Red-figured wine bowl (bell-krater), signed by the painter Python


British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

To seduce the virtuous Alkmene, Zeus assumed the form of her husband Amphitryon, who was away from home. When he returned, Amphitryon was so angry that his wife had welcomed a lover in his absence, that he tried to burn her alive on the altar where she fled for refuge. But Zeus sent the Clouds to extinguish the flames, Amphitryon relented, and in due course Alkmene gave birth to twin boys: Herakles, who was the son of Zeus, and Iphikles, fathered by Amphitryon. Alkmene's narrow escape from death is vividly depicted on this wine bowl. Torches are put to a neat pile of logs laid in front of the altar, where Alkmene waves frantically upwards towards Zeus. Fortunately the Clouds are on hand to drench the flames, and the rainbow over Alkmene signals that all will be well. The details of the drapery have been beautifully executed in this highly decorative design. This and the meticulous care taken over each individual rain drop are typical of vases produced in the Paestan workshop of Python. The dramatic qualities of the scene suggest the influence of the theatre, perhaps a reproduction of Euripides' Alkmene.


  • Title: Red-figured wine bowl (bell-krater), signed by the painter Python
  • Date Created: -360/-320
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 56.50cm; Diameter: 51.50cm; Weight: 12.50kg
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: painted
  • Subject: satyr; mythical figure/creature; classical deity; classical mythology
  • Registration number: 1890,0210.1
  • Production place: Made in Paestum
  • Producer: Attributed to Python
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot St Agata dei Goti
  • Period/culture: Paestan
  • Material: pottery
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Carlisle

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