Greek bell krater


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ITEMBell krater
PERIOD4th Century B.C
DIMENSIONS425 mm x 395 mm
CONDITIONGood condition, restoration between the base and the piece as it had a missing part. Restoration report included.
PROVENANCECollection returned by the German Judicial Authority to Herakles Numismatik und Antiquitäten GmbH (München), who acquired it on the European art market since the 1970s; from 2000s the entire collection is located in the United Kingdom

Krater, ancient Greek vessel used for diluting wine with water. It usually stood on a tripod in the dining room, where wine was mixed. Kraters were made of metal or pottery and were often painted or elaborately ornamented. In Homer’s Iliad the prize offered by Achilles for the footrace at Patroclus’s funeral games was a silver krater of Sidonian workmanship. The Greek historian Herodotus describes many enormous and costly kraters dedicated at temples or used in religious ceremonies to hold libations.

Kraters are large, with a broad body and base and usually a wide mouth. They may have horizontal handles placed near the base, or vertical handles rising from the shoulder. Among the many variations are the bell krater, confined to red-figure pottery, shaped like an inverted bell, with loop handles and a disk foot; the volute krater, with an egg-shaped body and handles that rise from the shoulder and curl in a volute (scroll-shaped form) well above the rim; the calyx krater, the shape of which spreads out like the cup or calyx of a flower; and the column krater, with columnar handles rising from the shoulder to a flat, projecting lip rim.

In the 4th century BCE, Greek pottery, including craters, continued to be a significant aspect of artistic expression and cultural identity. This period marked a transition from the Classical to the Hellenistic era, and Greek potters continued to refine their techniques. Red-figure pottery became increasingly popular, where figures were left in the natural color of the clay while the background was painted black. This technique allowed for greater detail and nuance in depicting scenes on the craters. Artists during this time displayed a mastery of anatomy and perspective, often portraying mythological narratives, scenes from daily life, or athletic competitions.

One notable type of crater from the 4th century BCE is the column krater. This form typically featured a column or columns supporting the handles, and it served both utilitarian and decorative purposes. The handles were often ornately shaped, contributing to the aesthetic appeal of the vessel. Column kraters were used for mixing wine and water in social settings, such as symposiums, reinforcing the communal importance of shared rituals in ancient Greek society.