The Medea krater. Side B: Telephus with infant Orestes, Agamemnon and Clytemnestra
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 B: Telephus with infant Orestes, Agamemnon and Clytemnestra.

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.
Two further plays are illustrated by more than one painter. On the reverse of the Cleveland Painter’s Medea vase is a scene from the Telephus which permits comparison with the Bari Telephus vase and the Würzburg parody of Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazousae. The other play is an Aeschylean tragedy on the death of Sarpedon illustrated in one version by the Policoro Painter again.

The Cleveland Painter’s vase26 shows Telephus, one knee on the altar holding the baby Orestes, an iconography that became canonical (and arguably may have become canonical before our earliest vase). It is an action-packed scene, which, even without a knowledge of the play, has the ability to grab the viewer — two men with drawn swords, a helpless baby appealing for mercy, a wife restraining a man bent on fatal actions. The Cleveland Painter has the simplest version and perhaps is closest to the actual theatrical scene.27 Telephus, with bandaged right leg, holds the baby, who stretches out his arms to his father Agamemnon, who rushes up drawing his sword, while to the right Clytaemnestra seeks to restrain him. In the Bari version a few years later,28 Clytaemnestra is running through a door into the house (?), her left arm raised to her head, while the child reaches out to seize Telephus’ hair. Telephus again has a bandaged leg. Some of the details are different from the earlier version but nothing that could not imply continuing on-stage action. The Würzburg parody29 takes only Telephus from the standard scenes and, because this is comedy, shows the actor’s tights. It leaves out the bandage and substitutes the wineskin for the baby. Nevertheless, the pose is instantly recognisable. All three of these representations suggest vase painters who have been witness to a performance and were captured by the action. In fact, iconographical tradition almost certainly takes over early, and only Würzburg parody and possibly the Cleveland Painter’s vase may directly stage influenced. The corollary may also be valid, however, that iconographical tradition only developed because of frequent productions of the Telephus, and later stage action may have been influenced by the iconography. But here the simplicity of the depiction suggests we may be close to actual stage practice.

26Lucanian kalyx krater c. 400, Cleveland 91. 1: Taplin 1. 102.

27Taplin (37) argues that the iconography, of which there are some twenty versions, came from action on the stage rather than a messenger’s speech; cf. Webster, 47.

28Lucanian bell-krater, 400—375 B. C., Bari, Museo Nazionale 12521; Taplin 3. 105, LCS supp. 3, 35, F6 (416d).

29Apulian bell krater c. 370s B. C., Würzburg H 5697; Taplin 11. 4, RVAp 65, 4/4a.

John Barsby (2002)
(cc) 2010. Photo, text: The Cleveland Museum of Art (CC0 1.0).
Photo: Gary Kirchenbauer.
© 2002. Description: John Barsby. Greek and Roman Drama: Translation and Performance. Bd. 12. Verlag J. B. Metzler. 2002, pp. 193—194.
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 τήλεφος telephus telephos telefo télèphe ὀρέστης ορέστης orestes oreste κλυταιμήστρα klytemnestra clytaemnestra clytemestra clytemnestra clitennestra clitemestra klytaimnestra klytaimestra clytemnestre βασιλιάς ἀγαμέμνων αγαμέμνων αγαμέμνονας rex agamemnon king re agamennone herrscher roi 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 female dress clothes clothing garment abbigliamento femminile damenbekleidung vêtements pour femmes γυναικεία ρούχα male footwear footgear calzatura maschile männerschuhe chaussures hommes ανδρικά παπούτσια ara altar altare autel βωμός ensis sword spada schwert épée ξίφος σπαθί vagina scabbard sheath fodero guaina scheide fourreau θήκη 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 child infant baby bambino kind enfant παιδί μωρό palmette palmetta meander meandros meandro mäander méandre μαίανδρος chlamys clamide χλαμύδος corona stephane crown krone couronne στέφανος στεφάνη infante kleinkind säugling bébé nourrisson βρέφος wave-pattern wave-like ornament wavy policoro painter pittore di policoro-maler peintre de inv no 1991.1