Attic Red-Figure Lekythos

Phiale Painterabout 450 B.C.

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

A young man grasping his armor of shield, helmet, and spear stands before a woman who holds out her hands toward him. The emblem on this young man's shield may reinforce an implicit connection with death. In Greek thought, snakes had strong connections with death and the afterlife.

Scenes of men arming and departing for battle appeared frequently on Athenian vases of the mid-400s B.C. When they appear on white-ground lekythoi, a type of oil vessel used exclusively for funerary purposes, the meaning of the scenes is clear. The implication was that the man donning his armor and leaving his wife for war would never return. When the scenes appear on red-figure lekythoi, such as this one, which were not confined only to the funerary realm, the meaning is open to question. Did the Greek viewer see a simple everyday scene, or was there an ominous message of a doomed soldier?

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  • Title: Attic Red-Figure Lekythos
  • Creator: Phiale Painter
  • Date: about 450 B.C.
  • Location Created: Athens, Greece
  • Physical Dimensions: 34.5 cm (13 9/16 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: Lekythos
  • Object Status: Permanent Collection
  • Number: 71.AE.442
  • Display Location: Currently on view at: Getty Villa, Gallery 209, Men in Antiquity
  • Department: Antiquities
  • Culture: Greek (Attic)
  • Classification: Vessels