Attic Black-Figure Eye Cup

Attributed to Nikosthenes540 - 530 B.C.

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum

Scenes from the mythological battle between the Olympian gods and the Giants, the children of Earth, and Sky, part of an earlier generation of deities, decorate this black-figure cup. The main side of the cup depicts Athena, the Greek warrior-goddess, confronting two partially hidden opponents. By having the two opponents take shelter behind them, the unknown vase-painter cleverly incorporated the large eyes, which ornament both sides of the cup, into the narrative. Only the heads of the archer and warrior appear from behind the eyebrows. Eyes were frequently placed on vessels, perhaps because they were believed to be apotropaic, that is, they had the power to ward off evil.

The other side of the cup depicts Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, fighting another giant. The hero Herakles, identified by his lionskin, takes on a Giant in a scene duplicated under each handle. A winged female deity flies through the interior of the cup. Her identity remains uncertain. She may be Nike, the goddess of victory; Iris, the messenger of the gods; or, perhaps in this context, Eris, the personification of strife.

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  • Title: Attic Black-Figure Eye Cup
  • Creator: Attributed to Nikosthenes
  • Date: 540 - 530 B.C.
  • Location Created: Athens, Greece
  • Physical Dimensions: 12.9 x 39 cm (5 1/16 x 15 5/16 in.)
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Terracotta
  • Source Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection, Malibu, California
  • Object Type: Cup
  • Object Status: Permanent Collection
  • Number: 86.AE.169
  • Display Location: Currently on view at: Getty Villa, Gallery 109, Mythological Heroes
  • Department: Antiquities
  • Culture: Greek (Attic)
  • Classification: Vessels