Penthesilea Painter

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Depicition of Penthesilea, on a bowl from Vulci; circa 470/460 BC. Munich, Staatliche Antikensammlungen.

The Penthesilea Painter (active between 470 and 450 BC at Athens) was a Greek vase painter of the Attic red-figure style. His true name is unknown. His conventional name is derived from his name vase, "bowl 2688" in Munich, the inside of which depicts the slaying of Penthesilea by Achilles. On the basis of that work, John Beazley attributed 177 known vases to the painter, about 100 of which only survive fragmentarily. Bowls, 149 in number, represent the bulk of his work. The rest is distributed among small shapes like skyphoi, kantharoi and bobbins.

His work is characterised by large, space-filling figures whose posture is often bent so as to permit them to fit on a vessel. For the same reason, ornamental decoration around the edges is often very narrow. His works are also characterised by being very colourful, permitting several intermediate shades. Apart from dark coral red and the usual light red, he also used tones of brown, yellow, yellow-white and gold. His figures are painted remarkably meticulously in every detail. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he appears to have painted the subsidiary or exterior images on his vases himself. An exception is his very early "bowl T 212" at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Ferrara, with exterior images by the Splanchnoptes Painter. The Penthesilea Painter's works are dominated by depictions of boys and youths engaged in athletic activity, teaching scenes, weaponry and armour, as well as scenes of people talking to horses. While he painted the occasional mythological motif, they are so rare that they should be considered an exception among his work. Throughout his career, scenes from everyday life gain an increasingly dominant share of his paintings.

In his later works, his love of detail is lost and replaced with stencil-like motifs, their basic compositions indistinguishable from typical mass-produced wares. His lines become more casual, but don't lose their certainty, so that even these works preserve a distinctive charm, marking him as one of the great masters of Greek vase painting. His true mastery is increasingly found in the subsidiary images of boys, on which he appears to have concentrated more and more.

His major importance for Classical vase painting lies in the fact that he moved away from the usual motifs and replaced them with typical motifs from everyday life. His emphasis on human aspects represented a new departure and was to be an important influence on the further development of vase painting.

Apart from the Penthesilea bowl, "bowl 2689", also in Munich, is considered his other masterpiece. Its interior shows the slaying of Tityos by Apollo.

Selected works

Name Images Dimensions Type Date Description Museum Record
Berlin, Antikensammlung
bowl skyphos F 2591
fragment of a skyphos 31573, V. 162
Bologna, Museo Civico
fragment of a krater 289 Image ---- Calyx krater c.450 Amazonomachy
bowl PU 272
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts
skyphos 01.8032 H. 23 cm; D. 23 cm Red-figure skyphos c.450 BC Maenads and Pans Record
bowl 03.815 H. 15.5 cm red-figure kylix c.460 BC Int: Nymph with scepter and vase; Ext: Two women and four youths Record
bowl 13.84 H. 27 cm; D. 27 cm red-figure kylix c.450 BC Int: Youth talking to woman; Ext: Satyrs and Maenads Record
bowl 28.48 H. 9.8 cm; D. 23.8 cm red-figure kylix c.460 BC Int: Two boys talking; Ext: Boys at the gymnasium Record
Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Art Museums
kylix 1925.30.130 H. 11.3 cm.; D. 27.3 cm Attic Red Figure kylix 470-460 BC Int: Satyr and maenad; ExtA: Warrior presented to Zeus by Iris; ExtB: Departing warrior, with Iris.
Ferrara, Museo Archeologico Nazionale
bowl T 18 C 150px 150px ---- Attic Red-figure kylix 460-450 BC Int: Apotheosis of Theseus, Ext: Combat
bowl T 212
Hamburg, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe
bowl 1900.164 Images ---- Red-figure kylix c.450 BC Int: boy seated with lyre, and youth; Ext: youths and horses
London, British Museum
bowl E 72
Madison, Wisconsin, Chazen Museum of Art
Kylix 1976.31 H. 15.25 cm; D. 45.56 cm Red-figure kylix c.455 BC Int: Hercules slaying the Cretan Bull Record
Munich, Glyptothek and Antikensammlung
kantharos 2565
Penthesilea bowl (2688) 150px H. 7 cm; D. 43 cm Attic red-figure kylix 470–460 BC Achilles killing Penthesilea
bowl 2689 150px H. 7 cm; D. 40 cm Attic red-figure kylix 460–450 BC Apollo, Tityos and a goddess (probably Gaia defending her son, or Leto).
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
skyphos 06.1079 H. 16.2 cm; D. 30.2 cm Red-figure skyphos c.460 BC A & B: A young man goes to war Record
pyxis 07.286.36 150px 150px H. 12.1 cm D. 17.2 cm Attic white-ground pyxis with lid 460-450 The Judgement of Paris Record
bobin 28.167 150px 150px D. 12.8 cm Attic white-ground bobbin 460-450 BC A: Nike & a youth; B: Eros and a youth Record
bowl 41.162.9 H. 16.4 cm; D. 36.7 cm Red-figure kylix c.460 BC Int: Man hunting boar; Ext: Athletes Record
Oxford, Ashmolean Museum
bowl 1931.12 Image Red-figure kylix c.450 Int: Nike dressing a bull for sacrifice
Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale (Cabinet des Médailles)
De Ridder 814 150px 150px H. 12.6 cm, L. 41.9 cm, D. 33.7 cm Red-figure kylix 480 - 450 BC Int: Horseman; Ext: Arming scene Record
De Ridder 849 150px H. 28.9 cm, L. 28.2 cm, D. 20.6 cm Red-figure kantharos c.460 BC Satyrs and Maenads Record
Paris, Musée National du Louvre
bowl G 382
bowl G 448 150px H. 16.50 cm; L. 44.80 cm; D. 36.10 cm Attic red-figure kylix 460–450 BC Int: Silenus and maenad
Philadelphia, University Museum
hydria L-64-41 Image dimensions Red-figure hydria 460-450 BC Three women in a domestic scene
kylix L-637-1a Image H. 12.5 cm; D. 45.7 cm Red-figure kylix 520-420 BC Int: Boy propositioning a girl; Ext: Departure of young horsemen
kylix MS 2495 Image H. 9 cm; D. 24 cm Red-figure kylix 475-450 BC Int: Two boys facing; Ext: Nike and young citizens
kylix MS 5693 Image H. 7.8 cm; D. 29 cm Red-figure kylix 460-450 BC Int: Two boys at the gymnasium; Ext: Nike parts a boy and a man
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum
bowl 3700


  • Hans Diepolder. Der Penthesilea-Maler. Leipzig 1936. (Bilder griechischer Vasen, 10).
  • John Beazley. Attic Red Figure Vase Painters. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963

External links