Attic Black-Figure Eye Cup

Painter of the Villa Giulia 63613, Signed by Nikosthenesabout 530 B.C.

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum

A pair of large eyes frames busts of the hero Herakles and his patron goddess Athena on one side of this black-figure cup. In the 500s B.C., Greek vase-painters frequently placed eyes 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 has a similar scene with three busts, one male and two female. The center female was once painted white and wears a type of headdress called a polos, typical of Greek goddesses. These busts, however, are harder to identify than those on the front of the cup. Some scholars identify them as Zeus, Hebe, and Hera, suggesting that the subject of the cup as a whole would be the apotheosis of Herakles, his introduction on Mount Olympus as a god. Other scholars, however, interpret the heads as Hades, Persephone, and Demeter and the cup's theme as Herakles' introduction into the Eleusinian Mysteries, a cult that promised a better afterlife to its followers.

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  • Title: Attic Black-Figure Eye Cup
  • Creator: Painter of the Villa Giulia 63613, Signed by Nikosthenes
  • Date: about 530 B.C.
  • Location Created: Athens, Greece
  • Physical Dimensions: 11.3 x 34.4 x 27.3 cm (4 7/16 x 13 1/2 x 10 3/4 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
  • Signature: Nikosthenes, potter. Along eyebrow of apotropaic eye: in Greek. Translated: "Nikosthenes made [this]".
  • Object Type: Cup
  • Object Status: Permanent Collection
  • Number: 86.AE.170
  • Inscription: Inscription above the left eyebrow on A: NIKOSTHENES EPOIESEN
  • Display Location: Currently on view at: Getty Villa, Gallery 109A, Mythological Heroes
  • Department: Antiquities
  • Culture: Greek (Attic)
  • Classification: Vessels


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