Exekias Kylix (cup) a new shape White text: p.30-31 Black text: p.23-25
The Exekias Kylix
Exekias’ vases are renowned for the quality of the composition and the detail in the decoration. His work is of a much higher quality than any other black-figure decorator.
It is possible that the Kylix shaped vase was invented by Exekias, since the first known example of the shape was made and decorated by him.
Exekias’ kylix shows a crucial innovation from previous types of drinking cups:
Earlier kylix had a slightly offset rim – this is the first known example of a new style without this rim
S hape: kylix (cup)
Function: drinking cup
Painter: Exekias (attributed)
Date: c.535 BC
Dimensions Width: 30cm
Exekias signed the vase on the front face of the foot
“ Exekias made me”
The presence of two large eyes on the outside has led to its being known as “the eye cup”.
The eyes meant that when a person was drinking it would appear that they were looking at the person opposite.
Inside the vase
Any circular picture inside a kylix is called a tondo
The tondo inside this kylix is of Dionysos’ voyage by ship
The deep red of the background is created by using coral slip (produced by mixing ochre and black slips), and is supposed to resemble both the colour of wine, and the “wine-dark” colour of the Mediterranean.
Dionysos, a son of Zeus, was the God of vegetation. As the provider of fruits from the forest and the field, he was also identified as the giver of the vine. He was also known as the God of ecstasy, and he collected a wide range of followers, in various forms.
He is often associated with the satyrs, the maenads, and snake-handling. He is often shown with a vine or a drinking cup.
Some stories said that Dionysos died each winter and was re-born in the spring, as a vine grows again from the spring. Dramas were written to celebrate the revival of Dionysos in the spring, and gradually he became a more serious figure.
Dionysos is the closest God to mankind. No other God wandered all over the earth. Alexander the Great found evidence of the cult of Dionysos in India.
In Athens, people believed that Dionysos came to them by boat from Lydia or Phrygia.
Homer’s story “Hymn to Dionysos” tells of one occasion, when Dionysos was standing on the seashore as a ship of Tyrrhenian pirates passed by. They captured him and took him on board, thinking he was a prince for whom they could collect a huge ransom.
He went with them peacefully and sat on the ship, watching the pirates. Suddenly, he showed his divine power.
Vines and ivy grew from the tall mast and enveloped the boat. Dionysos turned himself into a lion, and a bear appeared from the other end of the boat. The pirates, stricken with fear, threw themselves into the sea, and were immediately turned into dolphins.
The vase interior
The Ship The boarding ladder and the twin steering oars are clearly visible at the stern The bow of the ship is in the form of a stylised boar’s head The ship is elaborate in design, with a tall mast and a broad sail. The ship is decorated with a pair of white dolphins The stern of the ship curves upwards into the graceful shape of a swan’s neck
Dionysos Dionysos lies back in the boat, holding a wine horn, and wearing a spotted robe The vines growing from the mast are laden with grapes.
The pirates who tried to abduct Dionysos have been transformed into dolphins, and they now swim around the boat.
Composition As always, Exekias’ decoration complements the shape of the vase Twin vines branch out, following the shape of the top 1/3 of the kylix Dolphins swim around the bottom 2/3 of the kylix Dionysos’ ship sails across the kylix – there is no ground line as the ship is on the sea
Painting technique Coral-red slip intensifies the red of the background – “intentional” red White slip used for the sail and the dolphins decorating the boat Purple was added to the grapes and the branches Slip was added thicker than normal on the bows of the ship to show more depth and texture
The vase exterior Eyes are painted as concentric circles, using white, purple and black slips A very stylised nose A band of rolled clay separates the bowl from the foot of the vase The foot is painted with black slip Elongated tear ducts frame the nose Both sides have apotropaic eyes. They are supposed to look out for you and ward off evil.
Around the handles On both sides, in the gaps between the eyes and the handles, Exekias shows symmetrical sets of 3 warriors fighting over a corpse. They all wear the Corinthian style helmet with horse hair crests, corselets and greaves. The dead warrior’s armour is white Exekias uses purple to accentuate armour
Incisions through the slip show the details of the armour and musculature The corpse has been stripped of its armour and is being dragged away. A series of concentric lines, painted in black and purple slip, accentuates the shape of the kylix. Underneath is a band of small, stylised rays.