The Medea krater. Side A: Medea departing in a chariot after killing her children
Red-figured calyx-krater. Lucania.
Ca. 400 BCE.
Attributed to the Policoro Painter.
Diam. of mouth: 49.9; overall: 50.5; diam. of foot: 22 cm.
Inv. No. 1991.1.Cleveland, Museum of Art

The Medea krater. Side A: Medea departing in a chariot after killing her children.

Red-figured calyx-krater. Lucania.
Ca. 400 BCE.
Attributed to the Policoro Painter.
Diam. of mouth: 49.9; overall: 50.5; diam. of foot: 22 cm.
Inv. No. 1991.1.

Cleveland, Museum of Art.

Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund. Entered the museum in 1991.

27. Medea Departing in a Chariot (side A); Telephos, Agamemnon, and Baby Orestes (side B)

Red-figured calyx krater, ca. 400 B. C.
Attributed to near the Policoro Painter
From Lucania, South Italy
H: 50.5 cm (1978 in.);
Diam (rim): 49.9 cm (1958 in.);
Diam (foot): 22 cm (81116 in.)
Purchase, Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund
Cleveland Museum of Art 1991.1

This intact and imposing Lucanian calyx krater attributed to near the Policoro Painter uniquely illustrates two scenes most likely inspired by two plays written and produced for the Athenian stage by Euripides. The association is strengthened by the references in the two scenes to children either murdered or purposely endangered in Greek myth. The Greek colonists of South Italy and Sicily held Athenian drama in reverent esteem and had a particular fondness for Euripides.

On the obverse is an inventively dramatic depiction of the final scene of Euripides’ Medea, which premiered in Athens in 431 B. C. Medea is the center of attention, wearing a Phrygian helmet and driving an airborne chariot yoked to enormous spotted snakes within a radiate nimbus. The coiled bodies of the bearded and crested serpents partially obscure her chariot as Medea goads them on with a kentron in her right hand and the reins grasped in her left. She does not take her dead sons with her as in the play, but has left their lifeless bodies pathetically draped over an altar below to the right. A tattooed old nurse standing behind the altar is overcome with grief at the sight; the aging paidagogos behind her reacts with restrained horror. Jason, shown with curly hair and beard, looks up helplessly at Medea from the lower left. Before him on the ground are a leaping dog and an overturned hydria. Hideous hook-nosed and winged Erinyes with sagging breasts look down on the grisly scene from the upper left and right corners, a detail not found in other representations of Medea.

It is likely that the scene on the reverse was inspired by Euripides’ lost play Telephos, first performed in Athens in 438 B. C. Telephos, the son of Herakles and Auge, was wounded by Achilles after the Greeks landed in Mysia by mistake. An oracle revealed to him that his wound could be healed only by the person who inflicted it. Telephos traveled to Greece and sought the aid of Klytaimnestra, and in desperation he took the baby Orestes hostage to compel Agamemnon to help him. Agamemnon agreed to heal his wound with the rust from Achilles’ spear.

On the krater Telephos, bearded, is shown with his left knee propped up on a blood-spattered altar and his right thigh wrapped in a bandage. He holds the infant Orestes hostage while brandishing an upright sword. With arms extended, Orestes gestures to his parents, Agamemnon and Klytaimnestra, to save him. Orestes is dressed in short boots, and a string of amulets is suspended from his shoulder. At the center of the scene, Agamemnon is bearded and wears laced boots. His mantle slides down his left arm and flaps in the air as he draws his sword from a scabbard and begins to rush toward Telephos and his son. Behind him Klytaimnestra, wearing a crown, peplos, and pinned mantle, extends her arms in a gesture similar to her son’s. According to the myth, this scene of threatened violence will be resolved without bloodshed.

Michael Bennet (2010)

LIMC I (1981), s. v. Agamemnon, p. 260, no. 14a;
Tompkins 1983, pp. 76—79, no. 14 (Cody);
Apollo 117 (June 1983), pp. 493—495, fig. 7 a-b;
LIMC III (1986), s. v. Erinys, p. 837, no. 101;
LIMC V (1990), s. v. Iason, p. 635, no. 71;
Sotheby’s New York 1990, no. 14 (illus., color);
Cleveland Museum of Art 1991a, p. 72 (illus., color);
Carpenter 1991, fig. 283;
Cleveland Museum of Art 1992b, p. 76, no. 1;
LIMC VI (1992), s. v. Medeia, no. 36, pl. 199;
Cleveland Museum of Art 1992c, pp. 18—19;
Taplin 1993a, pp. 16—17, 22—23, 26, 37—38, 116—117, nos. 1.101 and 1.102, facing p. 20 (illus.);
Aellen 1994, p. 39 n. 39;
LIMC VII (1994), s. v. Telephos, pp. 866—867, no. 59, pl. 600;
Easterling 1997, p. 79, fig. 12;
Sourvinou-Inwood 1997, pp. 269—271, fig. 3 (erroneously called a bell krater);
Matheson 1997—1998, pp. 23—24, fig. 5 (detail);
CVA Cleveland (2000), fasc. 35, pp. 48—49, pl. 89—91;
Neils et al. 2003, exh. cat, fig. 17, p. 23;
Revermann 2005, pp. 3—18;
Storey and Allan 2005, p. 152, fig. 2.4;
Cassimatis 2005, fig. 2A—B, pp. 48—49;
Taplin 2007, pp. 122—123.

Dipinta sul cratere a calice lucano a figure rosse, datato al 400 a. C. circa e attribuito a un pittore della cerchia del Pittore di Policoro vediamo Medea sul carro in posizione predominante che si staglia dentro il cerchio del Sole, mentre riversi su un altare giacciono i corpi dei figli, con accanto due vecchi che li piangono, dall’altra Giasone inerme, mentre due Erinni alate completano la cornice che circonda la protagonista. Tra Giasone e i figli sull’altare, incorniciati tra due piante, ci sono un agnello in atto di balzare in avanti e un’anfora piegata su un lato, dettagli che a mio parere forniscono un’importante chiave di lettura della scena. Ora chi vedeva il cratere non poteva non cogliere l’allusione all’agnello (entrato come vecchio ariete) che salta fuori dal calderone di Medea dipinto su parecchi vasi e che qui, possiamo supporre, è uscito con un salto dall’anfora. Conteneva vino quell’anfora?

Sandra Busatta (2015)

On South Italian vases of the late 5th—4th century, Medea is sometimes depicted standing in the chariot dressed as a Persian andwearing armor. For example, the famous Policoro Painter’s vase (c. 420—380 BCE) in the Cleveland Museum of Arts depicts Medea in a Persian costume that includes a helmet and double baldric crossing her chest. For detailed discussion, see C. Pache, Baby and Child Heroes in Ancient Greece, Urbana and Chicago, 2004, pp. 25—42.

Lora Holland (2008)
Cartledge, Paul. The Cambridge Illustrated History of Ancient Greece. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. pp. 246—247.
Neils, Jenifer, John Howard Oakley, Katherine Hart, and Lesley A. Beaumont. Coming of Age in Ancient Greece: Images of Childhood from the Classical Past. New Haven: Yale University Press in association with the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, 2003. fig. 17, pp. 23, 217—218.
Hart, Mary Louise, and J. Michael Walton. The Art of Ancient Greek Theater. Los Angeles, Calif: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010. cat. no. 27, p. 72—73.
Fortenberry, Diane and Rebecca Morrill. Flying Too Close to the Sun: Myths in Art from Classical to Contemporary. London: Phaidon Press Limited, 2018. Reproduced and mentioned: p. 189.
(cc) 2010. Photo, text: The Cleveland Museum of Art (CC0 1.0).
Photo: Gary Kirchenbauer.
© 2010. Description (1): Hart, Mary Louise. The art of ancient Greek theater. Published on the occasion of an exhibition on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Aug. 26, 2010 — Jan. 3, 2011. Los Angeles, 2010. P. 75—73, cat. no. 27.
© 2015. Description (2): Sandra Busatta. Medea come dea del vino a Corinto. Antrocom Online Journal of Anthropology vol. 11. n. 2 (2015), p. 52.
© 2008. Description (3): Lora Holland. Last Act In Corinth: the Burial of Medea’s Children (E. MED. 1378-83), p. 414, note 32.
Keywords: κεραμικά ceramics clay terracotta ceramica keramik céramique ελληνική μυθολογία mythologia graeca greek mythology mitologia greca griechische mythologie grecque νοτιοταλικό southitalian southern italy mezzogiorno meridione süditalienisch süditalien suditalien ἰάσων ιάσονας ιάσων jason iason giasone giasóne μήδεια medea médée ἐρινύς ερινύες εὐμενίδες ευμενίδες erinyes erinys eumenides erinni eumenidi erinnyen érinyes érinnyes euménides technique tecnica vasenmalerei ερυθρόμορφος red figure red-figure red-figured a rosse rotfigurige rotfiguriger à figures rouges κρατήρ κρατήρας krater сrater cratere cratère λευκανία λουκανία lucania lucanian lucana lukanien lukanische lucanienne calyx-krater calice kelchkrater en male footwear footgear calzatura maschile männerschuhe chaussures pour hommes ανδρικά παπούτσια ara altar altare autel βωμός endromis endromidis endromides cothurnus topboot boot boots stivali endromide stiefel stiefeln bottes ἐνδρομίς barba barbatum beard bearded man uomo barbuto bart bärtiger mann barbe homme barbu γενειάδα γενειοφόρος άνθρωπος maeonia mitra phrygian cap berretto frigio cappello berretina phrygische mütze bonnet phrygien wheel ruota rad roue τροχός torquis necklace collana halskette collier κολιέ palmette palmetta mortem death decease morte decesso tod mort décès trépas θάνατος crested snake serpent serpente crestato schlange mit haube crête huppé κορωνίδα φίδι tack harness finimenti geschirr harnachement rein reins redini zügel rêne rênes guides bride ηνία alatus alata winged geflügelte ailée φτερωτό φτερωτή amphora amphore anfora ἀμφορεύς αμφορέας cadaver corpse dead body cadavere morto leichnam verstorbene cadavre meander meandros meandro mäander méandre μαίανδρος paedagogus paidagogos tutor mentor pedagogue mentore pedagogo pädagoge tuteur pédagogue μέντορας παιδαγωγός pole shaft stanga deichsel timon chariot drawn by snakes serpents carro trainato da serpenti wagen gezogen von schlangen char tiré par des old woman vecchia alte frau greisin vieille femme ηλικιωμένη γυναίκα wave-pattern wave-like ornament wavy policoro painter pittore di policoro-maler peintre de vecchio greis alter vieux vieil sun sole sonne soleil lamb agnello lamm agneau lamentatio mourning lamentation compianto beweinung déploration persian clothing abbigliamento persiano persische kleidung vêtements persans double crossed baldric balteo incrociato doppio doppelt gekreuzte wehrgehänge croisé kentron goad κέντρον wet-nurse nutrice amme nourrice inv no 1991.1