A new krater
Apollo, god of music, plays a kithara (a type of large, 7-stringed lyre). Behind him stands his twin sister Artemis, recognisable by the bow she holds in her left hand. The other figures are less easy to identify, but the male leaning on a knotted staff may be Zeus, while the seated female could be either Hera, his wife, or perhaps Aphrodite, goddess of love. The male figure behind the column may be the messenger god Hermes, or alternatively an ordinary mortal, eavesdropping on the music of the gods.
The scene is finely composed and detailed. The rhythm and connections between the seated and standing figures are carefully planned and realised. Apollo appears intent on his melody, while the audience, especially the goddess who sits cradling her chin in her hand, is totally absorbed in the performance. Details of the costumes, with their starred, spotted or transparent fabrics are meticulously drawn, as are the Eros's wings and the various head-dresses, wreaths and items of jewellery that the others wear.
Of particular interest is the architectural setting in and around which the figures are arranged. This is shown, with an attempt at perspective, as a small shrine or summer-house, its beamed ceiling supported by four Ionic columns. The columns stand on bases painted to suggest streaked or variegated marble.
The standard black-and-red colour scheme has been enlivened with the careful use of added red and white slip. White is used to pick out the columns and other details of the architecture, and to draw attention to the musical instrument, the kithara. It also highlights the finely turned legs of the stools on which Apollo and the pensive goddess sit; her seat is also equipped with a comfortable-looking, red-painted cushion. The goddesses' cheeks are highlighted with touches of added red, and small traces of rose madder survive where it was used to enhance the outline of the ivy leaves in the floral chain below the rim.
From around 430 BC onwards, Greek settlers in southern Italy and Sicily produced red-figured vases, using the techniques that had been developed and refined in mainland Greece, especially at Athens. As different regions developed distinctive styles, and the clay from one region varies from that of another, it is usually possible to distinguish between the products of Lucania, Apulia, Campania and Sicily.
While the real names of very few south Italian and Sicilian vase-painters are known, scholars have found it convenient to invent nick-names for them in order to help establish a rough chronological and regional framework for the main developments. The 'Lentini Group' is one such nick-name. Lentini is a town near Syracuse in south-east Sicily, occupying the site of an ancient Greek city, Leontini, founded in 729 BC. In and around Lentini have been found several vases that may be attributed to one painter. Connected with the work of this individual, the so-called Lentini Painter, are a number of large vases, many bearing mythological scenes, the painters of which are described as belonging to the 'Lentini Group'.
Like many south Italian and Sicilian vases, much more effort was expended on the front of this vase than the back. Here, three large and rather crudely painted figures fill the space; there is no architectural setting, and no attempt to create an atmosphere of any kind. Even the patterned borders above and below the scene are much simpler in design and cruder in their execution.