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Exekias Belly Amphora. Exekias. Ancient Greek vase painter and potter. Worked approx. between 550BC – 525BC. Mainly worked with technique known as ‘black figure’. Considered to be one of the best black figure vase painters . Master of psychological tension. Belly Amphora. Side B. Side A.

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  • Ancient Greek vase painter and potter.

  • Worked approx. between 550BC – 525BC.

  • Mainly worked with technique known as ‘black figure’.

  • Considered to be one of the best black figure vase painters.

  • Master of psychological tension.

Belly Amphora

Side B

Side A

Achilles + Ajax

Return of Diskouri

Attribution Detail

  • Name: Exekias Belly Amphora

  • Date: 550 - 540 B.C.

  • Height: 61cm

  • Potter & Painter: by Exekias

  • How is the painter identified?

    He signed his name onto the vase, on the rim of the vase.

    Translates to “Exekias made me”


The shape
The Shape

1. Amphora

2. Used for storage of wine, honey/ oil

3. Larger neck, broader shoulder, flanged decorated handle.

4. Made and painted the vase.

5. Base of neck – Vases mid-point

6. Flanged and

decorated (not plain

and flat.

7. Chain of ivy leaves

The shape1
*The Shape

  • Continuous line from foot to mouth

  • Foot is stepped. (Foot is moulded in two parts, so it looks like steps.)


  • Exekias painted and made me

    2. Achilles and Ajax

    3. Three (Ajax)

    4. Four (Achilles)

Where its found
*Where its found

1. Found on the rim of the vase and also on the left behind Achilles.

2. On top-behind their heads

3.&4. Coming out of their mouths

(Other inscription)

There is a kalos inscription, it reads: “Onetorides is beautiful)

Story behind side a
*Story behind Side A

  • A scene from a lost poem about the Trojan War. Achilles and Ajax are involved playing a board game. They are unaware that the enemy is approaching, and they are still playing when the Trojans attack their camp. Any Greek who saw this would have known what it was about and what was about to happen.

The scene
The Scene

5- Achilles & Ajax (best friend)

6- Achilles’ name is inscribed next to him and so is Ajax’s’ name.


7- Achilles and Ajax are

involved playing a board game.

Unaware that the enemies are

approaching they are still playing when

the Trojans attack their camp.

8- He doesn’t show what’s happening

in the moment. Here, he’s shown what’s

happening before the battle, and in the

Kylix he showed what happened after

the pirates attacked Dionysus.


Identify the characters
Identify the Characters

  • Queen Leda – Her peplos is flat and fold less.

  • Slave Boy– Carries a stool on his head on the stool is a change of clothing for the twins

  • King Tyndareus– Hand outstretched to pat horse mirrors Leda’s hand stretched towards Castor.

  • Castor and his horse-He holds his horse with one hand and turns his head to acknowledge his mothers welcoming gesture.

  • Polydeuces- he is welcomed by the family dog he bends down to pat the dog

What is the myth shown on side b of this vase
What is the myth shown on side B of this vase ?

Return of the Dioskouroi or the heavenly twins Castor and Polydeuces to the home of their parents King Tyndareus and Queen Leda of Sparta.

Narrative technique explanation
Narrative Technique Explanation

Rhythm - Leda’s outstretched arms are mirrored by her husband Tyndareus ,who reaches up with a long graceful hand to pat the horse muzzle.

There are inscriptions labeling the characters

Movement dog is jumping up at Polydeuces

Leda offering Castor flower


  • Located across the top of the scene.

  • There is elaborate double lotus and palmette motif.


  • Lotus and Palmette chain with separated leaves, which is then bordered by a red band.

  • Base area of the body is encircled by ray bans.

Painting technique
Painting Technique

1. Black figure

2. Red

3. Added red ochre wash to panel before firing

4. Purple and white were used to enliven the decoration but fragility of the colours meant that much disappeared.

  • Figure

  • Eyes, hair and beard, cloak*, muscles

  • (not in realistic style)

  • Use of colour: White shields, corselet, greaves and

  • Cloak.

  • Purple painted on satyr’s mask on

  • Achilles shield.

  • These all create realism.


  • Cloaks:

    Incised with incredible detail

    Panels filled with stars, spirals and flowers

    Influenced by Corinthian Orientalising

  • Drapery:

    Flat and two dimensional

    Natural look – we see the corselet under Achilles’ cloak. Heavily decorated.

  • Detail: If you look on Achilles arm, you’ll see a panther head.


Extrrrrrrras 2

  • Achilles = more dominant figure, because of the Corinthian helmet with horsehair crest. He is also dressed in full body amour, incised leather corselet, greaves, thigh guards and arm guard.

  • Achilles’ Shield – the satyr’s head in high relief compared to Ajax's. Boeotian shield is archaic.

  • Ajax's Shield – intricately detailed. Bearded Gorgon’s head between two writhing snakes. It leans on the edge if the panel and mirrors Achilles shield.

Silhouette – bodiesIncised Detail - There is a lot of incised detail on the horse mane , and outline of the horse’s muscles , to make it look more realistic.Added colour – Dog and Queen Leda white. Her peplos.

Composition 1
Composition 1

*The composition is balanced

and symmetrical. In the centre

is the game table and this is

framed by the two figures.

  • Gently curved backs of

    characters follow the shape

    of the vase.

  • Shields follow line of the

    handles and the Spears

    continue up to the top of the


  • There is a single ground line.

Composition 2
Composition 2

  • Central figures form a triangle.

  • Spears form an inverse triangle.

  • Figures composed in ‘W’ Shape.


Side B clearly uses overlapping to create three separate planes. Which figures are on each plane and how are the figures within each plane connected ?

Polydeuces playing with his dog

Tyndareus patting the muzzle of the horse

Leda offering a flower to Castor


What is the woman wearing ?


How does the painter depiction of this garment compare with Lydos ?

There is an emphasis on detail , not depth. Lydo’s garments are plain and flowy


  • Horse’s hair tails down Achilles’ helmet

  • Bulge at the back of his cloak. Shows that corselet is beneath.

  • Extra glaze to give Achilles’ curls body.

  • Warriors heads are frontal but their eyes are profile.

  • Muscles = swirls

Ekekias depiction of human form compare to those painted by lydos
Ekekias depiction of human form compare to those painted by Lydos

Exekias has made no attempt to draw/curvy muscles in a realistic fashion.

Exekias draws people to scale, Lydos has wicked/randomly proportioned chest/ ankles/ thighs.