Red-figure bell krater (c. 500–490 BC), Greek, Attic, attributed to the Berlin Painter.
Musée du Louvre, Paris; © RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre)/Stéphane Maréchalle
The red-figure pots painted in Athens in the first decades of the 5th century BC are full of life. They show figures – sometimes mythical figures, often figures in real-life scenarios – doing things. All sorts of things. They revel, they fight, they party, they dance, they engage in athletics and in sex, they run after each other. Painters show shaming acts that they perhaps viewed all too often, as when the inebriated throw up, and fantasise about acts they can never have seen, sometimes in ways that modern museums have chosen to obscure by painting over, as when the painter Douris has that man-horse hybrid, the satyr, balance a drinking-cup on his erect penis. These pots conjure up a competitive and exhibitionist world, which is full of challenges, enticements, and humour.
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