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Amphora (Storage Vessel) with the Ransom of the Body of Hector

Attributed to The Rycroft Painterabout 520-510 BCE

The Toledo Museum of Art

The Toledo Museum of Art

"I have borne what no man who has walked this earth has ever yet borne. I have kissed the hand of the man who killed my son."

Homer, Iliad, Book 24

The painted panel of this storage vessel illustrates an episode in Homer's epic poem the Iliad. The aged King Priam of Troy visits the enemy Greek camp to beg the warrior Achilles for the body of his son Hector, whom Achilles had killed in battle. Several vases with variations on this scene exist, but Toledo's amphora is famous for its strong composition and intense emotion.The artist condensed two hundred lines of narrative into a powerfully iconic image, framed by the blood-spattered corpse of Hector at the bottom and the bristling helmet of Achilles at the top. White-haired Priam lurches forward to plead with Achilles, who heartlessly drinks over Hector's body. From the right, a serving girl brings more wine representing both the Greek army's tribute to its hero and the stoking of Achilles' drunken wrath. From the left, the god Hermes escorts a servant carrying a ransom of gold vessels, symbolizing how the gods intervened to end Achilles' madness. On the other side of this amphora is a scene of soldiers departing for war. The piteous gesture of an old man represents every father saying farewell to his son. The Rycroft Painter, named after a vase now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, is recognized for two quirks he often drew ears in reverse (see Achilles) and sometimes drew right hands for both right and left. However, his style embraces the inventiveness of contemporaries painting in the new red-figure technique (see 1982.88), including incised outlines and overlapping of figures to depict both emotional interaction and three-dimensional space.

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Details

  • Title: Amphora (Storage Vessel) with the Ransom of the Body of Hector
  • Creator: Attributed to The Rycroft Painter
  • Date Created: about 520-510 BCE
  • Location Created: Ancient Greece, from Athens
  • Physical Dimensions: h686 mm (Complete)
  • Type: Vessel
  • Rights: Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey
  • External Link: http://classes.toledomuseum.org:8080/emuseum/view/objects/asitem/94/17
  • Medium: Terracotta, black-figure technique

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