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Red-Figure Situla with the Punishment of Actaeon and Offering Scene

This situla, or bucket, exhibits painting of a very fine quality. Its liberal use of color is characteristic of Greek pottery from southern Italy, and it specifically represents the ornate style that flourished in Apulia by the mid-fourth century BC. Apulian vase painters of this time favored grand, multi-tiered compositions, and mythological subjects associated with well-known Greek plays. The scene on one side of this vase depicts the story of Actaeon. Having incurred the wrath of the goddess Artemis—either for watching her as she bathed and/or for boasting of his greater skill as a hunter—Actaeon is punished by being turned into a deer. The moment depicted on the vase is an unusual choice, since it portrays the tragic hunter just as the transformation begins, before he realizes what is happening to him. The arrangement of the figures may be informed by a theatrical performance (plays about this subject are known to have existed but do not survive). The viewers of both the play and the situla would have known that Actaeon’s fate is to be torn apart by his own dogs; therefore, the scene is fraught with dramatic emotion.

Greek, made in Apulia (Italy)
Attributed to near the Hippolyte Painter
Red-Figure Situla with the Punishment of Actaeon and Offering Scene
Classical period, ca. 350–340 BC
Terracotta with added color
H. (to rim) 13 in. (33.0 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 70.97.1