Magna Graecia, South Italy, Apulian, attributed to the Strotgen Painter, ca. 340 to 330 BCE. A masterful Apulian red-figure volute-krater (mixing bowl) attributed to the Strotgen Painter, the vase of a monumental scale, presenting an elegant form with extensive iconography and elaborate decoration (see extended description below), all expertly delineated in red-figure technique with additional fugitive white, orange, and red pigments. An exceptional and important work displaying mesmerizing artistry and the utmost technique. Size: 17.5" W at widest point x 31.5" H (44.4 cm x 80 cm)
Refined vases like this volute krater were not merely utilitarian pottery, but rather works of art in their own right, highly prized throughout the classical world. Furthermore, virtually no ancient Greek paintings have survived the tests of time. This makes the painted compositions found on ceramic vessels like this example invaluable sources of information about ancient Greek visual art. Red figure pieces in particular allowed for the development of more naturalistic imagery than black figure examples. This innovative technique involved creating figures by delineating them in the natural red of the vase, making it possible for the painter to then enrich the figural forms with black lines to suggest volume, perspectival depth, and movement, bringing those silhouettes and their environs to life. Beyond this, fugitive pigments made it possible for the artist to create additional layers of interest and detail.
Side A of this volute krater features two figures delineated in added white pigment within a naiskos; the figure on the right sits upon a crimson mantle, and faces right; however his head is turned in three-quarter view, as he plays a kithara (a seven-string instrument of the lyre family) in the nude. Standing to his left is a youth, partially draped in an orange himation with cascading folds billowing over his physique, who leans upon a knobby staff. Surrounding this pair of figures and the naiskos are four offering bearers, three female and one male. Adorning the neck is a helmeted head, depicted in profile to the left, delineated in added white and orange, emerging from a stylized flower (or possibly patera) and flanked by a verdant surround of flowering sinuous vines, with a register of eight-petaled flowers above and a band of frets on the shoulder below. The volutes boast molded relief mascaroons in the form of frontal facing female heads with curly coiffures and gently smiling faces in added white, orange, and red pigments.
Side B features four additional offering bearers, three male and one female, sitting and standing around a stele that is adorned with ivy vines on its base, a register of Greek key at the lower end, a ribbon at the center, and a cap of zigzags, striations, and trios of dots, with elaborate palmettes on the neck, framed by registers of wave, egg-and-dart, and laurel leaves above and a band of frets on the shoulder below. The volutes on this side present molded relief mascaroons in the form of frontal facing female heads of the same likeness as those on the obverse, though painted in black.
Adding further interest to this impressive iconographic and decorative program are the elaborate palmettes beneath each handle and four plastic (completely in the round) swan heads emerging from the shoulders and flanking the handles - a pair of white swans above Side A, a pair of black swans above Side B, this black-and-white contrast (also seen in the mascaroons) perhaps symbolizing day and night, good and evil, or life and death. In the Classical world, the swan symbolized grace and beauty, and was oftentimes associated with love, poetry, and music - related particularly with lyres and instruments in the lyre family like the kathara featured on this piece. Furthermore, the swan was regarded as sacred to Aphrodite and Apollo. According to Greek mythology, sacred swans circled the island of Delos seven times when Apollo was born, because it was the seventh day of the month. Zeus showered his son with lavish gifts including a chariot drawn by swans and a lyre. Aphrodite also rode a chariot that is sometimes depicted pulled by swans, though oftentimes by doves, and she is commonly depicted riding a swan. Finally, in the story of Leda and the Swan, Zeus, assuming the form of a swan, famously seduced Leda.
A remarkable vase of the so-called Ornate Style by the Strotgen Painter of an impressively grand scale, decorated with an ultra fine hand as well as in an elaborate manner with intriguing scenes and figures as well as a great deal of subsidiary ornament in added colors.
A comparable volute-krater, with duck heads on the shoulders and a similar elaborate decorative/iconographic program sold at Christie's for $158,500 (7 December 2011, Christie's Special Exhibition Gallery, Lot 128) - http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/an-apulian-red-figured-volute-krater-attributed-to-the-5509164-details.aspx. Another example from Royal Athena Galleries, attributed to the workshop of the Baltimore Painter and with an arguably less sophisticated painting technique, is listed for $45,000. Follow this link - http://www.royalathena.com/PAGES/GreekCatalog/Vases/SouthIt/GJP0602R.html
Provenance: Ex- Collection of James Farmer, Maryland, collected from major galleries and auction houses between 1995 and 2005; Ex-Christie's New York (7 December 1995, Lot 92); Ex-Leo Mavrovitis collection
All items legal to buy/sell under U.S. Statute covering cultural patrimony Code 2600, CHAPTER 14, and are guaranteed to be as described or your money back.
A Certificate of Authenticity will accompany all winning bids.
We ship worldwide to most countries and handle all shipping in-house for your convenience.