The niobid painter

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					The Niobid
Calyx Krater

White text: p.59-61
 Black text: p.75-78
The Niobid Painter
  The Niobid Painter is named after the
  scene on Side B of this vase; the killing of
  the Niobids (the children of Queen Niobe).
  He was influenced by the wall painter
  Polygnotos, though he would have been
  familiar with other painters, like Mikon in
Shape: Calyx krater

Function: mixing
  bowl for wine and

Painter: Niobid

Potter: unknown

Technique: red figure

Date: c.470-450 B.C

             Height: 55cm
There are no inscriptions on this vase.
Neither the potter or the painter signed the
 vase, and none of the figures are named.
Side A
Side A - Interpretation
 Niobid Painter did not name any of his
 figures, so art historians have suggested
 different interpretations for the scene on
 Side A.
 The story of “The Seven Against Thebes”
 is one possibility. “The Gathering of the
 Argonauts” is another possibility.
 Another suggestion is “Herakles’ Voyage
 into the Underworld to Rescue Theseus”.
Herakles stands in the centre
of the frieze, attracting the
viewer’s attention.
He is naked except for his
lionskin (over his left
shoulder), but wears a beard
and a wreath, and looks to
his right at the warriors.
He also carries his trademark
club and a bow.
Theseus pulls himself up
using the spears he holds in
his left hand.
His pose is very natural and
balanced, with his straight
right arm, and bent left leg.
His right foot is turned
outward in frontal view.
His sword is slung across his
chest on a strap, while he
wears a petassos – a
travelling hat – around the
back of his neck.
Peirthoos sits to the
right of Herakles.
Naked, he sits on his
himation, with his
sword slung around
his chest. This is an
unusual pose. His
head is ¾ view and,
while appears to be
looking at Theseus,
he looks bored.
These two figures are
both shown in a
combination of
frontal, ¾ and profile
views. They are the
finest figures shown
on the vase.
These figures show
the influence of the
To the right of
Herakles, all these
figures are arranged
on an uneven
This creates a sense
of depth.
On the far right of the
composition, a man is
depicted standing by
his horse. It is
possible that he is
also one of Castor
and Pollux.
This warrior
wears a Thracian
helmet with a
horsehair crest. He
wears greaves,
carries a shield and
leans on his spear.
Athena stands behind
the warrior. She
wears a chiton and an
elaborate himation.
She is armed with a
spear, and wears an
Attic helmet on top of
her head. It has
detailed, hinged nose
and cheek flaps.
Behind Athena there
are three warriors.
One is armed with a
corselet of metal
scales, a helmet
without a crest, a
spear and a shield.
He stands, half-
hidden, behind a
rock. This is inspired
by the painting of
Mikon of Athens.
A third figure may be
either Castor or
Side B
Side B - Interpretation
 Again, art historians have suggested that
 there may be several different
 interpretations for the scene on Side B.
 The most probable interpretation involves
 Apollo and Artemis’ murder of the Niobids.
The Myth
  Niobe was daughter of Tantalus, and the queen of
  Thebes. Her husband, King Amphion, was a son of the
  god Zeus and was a great musician. Niobe bore him six
  handsome sons and six beautiful daughters (some
  stories say seven of each). One day when the people of
  Thebes were celebrating a feast for the goddess Leto,
  the mother of Apollo and Artemis, Niobe boasted that, as
  she had more children than Leto and because of her
  beauty and high lineage, she should be honoured
  instead of Leto.
  The gods heard her words on distant Mount Olympus
  and resolved to punish her. Leto's children—Apollo, god
  of prophecy and a master archer; and Artemis, goddess
  of the hunt—fired their arrows with deadly aim, killing all
  of Niobe's children. The grief-stricken Niobe was turned
  into marble from which tears forever ran in the form of a
Apollo stands in the
centre of the frieze,
with his legs apart,
firing arrows. His
pose is reminiscent
of Greek sculpture.
His quiver hangs
empty beside him.
He is naked, except
for a folded cloak
which hangs over his
Artemis is also in the
centre of the frieze.
She is in the process
of taking an arrow
from her quiver. Her
arm is foreshortened.
She wears a peplos
with an embroidered
hem. It is clearly
fastened at the
shoulder. She wears
an ornament on a
string around her
neck. She wears a
Here a stylised tree
grows on a small hill.
This is the only
indication of
A boy runs away
from Apollo. He is
naked and has
already been hit in
the ribs by one of
Apollo’s arrows.
Another boy lies
dying from an arrow
wound in the back.
His face is ¾ view
and his eyes are
closed. He clutches
the rock he has fallen

Another arrow lies on
the ground nearby.
Apollo’s arrows never
missed, so another
body must be hidden
behind a rock.
The implied
presence of another
corpse is a huge step
forward in vase
A dead girl lies in
front of Artemis with
an arrow sticking out
of her back. Her face
is shown in frontal
view, and her eyes
are closed. Her arm
is outstretched and
her hair is
She wears a diadem
– this shows she is of
royal status.
Behind Artemis is a
boy wrapped in a
cloak. He is running
terror away from
Artemis, but he has
already been hit in
the chest and will die
 Both sides are very crowded with many
 figures in various different poses.
 This is complicated by the use of different
 groundlines. This would have given the
 impression of depth. The groundlines
 were painted in purple slip, but these have
 faded, and now some of the figures
 appear to be floating. This increases the
 feeling of a connection with Greek
The Niobid Painter: Innovations
         • Influence of wall painting
 •       • Freedom of the figures
         • Use of shading
         • Use of multiple ground-line helps to
           form a landscape background
         • Depicting of figures in profile of three
           quarter view
         • Depiction of drapery is more realistic –
           zig-zags are less sharp and folds look
         • Eyes are painted in true profile, which
           allows the viewer to follow what the
           figures are looking at

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