Vessel with Herakles and Alkyoneus
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Attributed to the Kleophrades Painter
Greek, Athens, about 480 B.C.
22 5/16 to 22 3/8 x 14 3/4 in.

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Scenes from the labors of the Greek hero Herakles encircle the neck of this Athenian red-figure volute-krater. On the front of the vase, Herakles' companion Iolaos prepares to drive off the cattle of Geryon, while Herakles and the goddess Athena prepare to attack the sleeping giant Alkyoneus. On the back of the vase, Herakles first subdues the Keryneian hind, then beheads the Lernean Hydra, and finally wrestles the Nemean lion. These excerpts are portrayed with humorous overtones; such a light-hearted approach corresponds well with the krater's role as a mixing vessel for wine and water at a symposium or aristocratic drinking party.

An intense red glaze covers the body of this volute-krater. Coral-red technique, an intentional red surface on a vase, was an unusual process used almost exclusively on cups and small vessels. Its use on a large vessel like this krater was extremely rare. The difficult technique used to achieve this red surface required precisely controlled firing conditions. Few potters appear to have been interested in this time-consuming and presumably expensive process.