A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Attic red-figured calyx-krater, ca. 515 B.C., signed by Euphronios as painter and by Euxitheos as potter
By now, the story of the "Euphronios krater" is so well known that it could be told as an epic poem in hexametric verse. In short, the Met purchased it in the early 1970s from Robert Hecht. Soon after, rumors flew that the piece had been stolen from a tomb in Cerveteri, an Etruscan site north of Rome. For more than 30 years the Met insisted the artifact had a reliable provenance, but evidence gathered in the Italian police raids proved otherwise.
This calyx-krater ("calyx" referring to its flower-like shape and "krater" to its function as a vessel for mixing wine and water) is well preserved and finely crafted, not to mention that it is signed by both its painter and its potter--making it rare and valuable. It is a masterpiece of vase painting from Attica, the region surrounding Athens. On one side is a view of Sleep and Death lifting the body of Sarpedon, a son of Zeus who was allied with the Trojans. In the graphic scene, streams of blood spurt from the slain hero's limp, muscular body which features details as fine as his delicate eyelashes and tiny toenail cuticles.
Status: The Met will return the krater to Italy in January 2008; until then, it is on display at the museum.
Emblem from a 16-piece Hellenistic silver collection, late 3rd century B.C.
This emblem is part of a hoard of 16 pieces of Hellenistic silver--some of the finest to survive from the Greek colonies in southern Italy and Sicily. After the Met purchased the collection in the early 1980s, Malcolm Bell III, professor of art history at the University of Virginia and co-director of excavations at Morgantina in eastern Sicily, called their provenance into question. Bell seized the unique opportunity to excavate the area of the site from which he believed the pieces were illegally unearthed. He discovered coins that provided the hoard with a specific date, allowing archaeologists to re-create the context in which they were buried. Eventually he also linked inscriptions on the artifacts to a Morgantina family.
This piece is decorated with a relief of Scylla, a Homeric female sea monster, hurling a boulder. In Greek mythology, she worked with Charybdis, a whirlpool, to trap sailors. Bell told ARCHAEOLOGY the emblem was once mounted in a cup and that it was "intended to be read as an amusing admonitory message to a drinker." It would have held wine, which when swirled against the imagery (and consumed too quickly) symbolically left the reveler caught between a rock and a hard place.
Status: On display at the Met. The museum will return the entire hoard to Italy in 2010. Then the collection will travel between Italy and the Met 10 times over the next 40 years.
Laconian black-figured kylix, 6th century B.C.
The Met returned this kylix, or drinking cup, soon after the museum reached its agreement with Italy. The piece was especially rare in the Met's collection of artifacts from Laconia, the region of southern Greece dominated by Sparta until the second century B.C. In the vessel's central scene, a hoplite (infantryman) stands opposite a figure putting on shin guards. The piece shows that while Laconia was known for its martial prowess, the region also produced skilled artists.
Status: The Met returned this kylix to Italy. In exchange, the Italians lent the museum another Laconian kylix in November 2006. The loan piece, from a tomb in Cerveteri (where the "Euphronios krater" was unearthed), will be on display in the museum until November 2010.