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A PAESTAN RED-FIGURED BELL-KRATER ATTRIBUTED TO PYTHON, CIRCA 340-330 B.C. The obverse with the "recognition scene" between Orestes and his sister Elektra at the tomb of their father Agamemnon, the tomb monument in the form of a fluted Ionic column on a high plinth, the column and plinth topped with offerings of eggs and draped with two white-dotted red fillets, with Elektra seated on the left edge of the plinth, gazing up at her brother, supporting herself on her lowered left hand, holding her recently shorn locks in her right, wearing a black chitoniskos trimmed in red with white dots, over a long garment with a black dotted and striped border, a hydria lying on its side to the left once containing water used in purification rites, Orestes standing to the right, nude but for high laced boots, a chlamys and a pilos helmet, a sheathed sword slung over his shoulder, holding his spear in his left hand and a red fillet in his right, his faithful Laconian hound by his side, both protagonists identified by accompanying incised inscriptions, the bust of a Fury in the upper left corner, wearing a wreath and a red chiton, snakes projecting below, a fillet and a branch to the left, and a fillet to the right of the column; the reverse with two standing draped youths wearing fillets in added white, the youth to the right holding a branch, an ivy leaf in the field to the left; a band of wave below the scenes, laurel below the rim, a large palmette below each handle, and tall framing palmettes on either side 15¼ in. (38.7 cm.) high
New York Art Market, mid 1990s.
Acquired by the current owner in 2000.

Lot Essay

Upon his return from the Trojan War, Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, is killed by his wife Clytemnestra and her lover Aigisthos. Their daughter Elektra sends her brother Orestes into exile to protect him. According to the version told by Aeschylus in the Choephoroi, the second play of his Oresteia trilogy, many years later Clytemnestra is troubled by dreams and so sends Elektra to the tomb of her father to pour libations. There she meets her brother who had come with his friend Pylades to dedicate a lock of hair. Once the siblings are reunited, they decide on vengeance for their father's death, which Apollo has ordered Orestes to carry out.

It is this recognition scene from the Cheophoroi that inspired many South Italian vase-painters. For an example from Paestum by the Boston Orestes Painter and a list of other versions see no. 105 in Padgett, et al., Vase-painting in Italy, Red-figure and Related Works in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and no. 112 in Mayo, The Art of South Italy, Vases from Magna Graecia. For a hydria by Python depicting the recognition scene which includes Pylades but not the Fury, see no. 250 in Trendall, The Red-figured Vases of Paestum.

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