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Ladle with Perseus Chasing Gorgons
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Attributed to the Theseus Painter
Greek, Athens, about 510 - 500 B.C.
Terracotta
5 13/16 x 3 1/16 to 3 1/8 in.
86.AE.146

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The Greek hero Perseus pursues the monstrous gorgons around the sides of this Athenian black-figure kyathos. In Greek mythology, Perseus, trapped in a foolish boast, was compelled to obtain the head of the gorgon Medusa, whose gaze turned men to stone. Here Perseus, identified by his winged cap and boots, runs along with his sword drawn. The three gorgon sisters with their winged female bodies and horrifying faces are only slightly distinguished from one another in this unusual portrayal of the myth. Typically, Perseus sneaks up on the sleeping gorgons to behead Medusa, and then the two remaining sisters chase him.

A kyathos was a dipper used to ladle wine from large mixing vessels. The shape entered the Athenian pottery repertoire from Etruria, and Athenian artists may have decorated these foreign shapes primarily for export back to Etruria. In fact, this depiction of the Perseus story draws heavily on Etruscan versions. On this kyathos, as on many of the time, the black-figure decoration was not applied on the natural reddish clay of the vessel but on a specially prepared white slip.