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Two men either throw or catch another mans head.

The vessel is a tall bowl with handles on either side. It is painted black, and in red there are two figures. They have white hair and beards so they may be elderly. They face each other with expressions of surprise as another mans head is either tossed or falls from above. Both men wear robes, but the penis of the man at the left is exposed under his clothing. Nearby there is an open doorway decorated with geometric designs. There are geometric motifs and columns bordering the scene.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Attributed to The McDaniel Painter
Bell Krater (mixing bowl for wine and water): Scene from a Comic Play
Work Type
400-370 BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Apulia
Classical period, Late
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

30 cm h x 33.5 cm diam (11 13/16 x 13 3/16 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Dr. Jacob Hirsch, Geneva, (by 1955). [Adolph Hess AG, Lucerne, and William H. Schab, New York, Auction in Hotel Schweizerhof, Lucerne, December 7, 1957, lot 30], sold; to Department of Classics, Harvard University, Cambridge, 1957, transferred; to Harvard University Art Museums, 2007.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Transfer from the Alice Corinne McDaniel Collection, Department of the Classics, Harvard University
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Pinkish-buff fabric with glossy black slip, misfired below handles, in the area between the two youths on the B-side of the vase, and within the doorway of the A-side scene. Added white and yellow in a good state of preservation. Low, thick, circular base tapers upward very slightly to a reserve band, and is flat on top. Narrow foot curves tightly outward to form a broad bell, with broad lip. Horizontal loop handles turn slightly upward and inward at ends and project as far as the lip of the vessel. A laurel band runs just beneath the lip. Beneath A- and B-side scenes is a meander border broken periodically by an X-shape within a square. The vase is in very good condition, unbroken with only minor cracks on the interior surface, and minor chipping, particularly around the lip.

On the obverse is a simple stage (Type I, Trendall, Phlyax) without supporting columns. A phlyax stands on the left with a Doric column behind him. He wears padded tights and jacket and a black bordered cloak. Concealed within the folds of the cloak are yellow and white objects. He wears a headband and his hair and beard are white (Type L, Phlyax). In his right hand he holds a crooked staff.

To the far right is a double door through which has just come an old woman, who advances towards the phlyax with outstretched arms. She wears a long-sleeved peplos with a thick black border. She has short white hair and a straight nose, and her mouth is open (Type R, Phlyax). Hanging above and between the two figures is a comic mask with a good head of hair, short beard, and open mouth (Type B, Phlyax).

On the reverse, two youths stand facing each other. The one to the left holds a staff in his right hand; his right shoulder is bare. The youth to the right has both arms concealed in his himation. Between them hang a pair of weights, symbol of the palaestra.

This is the name-piece of the McDaniel Painter. Particularly characteristic of this artist are the thin laurel leaves around the rim and the relatively small meander.

In the fourth century, South Italian red-figure ware provided stiff competition for the Attic pottery industry, eventually replacing it as the import of choice in many markets. The so-called phlyax vessels, produced in greatest numbers in the workshops of Apulia and Paestum, are widely thought to show scenes either from a form of South Italian comedic drama parodying the heroes and themes of Attic tragedy, or from the re-performance of Attic comedy in South Italy (see Cambitoglu and Trendall 1978. See also S. Douglas Olson, Broken Laughter, Oxford University Press, 2007, p. 14ff). The actors, known as phlyakes, are depicted in masks and padded suits, and often sport exaggerated phalluses. Their appearance on these vases, along with components of stage buildings and sets, gives some insight into ancient Greek theater production. The McDaniel Painter, an otherwise anonymous Apulian vase painter, derives his name from this krater's attribution to him. His work is characterized by the thin laurel leaves below the rim of the vessel and the small meander pattern at the ground line of the scene.

Andreya Mihaloew, 2008

Publication History

  • Anne Bromberg, "A Phlyax Vase in the McDaniel Collection", Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1959), Vol. LXIV, pp. 237-245, pp. 237-245, pls. I-II
  • Dr. Anneliese Kossatz-Deissmann, Medeas Widderzauber als Phlyakenparodie, J. Paul Getty Museum (2000), p. 201, fig. 13
  • [Reproduction Only], Persephone, (Spring 2004).
  • Stephan Wolohojian, ed., Harvard Art Museum/Handbook (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2008)
  • Thomas W. Lentz, ed., Harvard University Art Museums Annual Report 2006-7, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, 2008), p. 13, repr.

Exhibition History

  • Re-View: S422 Ancient & Byzantine Art & Numismatics, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 04/12/2008 - 06/18/2011
  • 32Q: 3400 Greek, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 10/03/2023

Subjects and Contexts

  • Collection Highlights
  • Google Art Project

Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at