Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
1960.318
People
The Painter of London B76, Greek (active mid 6th century BCE )
Title
Hydria (water jar): Perseus pursued by Gorgons
Classification
Vessels
Work Type
vessel
Date
c. 550 BCE
Places
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Attica
Period
Archaic period
Culture
Greek
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/288460
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Terracotta
Technique
Black-figure
Dimensions
35.1 x 29.5 cm (13 13/16 x 11 5/8 in.)
Provenance
Ruspoli Collection, Cervetri. David M. Robinson, Oxford, Mississippi (by 1934-1960), bequest; to the Fogg Art Museum, 1960.
State, Edition, Standard Reference Number
Standard Reference Number
Beazley Archive Database #300793
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of David M. Robinson
Accession Year
1960
Object Number
1960.318
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
On the shoulder: This scene depicts gorgons chasing after the hero Perseus, whose most famous accomplishment was beheading one of the gorgons, Medusa; presumably here we see the two surviving gorgons running after Perseus in the aftermath of him slaying Medusa. At the left of the scene two frontal-facing gorgons with grotesque faces, wings, snakes on their heads and winged shoes run to the right, in pursuit of the hero Perseus, who is depicted running at the right edge of the frieze.

Perseus wears a cap, a red and black tunic (chiton), winged shoes, and a sword strapped over his chest. Underneath his feet there is a bearded snake. On the skirt of his tunic there is a large rosette, which is very similar to the rosettes which adorn the tunic of the gorgon on the left.

The two gorgons have identical poses and both wear red and black tunics (chitons) with very different decoration. The monsters’ skin is painted with added white, signaling their female gender, and their wings and tongues are red.

Between Perseus and the gorgon there are two additional figures, one male and one female, standing rather than running. These can be understood as the divine protectors of Perseus. The male figure on the left is Hermes, bearded and wearing a red cloak (himation), identifiable by his staff (caduceus). The female figure on the right is presumably Athena, although there is no iconography that explicitly identifies her, because she is regularly included in depictions of this myth; she wears a black cloak with rosette decorations over a red tunic (chiton) and her skin is painted in added white.

On the body: in a symmetrical composition, two warriors engage in combat, watched by two other men on horseback. The two warriors face each other at the center of the composition with raised spears; the figure on the left wears a black low-crested helmet, a white breast-plate with incised decoration, a red baldric over his chest, and red greaves. He also carries a large shield in his left hand, of which the reverse side is visible, red with a black border dotted with white.

His opponent on the right holds his shield towards the viewer, which is black with a red border, and a white tripod insignia. He wears a red helmet with its crest painted in white, black greaves and a short tunic (chiton). Behind each figure is a horse with a rider pulling back on the reins. The riders wear white tunics and have red hair and beards; the horses’ manes are also red.

Two red and black birds (probably eagles) are depicted between the feet of the two warriors, and over the back of the horse on the right. The tops of the figures’ heads and helmets spill over into the frieze on the shoulder.

The vase is largely black with the figural scenes in a reserved panel. There are red bands around the lip of the vessel, at the junction between the neck and the shoulder, framing a black band under the figural panel, and around the foot of the vessel. The band at the junction between neck and shoulder is raised. The base of the vase is decorated with rays.
Commentary
This vase was originally identified as Chalkidian by its former owner David M. Robinson, but was correctly reidentified as Athenian black figure by John D. Beazley. See further:

John D. Beazley, Review of Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum: United States of America 4 = The Robinson Collection, Baltimore, Md., 1 by David Moore Robinson, Journal of Hellenic Studies 54 (1934): pp. 89-90.
H. R. W. Smith, “From Farthest West,” American Journal of Archaeology 49, no. 4 (1945): pp. 465-79, p. 470.
Publication History

J. D. Beazley, Review of Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum: United States of America 4 = The Robinson Collection, Baltimore, Md., 1 by David Moore Robinson, Journal of Hellenic Studies (1934), 54, pp. 89-90

David Moore Robinson, Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum U.S.A.: volume 3, The Robinson Collection, Baltimore, MD, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1938), pg. 36-37, pl. 17

H. R. W. Smith, From Farthest West, American Journal of Archaeology (1945), 49, no. 4: pp. 465-79, p. 470

J. D. Beazley, Attic Black-figure Vases, The Clarendon Press (Oxford, England, 1956), pg. 86:4

Fogg Art Museum Acquisitions, 1959-1962, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, 1963), p. 32.

J. D. Beazley, Paralipomena: Additions to Attic Black-Figure Vase-Painters and to Attic Red-Figure Vase-Painters, The Clarendon Press (Oxford, England, 1971), p. 32.

Willi Real, Die Hydria als Bildträger in der attischen Kunst des 6. und 5. Jahrhunderts v. Chr., Festschrift für Gerhard Kleiner, ed. Harald Keller and Jürgen Kleine, Verlag Ernst Wasmuth (Tübingen, 1976), pp. 33-47, pp. 37-38

Patricia Ann Marx, "The Attributes of Athena in Athenian Narrative Art Circa 675 to 530 B.C." (1988), University of Maryland, pp. 345-6.

Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC), Artemis (Zürich, Switzerland, 1999), Vol. 7, Perseus 156.

Exhibition History

The David Moore Robinson Bequest of Classical Art and Antiquities: A Special Exhibition, Fogg Art Museum, 05/01/1961 - 09/20/1961

[Teaching Exhibition], Hood Museum of Art, Hanover, 08/01/1995 - 01/01/1997

32Q: 3620 University Study Gallery, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/23/2019 - 05/13/2019

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu