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The scene is set in the theatre: wooden columns support the boards of the stage, wreaths and masks hang from above – severely bleached in parts. To the left, an open door leads into the interior of a house. The actors are wearing bodysuits that make them appear naked, complete with padded buttocks, big bellies and fitted with a very large phallus like an elephant’s trunk; two of them are also wearing short jerkins over their costumes, which emphasise rather than conceal their nudity. Their names mean little to us today but viewers in antiquity no doubt associated them with a well-known comedy. The core of the action is easy to understand even without such prior knowledge. A large chest stands in the middle of the stage. Just as today, furniture was not usually left outside in ancient times so it seems that the two naked men, Gymnilos and Kosilos, have just carried it out through the open door. However, we soon see that something is not quite right by the behaviour of old Charinos who is trying to force Gymnilos and Kosilos away from the chest. He has to be the owner who fears that his precious goods are in danger. The miser is driven to daring resistance and defends himself with all his meagre strength, even taking the risk that he may well be carried off together with the chest. Much more cautious than his master is the slave Karion whose helpless gesture of placatory regret indicates his more realistic assessment of the difference in strength between the protagonists. The krater has a very faded inscription: ‘Assteas painted it’. He was a vase painter in the mid-4th century BCE who worked in Poseidon (now Paestum). Almost a dozen works with his signature have survived. Most of his vases are dedicated to serious subjects from Greek mythology but occasionally he also portrayed comic scenes, displaying a sure instinct for humour and an infectious delight in slapstick.

Details

  • Title: On stage: the miser
  • Creator: Assteas
  • Date Created: -350
  • Location: From a collection in Nola, possibly found in St Agata
  • Physical Dimensions: h37 cm
  • Type: Krater
  • Medium: Clay
  • Object acquired: Acquired in 1875
  • Inv.-No.: F 3044
  • ISIL-No.: DE-MUS-814319
  • External link: Altes Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyrights: Text: © Verlag Philipp von Zabern / Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Luca Giuliani || Photo: © b p k - || Photo Agency / Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Johannes Laurentius
  • Collection: Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz

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