Red-figure bell krater

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Attributed to the Hearst Painter
Greek, Apulian
About 430–420 BCE
Terracotta with added white accessories
26.7 x 26.7 cm
Yale University Art Gallery: Gift of Rebecca Darlington Stoddard, 1913; 1913.324

Although the decoration of this red-figure vase is based on the very popular fifth-century Athenian style, it was manufactured in Southern Italy (Apulia). The Greece of ancient times was not limited to its modern boundaries; people who spoke Greek lived all over the Mediterranean, Aegean, and Black Seas, including modern Italy, Turkey, and places as far as France and Libya. The similarity of this vase’s subject to many Athenian and other Greek red-figure vases from the Classical era (480 BCE–323 BCE) illustrates the influence of Athens on the culture of the wider Greek world.

This particular wine-mixing vessel illustrates an aristocratic drinking party (symposion) on the obverse (pictured above) and a courtship scene between two young men on the reverse. This krater was designed to be used at a similar symposium, where younger and older men drank, had conversations, and often also enjoyed entertainment such as the female flute-player shown on the obverse. A popular game played at these symposia was kottabos, or the flinging of the wine dregs. The figure on the right of the obverse holds his drinking cup (kylix) in preparation for playing this game. The couch (kline) seen on the krater was typical of these gatherings, as ancient Greeks preferred to drink and eat in a reclining position.

This text was prepared by Elizabeth Neill, Class of 2013, based on her paper for Professor Rutter’s Classical Studies 22: Greek Classical Archaeology: City-States and Pan-Hellenic Sanctuaries.

Additional Label

Aristocratic drinking parties (symposia) were important social institutions in ancient Greece. Usually held in the men’s quarters of the home (andron), symposia provided a social environment for younger and older men to eat, drink, hold conversations, and enjoy entertainment, such as music and poetry. A variety of drinking vessels was used at the symposium, and they featured scenes depicting banqueters or imagery connected to Dionysus, the Greek god of wine.

This particular wine-mixing vessel portrays a symposium scene involving two male banqueters and a female entertainer. The two bare-chested men recline on a banqueting couch (kline) and hold drinking vessels resembling bowls (kylixes) in their hands. Both men face a young girl playing the flute (aulos), whose long chiton falls just above her feet. Although Greek women of respectable class did not attend symposia, female entertainers, such as dancers, acrobats, musicians, and courtesans (hetairai), often accompanied men there. Aristotle’s Constitution of Athens describes how city officials called Astynomoi supervised the hiring of women to play the flute and possibly be auctioned off at the end of the symposia as prostitutes. Here, both men gaze intently at the flute player, and the man on the left reaches out to touch her, suggesting that she might also play a sexual role in the context of this all-male setting.

This text was prepared by Mellon Special Projects intern Katelyn Burgess, Class of 2013.

On view at entrance to the museum


Side A, detail



Student essay

Courtship Scenes in Fifth-Century Attic Pottery: A Closer Look at Classical Iconography
by Elizabeth Neill, Class of 2013.

Related exhibitions

Beyond Aphrodite: Interpreting Portrayals of “Real” Women in Ancient Greece


F45, London, British Museum; red-figure bell krater, 4th century BCE, Apulian fabric

12611, Altenburg, Staatliches Lindenau-Museum, 276; red-figure column krater, 475-425 B.C., Athenian fabric

21.88.4, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art; red-figure bell krater, 4th century BCE, Athenian fabric

Suggested online resources

Beazley Archive Online. Pottery Database. <>.

Perseus Database Online. “Yale 1933.175.” Accessed 5 February 2011 <;jsessionid=CD75ADABF382360058D8DCF0048DF930?name=Yale+1933.175&object=Vase>.

Further reading

Paul V. C. Baur, Catalogue of the Rebecca Darlington Stoddard Collection of Greek and Italian Vases at Yale University , 1st ed. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1922), 190-191, no. 324, plate XVII, fig. 45.

Paul V. C. Baur, Preliminary Catalogue of the Rebecca Darlington Stoddard Collection of Greek and Italian Vases in Yale University (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1914), 15, no. 130.

E. Csapo and M. C. Miller, “The ‘Kottabos-Toast’ and an Inscribed Red-Figured Cup,” Hesperia 60 (1991): 367–82.

Dover, Kenneth J. Greek Homosexuality. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978.

Frontisi-Ducroux, Francoise. “Eros, Desire and the Gaze,” chapter six in Sexuality in Ancient Art, ed. Natalie Boymel Kampen, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Hubbard, T.K. “Popular Perceptions of Elite Homosexuality in Classical Athens.” Arion: Third Series, Vol. 6, No. 1 (Spring – Summer, 1998), pp. 48-78.

Stewart, Andrew. Classical Greece and the Birth of Western Art. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Gisela Marie Augusta Richter, Ancient Furniture: A History of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Furniture (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1928), 80–81, 84, fig. 201.

Arthur Dale Trendall, Early South Italian Vase-Painting (Mainz, Germany: Verlag P. von Zabern, 1974), 47, no. 24.

Michael Vickers, “A Kottabos Cup in Oxford,” American Journal of Archaeology 78 (1974): 158.

Arthur Dale Trendall, Early South Italian Vase-Painting (Mainz, Germany: Verlag P. von Zabern, 1974), 47, no. 24.

Rolf Hurschmann, Symposienszenen auf unteritalischen vasen (Würzburg, Germany: Koenigshausen und Neumann, 1985), 168, A4 pl. 1, ill.

Jean-Louis Durand et al., A City of Images: Iconography and Society in Ancient Greece (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1988), 121–30.

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