Red-figured cup, attributed to the Brygos Painter


British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

Scenes of symposia were naturally a popular subject for the painted pottery vessels that were used on such occasions. Here, a young man reclines on a couch while a girl dances before him: both of them are wreathed. The young man's outstretched arm may be marking time, and in his left hand he holds a pair of flutes, perhaps removed from the spotted skin case hanging up behind him. His couch is comfortably fitted with a large, striped cushion, and on a low table at his side, decorated with sprays of flowers, stands a skyphos, a deep drinking cup. The girl's short hair suggests she is probably a slave, dancing to entertain the party guests. She lifts the skirt of her chiton in both hands in order to avoid tripping up. The design is beautifully arranged to fit the circular field. The couch forms a strong, horizontal line, echoed by the lines of the table and by the youth's outstretched arm and lowered left leg. Vertical accents are then provided by the figure of the girl, the knotted staff behind her, and the visible leg of the table. A whole series of diagonal lines then links the two figures and the objects in the scene. A late fifth-century account of a symposium describes the sort of entertainment that might be offered: 'When the tables had been taken away and they had poured a libation and sung a paian (hymn), a Syracusan joined the revel. He had a good flute girl and a dancing girl who could do acrobatics and a very pretty boy who played the harp and danced very well, and he made money by exhibiting them like a sideshow.' Xenophon (431-354 BC), Symposium, 2.1


  • Title: Red-figured cup, attributed to the Brygos Painter
  • Date Created: -490/-480
  • Physical Dimensions: Width: 39.70cm; Diameter: 31.90cm; Diameter: 17.30cm (of tondo); Height: 12.70cm; Diameter: 13.90cm (of exterior ground line); Diameter: 12.00cm (of foot)
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: painted
  • Subject: symposium; dance; hetaira
  • Registration number: 1848,0619.7
  • Production place: Made in Attica
  • Producer: Attributed to Brygos Painter
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Vulci
  • Period/culture: Attic
  • Material: pottery
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Basseggio

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