Magna Graecia, Southern Italy, Apulia, attributed to the Baltimore Painter, ca. 330 to 320 BCE. An impressive Apulian red-figure amphora of a grand scale, presenting an elegant form with intriguing iconography (see extended description below) and elaborate decoration, all finely delineated in red-figure technique with additional fugitive white, yellow, and beige pigments. A remarkable vase of the so-called Ornate Style that has been attributed to the Baltimore Painter (see more on this artist in the extended description below). Interestingly, this vessel is hollow all the way through, perhaps so that libations could be poured through it to honor the deceased. A very fine work displaying exceptional artistry and technique. Size: 8.875" in diameter x 20.5" H (22.5 cm x 52.1 cm)
According to A.D. Trendall, "The Baltimore Painter is the most important and significant of the later Apulian vase-painters and, in view of the fact that many of his vases and those of his associates come from the area around Canosa, it is likely that his workshop was located in that city. His vases have much in common with those of his Tarentine contemporary, the Underworld Painter, particularly in regard to their subject-matter, monumental dimensions, multi-figured compositions, and ornamental patterns, but they differ greatly in the drawing of the faces and in the rendering of the drapery, in both of which the Baltimore Painter is much bolder and more assertive." (A.D. Trendall "Red Figure Vases of South Italy and Sicily" Thames and Hudson, 1989, p. 97)
Side A of this amphora features a seated nude male, probably a portrait of the deceased individual honored by the vessel, within an ionic-columned naiskos. Apparently a revered warrior in his time, he holds a spear in his right hand and a conical helmet in his left hand and rests upon a sumptuous, drapery-covered seat with a patera below and a large shield to his left. On the wall is a greave to protect his shin. Side B presents a very large and attractive head of a Lady of Fashion wearing a saccos (head scarf) with pearl strands and hair pins, a drop earring, and a double-strand pearl necklace.
In addition to the figural imagery are the extensive decorative elements. Note the continuous band of laurel leaves beneath the rim created via fugitive white pigment, the black fan palmettes and vertical rays on the neck above the Lady of Fashion, and on the opposite side, the red and white fan palmette above a row of white tongues, in turn above the ornamented pediment of the naiskos, as well as the elaborate tendrils dotted with round berries or flower buds flanking the naiskos. Below the naiskos is a register of angular meander, and below the entire painted program is a Greek key band that surrounds the lower end of the vessel's body. Finally, beneath the elegant twin handles are large, double, red-figure palmettes.
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. Refined vases like this amphora were not merely utilitarian pottery, but rather works of art in their own right, highly prized throughout the classical world. Red figure pieces in particular allowed for the development of more naturalistic imagery than black figure examples. This innovative technique involved creating figures by outlining 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.
A similar though larger amphora, also attributed to the Baltimore Painter sold for $20,700 at Christie's New York on 4 June 1999 (Sale 9172, Lot 42). See http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/an-apulian-red-figure-amphora-attributed-to-the-1519944-details.aspx
Provenance: private Carlton collection, Los Angeles, California, USA
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