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

Attributed to the Painter of London E 497

Period: Classical

Date: ca. 440 B.C.

Culture: Greek, Attic

Medium: Terracotta; red-figure

Dimensions: H. 11 5/8 in. (29.5 cm)
diameter of mouth 12 13/16 in. (32.6 cm)

Classification: Vases

Credit Line: Fletcher Fund, 1924

Accession Number: 24.97.30


A scene from the myth of Orpheus is depicted on this bell-krater, a deep bowl with a wide mouth used for mixing wine. The mythical musician from Thrace, bedecked with a laurel wreath, sits on a rock and plays his lyre. He is completely engrossed in the sound of his music and oblivious to his listeners. Before him stands a Thracian man, who represents the crowd of Thracian men moved by Orpheus' music. He wears the typical regional costume–a cap with lappets, high-laced boots with flaps, a gaily decorated mantle fastened with lacings in front, and a short belted chiton. A Thracian woman approaches. She wears a sleeveless chiton, a fillet wound three times round her head, earrings, and a necklace. In her left hand, she holds a sickle.
Orpheus, said to be the son of the Muse Kalliope, was renowned for his lyre and beautiful voice. Myths describe how not only men and women, but also beasts would follow him to listen, and how rivers actually ceased to flow in response his music. When his wife Eurydice died after stepping on a snake, Orpheus descended into the Underworld to retrieve her, but lost her forever on the way home. As a result, he withdrew into solitude and shunned the companionship of all women. At last, the women of Thrace, feeling neglected, set upon him and killed him. The Thracian woman in the scene on this vase foretells the fate of the famed singer.