Amphora by the “Berlin Painter”

This magnificent amphora from the Berlin collection is so beautifully painted that its creator has been dubbed the "Berlin painter".

The vase's proportions are perfectly planned. It is exactly twice as high as it is wide, and the widest point is exactly midway up. At 23 centimetres, the base is the exact same diameter as the neck. The lower edge of the images is, in turn, 23 centimetres above the surface it stands on and the handles begin precisely 23 centimetres above that.

The elegant painting on the front shows a forest scene. A deer sniffs the air, standing between two figures. It probably smells wine, for next to the deer stands a drunken silenus – a mythical creature with the ears and tail of a horse. He has given the wine jug and goblet to Hermes, messenger of the gods, who can be recognised by his winged shoes and messenger's baton. The silenus holds a lyre and a pick to pluck the strings.

The reverse side of the amphora also shows a Silenus. This one is just lifting a wine goblet to his mouth. In the other hand he carries a lyre.

The figures have been painted over each other, so that the group as a whole stands out from the black background. This was an entirely new form of portraying group scenes. The "Berlin painter" is one of the most outstanding artists of the transitional period between ancient and classical art. Although he never signed any of his work, it can be immediately recognised by its technique. About 300 vases and fragments have been attributed to him. Yet we know nothing about him, except that he worked in Athens in about 500 B.C.

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