The Moment of Love

Akhilleus_Penthesileia_Staatliche_Antikensammlungen_2688Achilles kills Penthesilea (an Attic red-figure kylix, 470–460 BCE) wikipedia public domain image

This is an ancient Greek painting on a big platter. It illustrates a story the Greeks all knew about Achilles, the Greek hero, and Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons.

She joined the Trojans in their war against the Greeks and met Achilles on the battlefield. They fight and Achilles kills her, though not before—the very moment the picture illustrates—he falls in love with her!

The nameless artist, one of the greatest, drew the look of love (and death) in Penthesilea’s eyes. She reaches up to touch Achilles’ breast while her legs buckle. Achilles seems to pause in thought the moment he drives his sword into her breast and looks into her eyes.


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This entry was posted in art, art history, great artists, Greek art, Greek ceramic vessels and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Moment of Love

  1. Ken Januski says:

    Works such as this are always striking in their contemporary quality. ‘Modern’ people always think that they live in a new world, with new problems, new ways of being, etc. And yet you look at something like this and see that it is as alive and rich, both visually and in terms of story, as anything done today. I’m not criticizing today. But just pointing out how each age thinks it is ‘modern’ and yet all in all there really isn’t all that much difference from one age to the next, even if the ages are separated by a few thousand years.

    And of course it helps to know the story behind the art!!

    • 100swallows says:

      Ken: It’s a shame an artist this good shouldn’t be known now, though probably in his time he was famous. There must have been fierce competition in the pot-makers’ district of old Athens or the standards couldn’t have been so high. Just like in the Italian Renaissance. The true aim wasn’t popularity with the general public but the esteem of the artist’s peers. They kept one another critical and aesthetically sharp. A platter painting less good would have satisfied the merchants and sold just as well. I’ve seen a lot of bad vase painting. The Greeks must have sold just as many of them after the quality went down.

  2. Rich says:

    Penthesilea the warrior – wow!

    A round platter like this; isn’t it quite challenging? Very suitable indeed for ornaments and flower motives and the like – but for such a dynamic scene with figures?
    Looks very difficult to me, compositionwise. Perhaps something more rectangular might be easier.
    The artist solved the problem here with great mastery and ease.
    Maybe those round shields helped him, designwise…

    • 100swallows says:

      Rich: And I always wondered why the rectangle became the standard. Isn’t the design of most “dynamic” figures centripetal? A circle and a square seem more natural than a rectangle. Doesn’t the photographer make a circle of his hands while trying to “center” his subject? Perhaps the rectangle is more suitable for story-telling and decoration. In fact, remember that painting began on walls, not on panels and canvasses. The painter was given a space to fill. Raphael had to paint his Vatican frescoes around a door. But you may be right: a circular painting that is more than just a central subject with a circle scribed around it may be especially hard. Filling in the odd spaces seems to be the challenge. Look at Michelangelo’s Tondo Doni (and other tondi) and Rafael’s Madonna of the Chair. What do you think of the fallen amazon on the right in this platter?

  3. Hima unadkat says:

    hii this is really nice… artist can check my website mydazzlingart.com

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