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Attributed to Lydos

(Greek, active 565–535 BC)

Tondo from a black-figure plate showing the recovery of Helen by Menelaus

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Object Details

Artist

Attributed to Lydos

Medium

Terra-cotta; black figure

Dimensions

Diameter: 5 7/8 inches (14.9 cm)

Credit Line

Acquired through the generosity of the Class of 1930 for the Frank and Rosa Rhodes Collection

Object
Number

95.047

Provenance:

n.d. private collection, Switzerland [1]; before 1995 private dealer, Switzerlan(…)

Provenance:

n.d. private collection, Switzerland [1]; before 1995 private dealer, Switzerland [2]; by 1995 Peter Sharrer, Ancient Art, Inc., New York (sold through private dealer) [3]; 1995 collection of Class of 1930, Cornell University, Ithaca (sold through Peter Sharrer) [4]; 1995 collection of Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University (gift of Class of 1930) [5]

N.B. Provenance is based on research into historic information and documentation. Such research is ongoing, and records may be revised or updated from time to time. Complete provenance is the exception, not the rule.

[1] – [3] Letter to Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art from Peter Sharrer, 28 July 1995.

[4] Deed of Gift, signed and dated 1 Dec. 1995.

[5] ibid. The object was checked by the Museum with the Art Loss Register and IFAR on 22 Nov. 1995. As of the date of the search, the object had not been registered in either the Art Loss Register or IFAR databases.

——

Label text:

The sixth century BC in Athens is the classic moment in ancient Greek vase painting; this composition was executed about 560 BC by Lydos, a major figure in Athenian painting, in black paint on the natural red of the plate itself. Details were scratched through the black with a needle, and other colors were added on top.

Lydos shows us here the Greek king Menelaos forcibly bringing Helen, his unfaithful wife, back to Greece after the Trojan War. Menelaos, in sword and armor, climbs up the side of the plate, grasping the hem of Helen’s robe, while she stands, dignified and calm, her servant waiting modestly to the right. At the bottom, the king’s dog—a favorite animal in Lydos’s work—sniffs curiously at Helen, perhaps anticipating the couple’s reconciliation and future happy years together. Much of the composition of the plate is based on an amphora in the Staatliche Museen, Berlin.

In sixth-century BC Greece, painting on vases was one of the most important ways in which problems of representation and narrative were worked out. This process is apparent in Lydos’s lively scene, with each character given its own distinctive personality. The story of the Trojan War itself is told in Homer’s Iliad, the touchstone for ancient Greek and Roman epic poetry and one of the great sources for writers and painters for the last three thousand years.

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