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Attributed to a painter close to Lydos
Greek, Athens, about 550 - 540 B.C.
Terracotta
17 15/16 x 12 13/16 in.
86.AE.60

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The Minotaur, a monster with a bull's head and a human body, was the son of the Cretan queen and a bull for which she had developed an irresistible passion. The Minotaur lived in a labyrinth on Crete and devoured human sacrifices of youths and maidens sent as tribute from Athens. When the Greek hero Theseus finally killed the monster, he freed Athens from this horrible burden. The myth of Theseus and the Minotaur was very popular on Athenian vases in the late 500s B.C., possibly due to the Athenian connection with the myth. In this rendition, Theseus plunges his sword through the monster's neck while the freed youths and maidens watch. The youths are shown nude, in poses similar to those found on contemporary kouroi. In his depiction of the encounter, the artist stressed the Minotaur's bestial nature. The Minotaur's weapon is a rock, seen clutched in his hoof-like hand, whereas civilized Theseus fights with a sword. The back of the vase shows two youths mounted on horses, greeted by family members as they return home. Such a scene of returning youths and warriors was a frequent one in Athenian vase-painting. The youths may be mythological figures such as the Dioskouroi, or they may simply be mortals.


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