The Berlin Painter White text: p.54-55 Black text: p.69-73
The Berlin Painter
The Berlin Painter never signed his name. He is named after an amphora which was found in Berlin.
He worked in Athens around 500 BC. Along with the Kleophrades Painter he was one of the most important Red-Figure artists of the period.
His vases show a high degree of artistic skill. His figures are delicate and accurate.
Shape: Volute krater
Function: mixing wine and water.
Painter: Berlin Painter (attributed)
Technique: red figure
Date: c.500 - 480 B.C
Dimensions Height: 65 cm
The figures have their names painted beside them.
Neither the potter nor the painter signed their names.
One of the artist’s favourite compositions was spotlighting a single figure against a black background with no framing panel. In this way they appear light and graceful, as if floating on the vase. There is no decoration on the body of the vase, except for a coating of shiny black glaze and a band of stylised rays at the base of the belly. Decoration Overview
This vase (like the Kleophrades Painter’s Hydria) is a reversal of the major vase decorating trend – no decoration on the body, and all the action around the neck.
The Berlin Painter has placed all the painted detail on the neck and handles of the vase to emphasise its elegant volute shape.
The scenes depicted are framed by a large frieze of mirrored lotus and palmettes and a band of stylised tongues.
Each side recounts a battle fought by the Greek hero Achilles during the Trojan war and is composed of four figures set in a symmetrical w-shaped grouping, which deliberately mimics the wide mouth and narrow base of the vase.
Side A Achilles Fights Memnon Both figures are slender, athletic and well-muscled.
Memnon holds up his shield to block Achilles’ spear, while he prepares to lunge forward with his own weapon. Raised heels suggest he is rushing forward Achilles has his shield ready to block Memnon’s sword, and is also moving forward to thrust with his spear.
Here we can clearly see Thetis, mother of Achilles. She supports her son, raising her arms and urging him on to defeat Memnon This is Eos (Dawn). She stands behind her son, Memnon. She raises her hand, either in support or anguish. Her drapery hangs in zig-zag folds, and suggests she is moving away. The two mothers frame the warriors in the centre.
Side B Achilles Fights Hector
Again, Achilles has his shield ready to block, and, with his legs apart and his right heel raised, he is moving forward to deliver the fatal blow to the already wounded Hector. Achilles is in a very strong body position. Hector’s shield is behind him, leaving him unprotected. His spear is pointing at the ground – not a threatening position for Achilles. Perhaps Achilles has just fended off a spear-thrust with his shield. He is leaning backwards, and has a weak position, with left knee bent. He has two bleeding wounds already – one on his thigh, and one on his chest.
The fight is watched by two divine patrons.
Athena stands behind Achilles, and is shown wearing her snake covered aegis and a helmet. She holds a spear in one hand and encourages Achilles with the other.
Apollo stands behind Hector, but appears to be waving farewell to the doomed Hector and is walking away to let Hector die on the battlefield. He carries an arrow, perhaps as a hint as to Achilles’ fate?
On the edges of the scene
On both sides only the neck and handles of the vase are decorated. The body is entirely black, except for a small band of rays at the foot. This draws attention to the shape of the vase, and to the small figures painted around the neck.
The scenes are symmetrical and mirror each other.
Above the scene is a lotus and palmette band. Below the scene is a band of stylised meanders .
There is no overlapping, but the positioning of Achilles’ shield helps to create depth and a three-dimensional effect.
Achilles’ ¾ view pose is mirrored on both sides. Side A Side B
Both sides are composed in a W-shape, and both sides are symmetrical. The two outer figures frame the central pair.
Painting Technique This is a Red-Figure vase, so the figures are first painted with a relief line, then the background is filled in with black slip. Next, extra details were added later in diluted slips.
Painting Technique Major muscles are painted with dark slip, while minor muscles are painted with dilute slip. Dilute slip is also used for detail on the inside of the shields, as well as Hector’s wounds. Dilute slip is also used for Achilles’ hair.