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Three figures attend a seated figure while a winged person flies above.

The vessel is round, narrowing slightly at the top and base with two high handles. It is painted black and in red there is a seated figure holding two spears. There are three other figures standing around them, two offering a bowl and a drinking horn while a third seems to take the spears from the seated woman. There is also a smaller figure with wings standing above the seated person with arms outstretched. There is a geometric leaf border at the bottom and floral designs at the base of the handles.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Attributed to The Painter of Louvre G 539
Pelike depicting Helen and Paris
Work Type
420-400 BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Attica
Classical period
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

28.6 x 21.4 cm (11 1/4 x 8 7/16 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Joseph Clark Hoppin, purchased in Rome, 1898; bequeathed to Fogg Art Museum, 1925.

State, Edition, Standard Reference Number

Standard Reference Number
Beazley Archive Database #217543

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Joseph C. Hoppin
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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The scene on the front of the pelike (jar) comprises five figures: a couple consisting of a woman and a young man, flanked by a boy and second woman, respectively. A small Eros flutters in between. The central woman holds a lobed shallow bowl--likely meant to be of precious metal--in her proper left hand and lifts the upper edge of her finely pleated garment with her right. She faces a young man seated on a rocky outcrop, which is indicated by fine lines incised into the black background. He sits in a relaxed pose, with crossed legs, his right hand placed on his knee, and holding two long spears in his left. His richly patterned clothing consists of a cap with long flaps and a body suit with zigzag patterns below a sleeveless garment richly decorated with elongated triangles, volutes, diamonds, and a wreath motif. Reminiscent of the clothing worn by Greece’s eastern neighbors, this highly ornate, “foreign” costume was used by Greek vase painters to characterize barbarians. Here it probably denotes a mythical easterner: Paris, prince of Troy (Adonis has been proposed, as well).

Paris’ gaze is focused on the woman before him, likely the beautiful Helen, while he is crowned by Eros flying above. The woman behind Paris holds another, now barely visible garland up to his head. She could be the goddess Aphrodite or her companion Peitho (“persuasion”). She stands firmly on the ground line, as does the boy on the other side of the composition. He, too, is characterized by his rich eastern dress with zigzag and leaf patterns and wears a floppy cap with long flaps. With his left he extends a drinking horn, whose striped pattern was probably intended to denote its material as gold or silver, another barbarian attribute and a reference to the wealth of the royal house of Troy.

The simpler scene on the pelike’s back features three women: a central woman holding a box and two fringed, patterned sashes or towels, a woman fully wrapped in a large mantle with a thick, black border (on the left), and another woman with mantle holding what appears to be a garland (on the right). The figures are more cursorily drawn than those on the front. Double palmettes decorate the lower handle attachment.

Most of the finer lines are slightly raised, and raised dots decorate belts and borders of the elaborate garments. Diluted glaze was used for selected ornaments and the soft folds of the caps. Faint traces of added paint remain for the garlands held by Eros and the woman standing behind Paris. On the back, added paint was used to render the hairbands of all three women, the fringes of the sashes held by the central woman, and the garland held by the woman on the right. Pre-drawings are visible on all figures painted on the vessel’s front. The vessel is complete but has some minor surface erosion and manganese staining.

Publication History

  • Joseph Clark Hoppin and Albert Gallatin, Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum, U.S.A.: volume 1, Hoppin and Gallatin Collections, Libraire Ancienne Edouard Champion (Paris, 1926)
  • George M. A. Hanfmann, Greek Art and Life, An Exhibition Catalogue, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1950), no. 129.
  • Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC), Artemis (Zürich, Switzerland, 1999), Adonis 52; Alexandros 47; Helene 119.

Exhibition History

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