Attic Black-Figure Nikosthenic Amphora

Attributed to Painter N, signed by Nikosthenesabout 520 B.C.

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum

On the neck of this black-figure Nikosthenic amphora, two boxers face each other with a tripod between them, presumably the prize in their contest. Lower on the vase, a youth sits between a pair of eyes, grabbing the eyebrows. Eyes were a popular decoration on Athenian vases, especially from around 530 to 510 B.C., and this is a playful variant on that tradition. They probably had an apotropaic function, warding off evil spirits and bad luck.

Nikosthenic amphorae have a distinctive shape: a tall, narrow body divided by ridges and wide, flat handles. They were made in only one workshop in Athens, that of the potter Nikosthenes. Their shape copies a form of amphora made by Etruscan potters. In fact, almost all the surviving Nikosthenic amphorae come from one city in Etruria, Caere; they were probably produced in Athens specifically for export to that market. The scenes of athletic events and revelry, which often decorate this shape, resemble imagery found in contemporary Etruscan tomb painting and presumably relate to Etruscan funerary ritual.

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  • Title: Attic Black-Figure Nikosthenic Amphora
  • Creator: Attributed to Painter N, signed by Nikosthenes
  • Date: about 520 B.C.
  • Location Created: Athens, Greece
  • Physical Dimensions: 31 x 18.5 cm (12 3/16 x 7 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: Amphora
  • Object Status: Permanent Collection
  • Number: 68.AE.19
  • Display Location: Currently on view at: Getty Villa, Gallery 211, Athletes and Competition
  • Department: Antiquities
  • Culture: Greek (Attic)
  • Classification: Vessels


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