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    Sale 12239

    Antiquities

    6 July 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 63

    AN ATTIC RED-FIGURED BELL-KRATER

    ATTRIBUTED TO THE GROUP OF POLYGNOTOS, CIRCA 450-400 B.C.

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    AN ATTIC RED-FIGURED BELL-KRATER
    ATTRIBUTED TO THE GROUP OF POLYGNOTOS, CIRCA 450-400 B.C.
    The obverse with the captured Silenos being presented to the court of king Midas, the bearded nude satyr with long tail, standing with his hands bound behind his back, a Phrygian guard standing behind, leaning on his distinctive hooked spear, wearing a floppy, patterned Persian cap, a patterned long-sleeved coat over a tunic, belted at the waist, and patterned tight-fitting trousers, before Silenos another Phyrgian, wearing tightly-fitting patterned trousers and long-sleeved tunic, sitting on a low stool, behind him a standing female attendant, wearing a belted chiton and holding a fan in her left hand, her curly hair bound in a chignon, to the far left of the scene Midas, with pricked ass's ears, sitting on a throne with a striped covering on a low dais, the back in the form of a griffin head, a column behind, holding a spear in his right hand, wearing a patterned long-sleeved coat over a tunic and tightly-fitting patterned trousers, his curly hair bound in a sakkos; the reverse with a central standing draped bearded male figure, holding a staff in his right hand, a female figure either side striding towards him, the figure to the right with her hair bound in a sakkos and holding a phiale; groundline of meander and checkered squares, bands of ovolo and laurel below the rim, scrolling palmettes beneath and ovolo around the handles
    15 ½ in. (39.4 cm.) high


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    Midas, the mythical king of Phrygia with legendary wealth, captured Silenos in order to elicit advice from the wise satyr. He tainted the spring from which Silenos drank with wine and, once inebriated, had him bound and brought before him. Silenos then proffered the gloomy insight that it was best for mortals never to have been born, and next best to die as soon as possible.

    Literary references to this encounter are relatively limited; correspondingly, vases depicting this scene are especially rare. M. C. Millar identified four 6th Century representations (see 'Midas as the Great King in Attic Fifth-Century Vase-Painting', Antike Kunst, 1988, vol. 31, p. 79-89), and the Beazley Archive lists just five Classical red-figure examples, including a bell-krater in the Lentini Museum (no. 9131), and the eponymous stamnos of the Midas Painter in the British Museum (acc. no. 1851.4-16.9). Additionally, scenes of the presentation of Silenos to Midas seem to have been less popular than scenes of the former's ambush. Attic vase-painters took care to evoke the Eastern character of the Phrygian king's court; guards are shown in typically Oriental garb, the king sits upon an elaborate throne, and a single column is used as a synecdoche for an elaborate palace. Yet the humour of the encounter is unmistakably Greek. The self-indulgent Eastern king binds and kidnaps Silenos, an attempt to control a character who is the embodiment of the wild and ungovernable natural world. The wisdom he elicits by doing so is a reminder of the fundamentally wretched situation of mortal man, which even the most wealthy of tyrants cannot escape. Silenos, it seems, has the last laugh.

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    Provenance

    Private collection, Switzerland, acquired prior to 1966.


    Pre-Lot Text

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