Wine Cup with Dionysos and an Actor
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Bruce White Photography
Gift of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman

Attributed to the Painter of the Fleischman Phylax Cup
Greek, Apulia, South Italy, 360 - 350 B.C.
2 5/16 x 9 7/16 x 6 5/16 in.

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The Greek god Dionysos appears on this Apulian red-figure cup in his role as the god of theater. An actor costumed as a phlyax and holding a wreath stands before Dionysos. The god sits on a chair with a cloak wrapped around his legs holding a phiale, or offering dish, which contains three white objects, perhaps eggs. The term phlyax is used for both farces parodying the heroes and themes of mythology or the comic elements of everyday life and for the actors who performed them. These plays were popular in the 300s and 200s B.C. in the Greek colonies in Italy. The term phlyax probably derives from the Greek verb "to swell" and finds its meaning in the actor's costume of a mask, tights, a padded tunic, and a large artificial phallus. On the outside of this cup, set on a low disk foot, a seated woman holding another phiale with eggs faces a kneeling Eros holding a fillet or ribbon. On the other side, a similar scene is depicted. A nude boy kneels before a woman holding a phiale and a mirror.

This cup represents a change in the theatrical scenes that were so popular on South Italian pottery. About 360 B.C., painters shifted from depicting scenes from plays to alluding to the theater by showing either an actor or Dionysos.