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Niobid Painter. Calyx krater. Basic Facts. Vase shape: calyx krater Function: mixing wine & water Potter: unknown Painter: Niobid Painter Date: 470-450 BC Height: 55cm. Painter. named after this krater (which depicts Artemis & Apollo killing the children of Queen Niobe )

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niobid painter

Niobid Painter

Calyx krater

basic facts
Basic Facts
  • Vase shape: calyx krater
  • Function: mixing wine & water
  • Potter: unknown
  • Painter: Niobid Painter
  • Date: 470-450 BC
  • Height: 55cm
  • named after this krater (which depicts Artemis & Apollo killing the children of Queen Niobe)
  • influenced by wall painters (especially Polygnotos of Thasos; and Mikon of Athens who decorated the Stoa Poikele – his signature was to depict figures hidden behind rocks or other stylised landscape)
  • also influenced by the sculpture of the time – he details figures with raised relief lines of black glaze (instead of the common honey-coloured dilute glaze used by other vase painters)
  • the influence of sculpture can also be seen by the restrained poses & severe features of the characters, all of whom appear to float against the black glaze background, separated from each other on the uneven groundline
  • the implied presense of a body - hidden behind a mound so that all we can see is an arrow
  • true profile eyes
  • numerous groundlines (give the illusion of depth)
subject side a
Subject – side A
  • the figures are unnamed so there are three possible interpretations
  • the most plausible is: Herakles’ journey to the underworld to rescue Theseus; Athena stands at the entrance, while the warrior behind the rock may be Iolaos, outside
  • other interpretations: the gathering of the Argonauts / the seven against Thebes
subject side b
Subject – side B
  • Myth: Niobe was the mother of seven sons and seven daughters. She boasted that she had more children than Leto, who only had two. So in revenge, Leto’s children (the twins Artemis & Apollo) slaughtered the children of Niobe (the ‘Niobids’). Apollo and Artemis slew them all with their arrows, Apollo shooting the sons, Artemis the daughters. They were buried by the gods at Thebes.
composition side a
Composition – side A
  • large number of figures in a variety of poses
  • the semi-seated warriors left leg overlaps the reclining youth below him
  • uneven groundline – gives illusion of depth
  • the higher the figure, the further away they are
  • the groundline was purple but little has survived (thus, some of the figures look as if floating)
composition side b
Composition – side B
  • complex
  • very crowded with a number of figures
  • twin gods fill the centre
  • Apollo is slightly lower than Artemis, perhaps suggesting he is moving forward
  • Niobids painted on different ground levels & in foreshortened poses (indicates depth)
  • the groundline is purple but has mostly been lost
figurative details side a
Figurative details – side A


  • stands behind a warrior
  • wears a chiton & an elaborate himation
  • armed with goatskin aegis set with head of Medusa
  • has an Attic helmet with its hinged nose & cheek flaps pushed up
  • below the goddess (leaning on the cliff) is a frontally facing shield decorated with a wheel pattern
figurative details side a cont
Figurative details – side A cont.


  • stands in the centre
  • bearded & wreathed
  • naked except for his famous lionskin thrown over his left shoulder
  • armed with knobbed club and a bow
  • turns to his right to glance at a warrior (helps tie the composition together)
figurative details side a cont1
Figurative details – side A cont.


  • wears Thracian helmet with a horsehair crest
  • the helmet has cheek flaps which the warrior has pulled down over his face
  • wears greaves
  • clothed with an embroidered tunic made up of many small folds
  • leans on his spear
  • carries a shield which has been depicted from an inside, foreshortened view
figurative details side a cont2
Figurative details – side A cont.

Group of three warriors behind Athena

Warrior towards the top of the frieze

  • his body is partially hidden behind a rock
  • he twists around into a back view so he can gesture to his accompaniment

Second warrior

  • painted below the one mentioned above
  • naked except for a chlamys which he wears fastened across one shoulder
  • wears a helmet with a horse-hair crest
  • carries an elaborate shield emblazoned with the body of a writhing snake
  • also carries a spear

Third warrior

  • nude
  • holding his spear
  • hangs his sword in its sheath beside him
  • helmet hangs around his neck on its strap
  • depicted frontally with his head in a ¾ view looking towards Athena
  • on a groundline deliberately higher than the others to avoid the space behind the handles
figurative details side a cont3
Figurative details – side A cont.

Warrior to the right of Herakles (Peirthoos?)

  • naked
  • sits on his himation
  • carries his sword in its sheath
  • innovative pose – he turns his head in a ¾ view so that he appears to look out of the frieze towards the viewer; he reaches down to grip his knee, while his left leg hangs down to brush the youth below
figurative details side a cont4
Figurative details – side A cont.

Reclining youth at bottom of frieze (Theseus?)

  • naked
  • reclines whilst supporting his upper torso with his right hand
  • holds two large spears in his left hand
  • the outstretched right arm is balanced by his bent left leg
  • his right foot is turned outward in a frontal pose
  • his travelling hat, petassos, rests on his back
  • his sword is slung on a strap across his chest
  • his helmet and shield rest at his feet
figurative details side a cont5
Figurative details – side A cont.

Warrior with missing face on higher level

  • stands offering an elaborate helmet decorated with a chequerboard pattern to Herakles
  • naked except for a chlamys which he carries draped over his arms
  • holds a spear and sword
figurative details side a cont6
Figurative details – side A cont.

Bearded man, far right

  • wears a petassos
  • raises his leg on a (now invisible) piece of landscape
  • face is turned in ¾ view to stare ‘off’ the frieze
  • dressed in transparent chiton so that his elaborate musculature is clearly visible
  • wears his cloak around his neck
figurative details side a cont7
Figurative details – side A cont.

Man beside the horse

  • probably one of the Dioscuri
  • most likely placed there to balance his brother on the other side of the vase
  • naked except for his helmet
  • holds two spears and a sword
figurative details side b
Figurative details – side B


  • is in the centre of the composition
  • naked except for a cloak which he carries over his arm
  • wears a laurel wreath
  • depicted shooting with his bow
  • his quiver hangs empty beside him
figurative details side b cont
Figurative details – side B cont.


  • stands behind her brother
  • is in the process of pulling out another arrow to fill her empty bow
  • wears a peplos with an embroidered hem, clearly fastened at each shoulder
  • hair is in a sakkos
  • wears some ornament on a string around her neck
figurative details side b cont1
Figurative details – side B cont.


  • lansdscape feature in front of Apollo
figurative details side b cont2
Figurative details – side B cont.

Boy behind Artemis

  • wrapped in a cloak
  • pulls away from the goddess in horror
  • he has been hit in the chest & will soon die (like his siblings)
figurative details side b cont3
Figurative details – side B cont.

Dead girl in front of Artemis

  • frontal face
  • left arm is outflung
  • hair is dishevelled around her face
  • still wears her diadem/crown (so that the viewer knows her royal status)
  • an arrow sticks out of her back (cause of death)
figurative details side b cont4
Figurative details – side B cont.

Dying boy below Apollo

  • in the process of dying from an arrow in his back
  • he clutches at a rock on which he has fallen
  • face is in ¾ view so that we can see that his eyes are closed and he is near death
  • another arrow lies buried in the ground beside him (but Apollo never misses so it is suggested that there is a figure behind a landscape feature here who has also been shot)
figurative details side b cont5
Figurative details – side B cont.

Boy running

  • running from Apollo who is aiming at him
  • has already been hit in the ribs by another arrow
  • his death is near
non figurative details
Non-figurative details
  • scene is framed by lotus & palmette chains
eyes drapery
Eyes & Drapery


  • true profile
  • gives direction as to where the figure is looking
  • helps the figure become involved and ties the composition together


  • more realistic
  • folds of material are soft
  • drapery models the body underneath
  • zigzags are less sharp