The J. Paul Getty Museum

Attic Black-Figure Eye Cup

Object Details


Attic Black-Figure Eye Cup


Attributed to the Painter of the Villa Giulia 63613 (Greek, active about 530 - 510 B.C.)

Signed by Nikosthenes (Greek (Attic), active Athens, Greece 540 - 510 B.C.)


Greek (Attic)


Athens, Greece (Place Created)


about 530 B.C.



Object Number:



11.4 × 34.4 cm (4 1/2 × 13 1/2 in.)

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Object Description

A pair of large eyes frames busts of the hero Herakles and his patron goddess Athena on one side of this black-figure cup. In the 500s B.C., Greek vase-painters frequently placed eyes on cups, perhaps because they were believed to be apotropaic--that is, they had the power to ward off evil -- or so that the cup would be transformed into a mask when a drinker raised it to his lips . Above the left eyebrow runs the signature of the potter Nikosthenes.

The other side of the cup has a similar scene with three busts, two female and one male. The female figure in the middle was once painted white and wears a type of headdress called a polos, typical of Greek goddesses. These busts, however, are harder to identify than those on the front of the cup. Some scholars identify them as Zeus, Hebe, and Hera, suggesting that the subject of the cup as a whole would be the apotheosis of Herakles, his introduction on Mount Olympus as a god. Others, however, interpret the heads as Hades, Persephone, and Demeter and the cup's theme as Herakles' introduction into the Eleusinian Mysteries, a cult that promised a better afterlife to its followers.


Private Dealer (Rome, Italy)

by 1960 - 1961

Private Collection [sold, Auktion 22: Kunstwerke der Antike, Munzen und Medaillen, Basel, May 13, 1961, lot 133, to Walter and Molly Bareiss.]

1961 - 1983

Walter Bareiss, American, born Germany, 1919 - 2007 and Molly Bareiss, American, 1920 - 2006 (Stamford, Connecticut), distributed to the Mary S. Bareiss 1983 Trust, 1983.

1983 - 1986

Mary S. Bareiss 1983 Trust, sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1986.

Meisterwerke Griechischer Kunst (June 18 to September 13, 1960)
  • Kunsthalle Basel, June 18 to September 13, 1960
Weltkunst aus Privatbesitz (May 18 to August 4, 1968)
  • Kunsthalle Köln (Cologne), May 18 to August 4, 1968
Greek Vases and Modern Drawings from the Collection of Mr. & Mrs. Walter Bareiss (June 13 to October 5, 1969)
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), June 13 to October 5, 1969

Beazley, John D. Attic Black-Figure Vase-Painters (Oxford: 1956), pp. 231, no. 10, and 235.

Laurens, Annie-France. Hebe: Images, mythes et cultes. Ph.D. diss, Universite Paris x, Nanterre. 1958, pp. 240-41, cat. no. 77; pl. 67.

Schefold, Karl. Meisterwerke Griechischer Kunst. 2nd ed. (Basel: B. Schwabe, 1960), pp. 24-25, 156, 161, cat. no. 144.

Munzen und Medaillen, Basel. Auktion 22, May 13, 1961, lot 133; pl. 41.

Beazley, J. D. Attic Red-figure Vase-painters. 2nd ed. Oxford: 1963, pp. 122, 1627.

Metzger, Henri. Recherches sur l' imagerie athenienne. Paris: 1965, p. 18, no. 33; pl. 4, top.

May, Helmut, ed. Weltkunst aus Privatbesitz, exh. cat. (Cologne: Druckerei J. P. Bachem, 1968), cat. no. A 17; fig. 5.

Schefold, Karl. "Antiken aus Privatbesitz in Koeln," Antike Kunst 11 (1968), pp. 118-119, p. 118.

Bothmer, Dietrich von, and J. Bean. Greek Vases and Modern Drawings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Bareiss. Exh. checklist, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: 1969, p. 4, no. 38.

Beazley, J. D. Paralipomena. Additions to Attic Black-figure Vase-painters and to Attic Red-figure Vase-painters. 2nd ed. Oxford: 1971, p. 109.

Vacano, Otto von. Zur Entstehung und Deutung gemalter seitenansichtiger Kopfbilder auf schwarzfiguren Vasen des griechischen Festlandes. Bonn: 1973, pp. 78-79, and 234, cat. no. A170.

Berard, Claude. Anodoi: essai sur l'imagerie des passages chthoniens. Rome: 1974, p. 72, n. 5.

Boardman, John. Athenian Black Figure Vases (New York: 1974), p. 198.

Schauenburg, Konrad. "Athenabuesten des Bowdoinmalers." Archaeologischer Anzeiger (1974), pp. 149-157, p. 152, n. 21.

Riccioni, Giuliana. "Immagini di Eracle e Teseo su una kylix attica di Vulci," Melanges offerts a Jacques Heurgon: L'Italie preromaine et la Rome republicaine, 2. Rome: 1976. pp. 903-913, p. 904, n. 2.

Schauenburg, Konrad. "Zu einer Kleinmeisterschale in Privatbesitz." Archaeologischer Anzeiger (1981), pp. 333-343, p. 240, n. 29.

True, Marion, and Jiri Frel. Greek Vases: Molly and Walter Bareiss Collection (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1983), pp. 26-27, no. 14, fig. 14; p. 75, no. 94.

Brommer, Frank. "Herakles und Theseus auf Vasen in Malibu," Greek Vases in the J. Paul Getty Museum 2. Occasional Papers on Antiquities 3 (1985), pp. 183-228, pp. 189-90, 192; figs. 8a-b (S.80.AE.300).

"Acquisitions/1986." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 15 (1987), pp. 160-61, no. 7.

Lindner, Ruth, et al. "Hades." In Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae IV (1988), pp. 367-394, p. 374, no. 33.

Jordan, J. A. "Attic Black-figured Eye-cups." Ph.D. diss. (New York University, 1988), pp. 46, cat. no. C 52; 51-52, 103.

Laurens, Annie-France. "Hebe I." In Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae IV (1988), pp. 458-464, p. 461, no. 28.

Kossatz-Deissmann, Anneliese. "Hera." In Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae IV (1988), pp. 659-719, p. 714, no. 470.

Beazley Addenda: Additional References to ABV, ARV2, and Paralipomena. 2nd ed. Compiled by T. Carpenter with T. Mannack and M. Mendonca. Oxford: 1989, p. 67.

Boardman, John, et al. "Herakles." In Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae V (1990), pp. 1-192, p. 144, no. 3078; pl. 135.

Clark, Andrew J. Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. The J. Paul Getty Museum 2 (USA 25). The Molly and Walter Bareiss Collection. Malibu: 1990, pp. 60-63; pls. 110-112, and 113, 2. See Clark's bibliography for additional citations.

Matheson, Susan B. "The Mission of Triptolemos and the Politics of Athens," Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 35,4 (Winter 1994), pp. 345-372, p. 366; pl. 3.

Guentner, Gudrun. "Persephone." In Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae VIII (1997), pp. 956-978, p. 964, no. 134; pl. 647.

Tosto, Vincent. The Black-figure Pottery Signed NIKOSTHENES EPOIESEN. Amsterdam: 1999, cat. no. 166.

Spivey, Nigel and Squire, Michael. Panorama of the Classical World (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2004), p. 79, fig. 121.

Bentz, Martin, Geominy, Wilfred and Mueller, Jan Marius (eds.) Tonart: Virtuosität antiker Töpfertechnik. Petersburg: Verlag, Michael Imhof, 2010, pp.51,106, figs.13,26.

Bundrick, Sheramy D. "Athenian Eye Cups in Context." AJA 119.3 (2015), 318.