Terracotta volute-krater (bowl for mixing wine and water)

Attributed to the Karkinos Painter

Period: Late Archaic

Date: ca. 500 B.C.

Culture: Greek, Attic

Medium: Terracotta; red-figure

Dimensions: H. with handles 20 9/16 in. (52.2 cm)
H. without handles 18 1/2 in. (47 cm)
diameter of mouth 15 3/8 in. (39.1 cm)

Classification: Vases

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1921

Accession Number: 21.88.74


The symposium, conventionally interpreted as a drinking party, was a well-established feature of Greek, particularly Athenian, society. It was an institution that permitted citizens to gather, transact business, and, as Plato's dialogue makes clear, to engage in serious discussions. An essential piece of equipment for the symposium was the krater in which the wine was diluted with water and from which it was served. This red-figure volute-krater is a fine example of the Athenian potter's skill. The division of the neck into two tiers, the pronounced curve of the body with a marked diminution toward the base, and the ribbon handles are beautifully integrated into an exquisite architectural whole. The painter of the vase, the so-called Karkinos Painter, has confined the decoration to the upper part of the vessel. In addition to the decorative patterns of meanders, palmettes, and ivy leaves, there are, on one side, five mounted Amazons, and on the other side (shown here), five men at a symposium. As was the custom in antiquity, the five bearded men are reclining comfortably on cushions with their elbows propped against pillows. Each of the men wears a mantle that leaves the right arm and chest free. As they converse among themselves, they gesture with their hands. The tables with food have been carried out, and the drinking is about to begin.