The prolific Athenian vase-painter Makron, together with his contemporaries Douris, Onesimos and the Brygos Painter, are considered the finest artists of the their generation. He mostly painted elegant cups, typically type B kylikes, but also on occasion other forms, such as skyphoi. His signature is only preserved on a single vase, a skyphos now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (see J. Boardman, op. cit., figs. 308.1-308.2). He collaborated almost exclusively with the potter Hieron, whose signature (Hieron Epoiesen, or “Hieron made me”) is found on nearly one tenth of the more than 350 vases attributed to Makron, mostly painted but on occasion incised, as on the cup presented here. As Boardman informs (op. cit., p. 140), most of Makron’s vases “carry groups of men, women and youths, dancing or passing the time of day together with a number of the usual Dionysiac, symposion and athlete subjects.”
Within the tondo of this important kylix, framed by a continuous border of meander, is a departure scene. To the left stands a youthful bearded warrior facing his elderly father seated before him. The warrior wears a short chiton below an elaborate belted cuirass with two rows of protective ptergyes. The cuirass is ornamented on either side with a dotted scale pattern and in the center with cross-hatching, while the broad shoulder straps have multi-pointed stars. Over his shoulders he wears a chlamys, and there is a fillet in his hair. He leans forward with his head bowed, his eyes gazing downward, leaning on his spear, his right arm akimbo. Behind him on a block-shaped seat rests his crested helmet of Thracian type, black, decorated with spiraling tendrils. The father has a bald pate, and wears a long chiton and a heavy himation draped over his left shoulder and around his waist, holding a long T-shaped staff in his right hand. He too bows his head and gazes downward. Father and son’s eyes do not meet; the tension is palpable.
Within the field, a partially-preserved inscription identifies the warrior as Antilochos, who is the son of Nestor, King of Pylos, while another inscription identifies the father as Lykomedes. The old man surely must be Nestor, and this is not the only time that Makron was careless with his labels (see for example the tondo of his cup in St. Petersburgh depicting Theseus attacking Medea, who is mislabeled as his own mother Aithra, p. 105 in M. Robertson, The Art of Vase-painting in Classical Athens). According to Greek mythology, Antilochos accompanied his father to Troy. He was the youngest of the Achaeans, a friend to Achilles, and was admired for his swift footedness and his prowess as a warrior. On account of an oracle advising that his son should beware of an Ethiopian, Nestor gave him a constant body guard (see A. Kossatz-Deissmann, “Antilochos I,” in LIMC, vol. I). In the Iliad, prior to the chariot race that was part of the funerary games for Patroklos, Nestor advises his son on how to win the race. Perhaps this is the scene depicted on the tondo of the cup. A similar interpretation can be applied to the figures of Nestor, named by an inscription, and a young warrior, seen on either side of a Nolan amphora by the Tithonos Painter in Paris (see Kossatz-Deissmann, op. cit., no. 5). According to Pindar (Pythian Odes 6.28-42), during a later battle, after one of his horses was shot by Paris and with Memnon, King of the Ethiopians, threatening, Nestor called out for his son. Antilochos came to his rescue but lost his own life, thus fulfilling the prophecy. He was forevermore praised for his filial devotion.
On the exterior are scenes from daily life rather than mythology. Both sides depict courting scenes, which Makron painted on a large number of his cups. On one side, three draped men (two with beards, one more youthful), each with a wreath in his hair, stand leaning on a staff, cavorting with a hetaira. The women are dressed in chitons and himatia, the drapery frequently diaphanous, especially that of the woman in the center, who’s chiton overfold is in dilute glaze, revealing the sensuous form of her body beneath. The woman to the right is additionally adorned with earrings, a necklace and a kekryphalos for her hair. Below the handle to the right is a diphros, or stool, with a pillow on top. On the other side are three pairs of men, each wearing a himation and leaning on a staff. Between the youth and bearded man to the left hangs a bag. The central pair are both beardless, while to the right a youth converses with a bearded man. For a discussion of related courtship scenes between men and youths, see pp. 91-100 in K. Dover, Greek Homosexuality.