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White ground black-figure lekythos fragment with Amazon


Artist: Inscription Painter Primary
Date: 460-250 BCE
Dimensions: 3.69 x 2.69 x 0.19 in. (9.37 x 6.83 x 0.48 cm)
Object Type: Ceramic
Creation Place: Europe, Greece
Medium and Support: Terracotta
Credit Line: Lent by the Yale University Art Gallery, Ruth Elizabeth White Fund (2008.136.1.1)
Accession Number: L2020.05.14
On View: Bellarmine Hall Galleries


In Greek mythology, the warrior women known as Amazons were popular in story-telling. Soon they symbolized the historical Persians who also came from the east and fought on horseback. Soon after the Persian Wars of 490 and 480 BCE, images of Amazons appeared frequently on vases, sculpture and in architectural sculpture. The Parthenon on the Acropolis, 447-432 BCE, displays Amazons in battle where they were given prominence across the fourteen west metopes and on the magnificent colossal shield at the side of the gold and ivory statue of Athena inside the temple.
On this vase fragment, an Amazon appears to be in a dangerous moment within a battle. She is equipped with her crested helmet, large heavy round shield, and a corslet protecting her upper body over a long-sleeved under garment decorated with a bold pattern of short vertical lines. From her preserved body position, she would have been running forward to our right, but has stopped to confront an enemy behind her whose shield is partially visible. Her right hand would have held one of her favorite weapons, either an axe or sabre. The fragment isolates this detail and the viewer is left to guess whether or not she will survive the encounter.

- Dr. Katherine A. Schwab



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