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  • Lori-Ann Touchette

The Most Notorious “Hot Pot”

The illicit antiquities trade and clandestine excavations in Italy came under intense scrutiny for an almost 30-year period in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Perhaps the most notorious “hot pot”, to use the phrase coined by Thomas Hoving, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art at the time, is the Euphronios Krater, Said to have been looted from the cemetery of Cerveteri by ‘tombaroli’ (tomb-robbers) in 1971, it is was then sold by Giacomo Medici to the dealer Robert Hecht. Purchased by the Met for a purported 1 million dollars or more, the vase was repatriated to Italy in 2008 and since 2015 is on display in the Museo Archeologico of Cerveteri.

Euphronios was an Attic potter and vase painter of the late 6th-early 5th century BC. A member of the Archaic “Pioneer Group”, named for their experiments in the transition from black-figure to red-figure, he signed 18 of his surviving works (6 times as painter, 12 times as potter). The Euphronios Krater is signed by him as painter and also by the potter Euxitheos. The same pair signed a fragmentary krater in the Louvre that depicts Heracles and Antaios. In this case, Euphronios seems almost to boast: Euphronios egraphsen tade - Euphronios painted these things.

The central element of the main side of the krater is the dead body of Sarpedon, carried from the battlefield by Hypnos (Sleep) and Thanatos (Death) while Hermes oversees. This mythological scene from the Trojan cycle contrasts with the generic arming scene on the reverse. inscriptions identify all of the main figures on the front side. Another inscription “Leagros kalos” makes it possible to date the vase to 520-510BC.

At the Cerveteri Museum, the krater is joined by another work by Euphronios, who signs this time as a potter whereas Onisimos signs as painter. Repatriated from the Getty Museum in 1999, the kylix (drinking cup) is decorated with some of the most decisive scenes of the Trojan Cycle. Both works of the great master have returned to the site of their original excavation.

@ Museo Nazionale Archeologico di Cerveteri

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