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 16, 1997 to January 17, 1999
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
Aphrodite and the Gods of Love (March 28, 2012 to May 26, 2013)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa (Malibu), March 28 to July 9, 2012
Pompei e i Greci. Metamorfosi (June 6 to October 16, 2017)
  • Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli (Naples), June 6 to October 16, 2017
Bibliography
Bibliography

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