Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Brygos Painter's Troy Cup

Another artist best of  his kind 
Paris, Louvre, G152, from Vulci.  Iliupersis kylix by the Brygos Painter.  A. Iliupersis
The woman with the pestle is labeled Andromache.  ARV2, 1962, 369, 1.

Paris, Louvre, G152.  Iliupersis kylix by the Brygos Painter.  B. Iliupersis; at right, Neoptolemos is about to kill King Priam, slinging his grandson's dead body at his head.


Probably a little younger than the Berlin Painter, the principal artist who painted the vases, mostly kylixes, made by Brygos (and may have been the potter himself) again, though evidently a full-time vase-painter, with more than 200 attributions to his hand of surviving work, was a truly great artist by any standards.  We have only to compare the work of the best artists in his Circle, and they are excellent themselves, to realize his greatness.  Perhaps the Kleophrades Painter, who also painted a Death of Priam (on the shoulder of a kalpis hydria [Boardman, Archaic RF, 135; ARV2, 1962, 189, 74] in Naples), perhaps slightly later or only different, can compete with him: equally powerful and tragic, but not so heartrending and not so so beautiful.  Both, however, may have had similar prototypes in mind, showing the young woman rushing to defend Troy with her pestle (representations of pestles are rare), and it is because the Brygos Painter labeled his 'Andromache' that Beazley called the unnamed girl on the hydria Andromache (?).
Nothing human is alien to the Brygos Painter.  Nothing seems to be difficult for him; though his drapery still uses the Archaic pleating, it moves perfectly with the action or attitude of the bodies.  Action, relevant action, unifies the compositions.  The fury of young Neoptolemos, the pitiable limpness of Astyanax's corpse, old Priam's loss of regal dignity all are unforgettably portrayed.  From the Brygos Painter, here and elsewhere in his work, we come to understand exactly how the full chiton, and how the heavy himation fell away from the woman as she fled in terror.
Boardman likes the Brygos Painter, too, and provides numerous pictures.

London, British Museum, E44, by Onesimos in the period when Panaitios was kalos, 
from Vulci.  ARV2, 1962, 318, 2.  Hetaira and older man.
As Beazley said, "The earlier work of the Brygos Painter runs parallel with the work of Onesimos in that artist's later—post-Panaetian—phase (p. 313), and has a good deal in common with it, but the temperament is different."  We cannot say that the Brygos Painter was a pupil of Onesimos or learned in his studio.  I never shall doubt, however, that the young Brygos Painter studied Onesimos in those earlier, Panaitios kalos, works, admired them greatly, understood them.  I illustrate a very old photo of the London cup that I love so much, where he leaves it to us to imagine the conversation between the woman and her companion.  Was the basket for a picnic?  What has gone awry?  Nothing could be more universally comprehensible than this picture.  Never mind that it is quite early in the 490s, I think, when drawing a female clad only in the thinnest linen must show her breasts  like profiles facing left and right.

Berlin, StM 2285, from Cerveteri, by Douris.  ARV2, 1962, 431, 48.
Douris, another full-time cup painter (with more than 200 surviving and attributed) is quite the opposite to the Brygos Painter and Onesimos, though it is he who seems actually to have 'come out of' Onesimos.  The school scene is so socially innocuous that it appears in hundreds of children's school books.  It is very charming, too, showing one boy dutifully playing his assigned tune on the tortoise-shell lyre and the perfunctory pupil confronting his master who unrolls the rotulus with a dreadfully mangled first line of an epic on it; his pedagogue, at right, will report to his parents.  But all the humanity is in the situation.  Douris himself has left us some sexual scenes; the funniest, on a psykter, shows a satyr in a backstand with a kylix (hollow stem helps) balanced on the tip of his erect penis.  Sheer horseplay (Boardman, Archaic RF, 299, London E 768, from Cerveteri; ARV2, 1962, 446, 262).  But here, as in the school scene, it is WHAT is illustrated, not how it is drawn, that is expressive.  His satyrs are not really drawn naughtily, as the Brygos Painter's are (Boardman, Archaic RF, 252, ARV2, 370, 13), stalking Hera, no less, who had been asleep; on the other side, they attack Iris.  You can see that I find Douris dull, but he usually draws really quite well.

Berlin, StM 2291, from Vulci, by Makron.  ARV2, 1962, 364, 52.
But what shall I say of Makron, the painter who worked for Hieron (both signatures occur).  Makron has rather loose anatomy; he has an awful time with wrists and hands.  But grace!  Gentle, charming grace.  Occasionally the Brygos Painter can manage the like, when he needs to, but it isn't his forte.  If you think the only cute pet goats are on YouTube, take a look at Paris's capering around his rock.  For this is the Judgment of Paris.  Hermes (do not try to justify his foreshortening), leads Athena, Hera with her scepter, and Aphrodite with four erotes, two on either side.  Makron is the truly idyllic one.  I'm sorry that my picture is a little fuzzy; I wanted to show the color.  It is sharp in Boardman, ArchaicRF, 310.  How odd that Ernest Gombrich in Art and Illusion should feel that this is still "conceptual" art!  When you consider the 7th-century Early Archaic that I have posted here. . .


Principal References:
I have given you enough already to get you going, but let me add for its wealth of photographs, T. H. Carpenter's Art and Myth in Ancient Greece (World of Art, 1991) and Arias, Hirmer, and Shefton, A History of Greek Vase-Painting (1962; Brian Shefton did not agree in everything with P. E. Arias, so the English edition does differ somewhat from the German one; also, the successor, with text by Erika Simon has most of the same pictures, and more, in the same order, but with her own text).  It is Max Hirmer's photos that you want!
I have cited Sir John Beazley's Attic Red-Figure Vase-Painters, 2nd ed., 1962, before, if you have a library that possesses it.
And Sir John Boardman, Athenian Red Figure Vase Painters: The Archaic Period (I have both the 1975 and 1991 printings, and there are more, I think), is your best friend, as you already know from the Berlin Painter.





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