Terracotta lekythos (oil flask)

Attributed to the Sappho Painter

Period: Archaic

Date: ca. 500 B.C.

Culture: Greek, Attic

Medium: Terracotta; black-figure, white-ground

Dimensions: H. 6 13/16 in. (17.3 cm); diameter 2 13/16 in. (7.2 cm)

Classification: Vases

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1941

Accession Number: 41.162.29


The four lekythoi grouped here are all attributed to the same painter and are said to have been found together in a tomb in Attica. Three of them are decorated with subjects that may have seemed especially suitable for funerary offerings because they show figures moving beyond the confines of the known world. This vase shows a scene that must be related to Herakles' journey to the west, outside the ring of ocean that encircled the earth. Traveling in the bowl of the sun, he reached an otherworldly place where he had to kill the monster Geryon, a creature similar to Hades, the god of the underworld. Here Herakles offers a sacrifice to Helios as the sun rises.