Meidias Painter's name vase
Museum: London, British Museum
Size: 52.1cm. (hydria signed on the shoulder by Meidias as maker)
Technique: red-figure with purple, white, dilute washes and gilding
Style: later classical 'ornate'
Subject/s: Upper frieze: the Dioscouroi, Castor and Pollux, abduct the daughters of Leucippus from a sanctuary of Aphrodite. Helera is already in Pollux's chariot that races past a statue of the goddess. Eriphyle is in Castor's arms and his chariot awaits them. Aphrodite lounges at an altar. The Discouroi's father, Zeus, observes, seated on the far left in front of a tree and part of a group that includes Agaue and Chryseis and is balanced, on the right by Peitho, fleeing towards another tree while looking back at the abduction. 'Hills', shrubs and flowers 'enhance' the background much as ornate patterns and jewellery enhance the figures (all named). Below the heroes of Attica become part of myth and cult: encircling the vase, they flank (left) Hygeia (personification of health, her cult newly instated in Athens), the Garden of the Hesperides, and Heracles, seated on a lion skin.
Date: late 5th c.
Analysis: large size, many figures in two friezes, literacy and erudition confirm that this was special piece. The Greek gods and cults and the Attic heroes suggest a special commission for a wealthy Athenian, yet the vase, once in Sir William Hamilton's collection, would have been exported to southern Italy in antiquity. The clinging, revealing, drapery is achieved through many brush strokes. The fine 'embroidered' clothes, jewellery, sandals horse trappings and chariot fittings contribute to an ornate richness that is accentuated by gilding.