Gorgon and the Eyes of Dionysus on a Red-Figure Kylix in the Blanton Museum

Name and Creator: Gorgon and the Eyes of Dionysus on a Red-Figure Kylix -Type B (Wine Cup). While the creator of this kylix is unknown to historians, it is known that it was constructed “in the manner of the Lysippides Painter.” The Lysippides Painter was a famous Athenian black-figure vasepainter whose identity is a mystery. As an artist, the Lysippides Painter was well-known to have a distinctive art style that matches this kylix. However, considering that this wine cup was made circa 430 BCE which was before the time period that the Lysippides Painter was known to be active (around 530 to 515 BC), it may be wrong to assume that the Lypippides Painter created this kylix.

Date of Creation: This piece of art was created circa 430 BCE.

Location on Campus: This red-figure kylix is featured in the Greco-Roman Art Exhibit of the Blanton Museum of Art.

Acquisition: This art piece became part of the Blanton Museum of Art on UT’s and the James R. Dougherty, Jr. Foundation. While the Huntington Fund contributed $600,000 out of the $1.5 million over the course of thirty-five years to open the original Art Building with the Archer M. Huntington Gallery in 1963, the James R. Dougherty, Jr. Foundation has worked to fund endowments and innovative projects since its establishment in 1950.

Type of Art Work: The Gorgon and the Eyes of Dionysus on a Red-Figure Kylix – Type B (Wine Cup) is a Greek-Attic red-figure vase painting on a terracotta kylix, 3 3/8 Å~ 8 7/16 in. (8.5 x 21.5 cm) overall.

Description: In this work of art, the cupped portion of the kylix that holds the at the very center. The particular female Gorgon shown here seems to be Medusa as reflected by the unique portrayal of her defining characteristic: her serpentine locks of hair. At the wide base of this wine cup, there are two large, prominent eyes, rumored to belong to Dionysus or the Gorgons, gazing intensely at the holder of the kylix. Surrounding these eyes, there are graph vines spiraling everywhere that frame the rest of the base of the kylix.

In Greek mythology, the Gorgons, which roughly translates to “the terrible ones,” were three powerful and winged sisters: Medusa (Guardian), Euryale (Wide-stepping), and Sthenno (Strength). In ancient Greek art, these winged bestial women were commonly portrayed with round heads, large staring eyes, protruding tongues, and sharp tusks resembling those of swine (Curtis). All of these characteristics can clearly be seen in this kylix. Moreover, the Gorgon that is the depicted on the kylix is adorned with snake-like coils around her head as hair, indicating a serpent motif, lending us to identify her as Medusa as in most well-known myths. However, it is important to consider that this does not necessarily imply that the artist believed Gorgons had snake-hair. The serpent element in the sculpture likely signifies the Gorgons’ status as chthonic deities, where snakes or dragons often represent the divine and uncivilized nature of sacred places in Greek mythology (Curtis).

Unlike her sisters, Medusa was describes as being the only mortal Gorgon (Hesiod’s Theogony 276-278). Interestingly, she was also described as a beautiful woman by late classical poets who believed she was turned into a monster by Athena as punishment for having sexual relations with Poseidon in her shrine (Atsma – Gorgones). In contrast, earlier Greek writers and artists portray her as a monster who was born into a family of monsters. The portrayal of the latter can be seen in this red-figure kylix.

Another important figure in Greek mythology that can be seen on this ancient wine cup is Dionysus. As the Olympian god of wine, vegetation, pleasure, festivity, madness, theater, and wild frenzy, Dionysus was depicted as either a young or old man who was commonly seen with a thyrsos (a pine-cone tipped staff), a drinking cup and a crown of ivy in Greek paintings and vases (Atsma – Dionysus). Moreover, he was also shown to be flocked with Satyrs and Maenads and surrounded by grapevines. While most of these characteristics are not reflected in this kylix, there are several allusions to Dionysus’s sphere of influence, wine, that tie into the meaning of the artwork.

There are numerous interpretations that can be made regarding the intended symbolic meaning of this work of art. Being placed strategically on the wine cup, the menacing face of the Gorgon, Medusa, is intended to turn away evil and remind the drinker of the dangers of drinking wine and alcohol in excess, consequently intimidating the drinker to stay safe from harm. Moreover, the two eyes on the exterior of the base turn the kylix into a mask when the cup is held up as the drinker takes a sip of wine from

These eyes can either be interpreted as those of the Gorgon or of Dionysus. If they are meant to be the eyes of the Gorgon Medusa, then they reflect a similar sentiment as mentioned before to warn the drinker and other of excess. By illustrating the eyes of Dionysus surrounded by grapevines, the base tends to be paying homage to Dionysus, the god of wine. Moreover, the way the kylix becomes a mask also reflects Dionysus’s playful nature and his sphere of influence of theater as masks were used extensively in ancient Greek theater (Curtis).


Atsma, Aaron J. 2000. “DIONYSUS – Greek God of Wine & Festivity.” Theoi Greek Mythology. https://www.theoi.com/Olympios/Dionysos.html.

Atsma, Aaron J. 2017. “MEDUSA & GORGONS (Medousa & Gorgones) – Snake-Haired Monsters of Greek Mythology.” Theoi.com. 2017. https://www.theoi.com/Pontios/Gorgones.html.

“Black-Figure Cup – Type a (Wine Cup).” n.d. Blanton.emuseum.com. Accessed April 21, 2023. https://blanton.emuseum.com/objects/15073/blackfigure-cup–type-a-winecup?ctx=dbb3f04ef2b150e1b90d16f2b8b89e21ed26da75&idx=4.

“Collections Online | British Museum.” n.d. Www.britishmuseum.org. https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG59261.

Curtis, Todd. 2018. Classical Mythology in the Visual and Performing Arts. Top Hat. https://app.tophat.com/e/992301/assigned/content/974293::43909cc2-dbc0-47c7-842e-3570a3d702ff.

Hesiod. 1997. Theogony. Translated by M L West. Oxford ; New York: Clarendon Press.

“UTIMCO.” n.d. Www.utimco.org. Accessed April 21, 2023. https://www.utimco.org/funds/allfunds/stories/st_utaus_00.asp.

By Anika Yamdagni

Athena and Tethrippon (Quadriga) depicted on a Black-Figure Neck-Amphora in the Blanton Museum

Creator(s): These creators of this amphora are unknown, but they are attributed to artists who were active during the last two decades of the 6th century BCE, named after the potter Leagros (Shapiro). They were specifically given this name after five hydriai, water-carrying jugs, with kalos inscriptions found praising Leagros. A few identified members of the Leagros Group include the Acheloos Painter, Chiusi Painter, and Daybreak Painter.

Known for their distinctive black-figure pottery, they decorated large vessels in a complex style which featured intricate designs and overlapping figures drawn in black against a red background. Their depictions favored scenes Herakles and the Trojan War, as well as Dionysian themes. In addition to their technical skill and artistic creativity, the Leagros Group was also notable for their attention to detail and their ability to capture lifelike poses and expressions in their figures.

Date of Creation: This piece of art is dated c. 510-500 BCE.

Location: This amphora is located in the Blanton Museum of Art on the second floor in the Greco-Roman art exhibit.

Acquisition: Thanks to the Archer M. Huntington Museum Fund and the James R. Dougherty Jr. Foundation, this object was brought to an exhibition at the Blanton Museum of Art on the UT Austin campus. It was likely acquired in Italy in 1820-1830 and arrived in England in 1941 by Spencer Joshua Alwyne Compton. It then likely stayed within the possession of the 2nd to the 7th Marquess of Northampton until it was sold on July 2nd, 1980, to be part of the Castle Ashby Vases collection.

Type of Art Work: Athena and Tethrippon (Quadriga) depicted on a Black-Figure Neck-Amphora (Wine Storage Vessel), 45.6 cm tall ceramic piece of pottery with terracotta medium.

Description: This amphora showcases an image of Athena, goddess of wisdom, driving a quadriga, which was commonly referred to as a tethrippon in ancient Greece. An amphora like this was specifically designed for use in symposia to hold wine, formal drinking parties that were important social occasions for elite Greek men. The ancient Greeks considered the consumption of undiluted wine to be barbaric; civilized drinkers always mixed their wine with water. Symposium vessels reflect this practice. This amphora was likely mixed with the water of a hydra into a krater. The mixture was then distributed from the krater into the kylikes of individual drinkers. Although these vases may have once been used in parties, they were eventually deposited in tombs (Blanton Museum).

Looking at the iconography on the vase, we recognize Athena from her sharp-tipped spear, majestic breastplate, and Corinthian helmet (Ovid, Metamorphoses 6. 70 ff, Mayer, 5.312). In ancient Greece, the quadriga, or tethrippon, was a four-horse chariot commonly used in athletic competitions such as the Olympics. These chariots were also used in warfare, particularly by the wealthy elite, and were often associated with victory in battle. Many myths display the quadriga being ridden by a variety of gods, such as Nike, Helios, and Ares. The four-horse chariot is also prominently featured in Roman art and architecture as the Quadriga of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy, features four horses pulling a chariot with a statue of the archangel Michael on top, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil (Curtis). Overall, the quadriga was an important symbol of victory and power in both Greek and Roman mythology and played a significant role in their respective cultures (Nike & Chariot).

Since Athena was strongly associated with military strategy and the defense of the city, the imagery on the amphora conveys her martial nature in ancient Greek culture (Curtis). This resembles what is shown on the opposite side of the vase, as two hoplites advance over another third kneeling hoplite. Hoplites were the most common type of heavily armed foot-soldier in ancient Greece from the 7th to 4th centuries BCE. These soldiers were not only expected to fight battle in the front lines, but also be courageous to be the first attacked and ready to respond on any enemy invasion (Cartwright). On the vase, the warrior on the left carries a Boeotian shield with scooped indentations that allow him to thrust his weapon more effectively while protecting himself. Such a shield also had several other smaller indentations or ridges on the surface, which were used to improve grip and to deflect or absorb blows from enemy weapons (Blanton Museum).

According to Greek mythology, Athena is often described as engaging in battles or aiding Greek heroes during their quests, such as Perseus, Jason, and Theseus. Many warriors would believe that Athena, along with her brother Ares, would watch over the battle of war, with Athena saving those that come back and wishing for their good fortune and happiness. Many Greeks embraced this role as in myth she took a leading role in the Trojan War, fighting against the Trojans (Homeric Hymn 11 to Athena, Cashford, 11.1-4). As a result of these notions, some may believe that the depiction of Athena on this amphora is after a general victory of a people or that of a hero. Additionally, she may be arriving at a time of need under the context of the hoplites, showing her presence to bring a side she favors to victory.


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Atsma, Aaron. 2000. “ATHENA – Greek Goddess of Wisdom,War & Crafts.” Theoi Greek

Mythology. 2000. https://www.theoi.com/Olympios/Athena.html.

“Birth of Athena – Ancient Greek Vase Painting.” n.d. Www.theoi.com. https://www.theoi.com/Gallery/K8.11.html.

“Black-Figure Neck Amphora.” n.d. Blanton.emuseum.com. Accessed April 21, 2023. https://blanton.emuseum.com/objects/15077/blackfigure-neckamphora? ctx=dbb3f04ef2b150e1b90d16f2b8b89e21ed26da75&idx=0.

Cartwright, Mark. 2013. “Hoplite.” World History Encyclopedia. February 9, 2013. https://www.worldhistory.org/hoplite/.

Cashford, Jules. 2003. The Homeric Hymns. London; New York: Penguin Books.

“Collections Online | British Museum.” n.d. Www.britishmuseum.org. Accessed April 21, 2023. https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG59160.

Curtis, Todd. 2018. Classical Mythology in the Visual and Performing Arts. Top Hat. https://app.tophat.com/e/992301/assigned/content/974293::43909cc2-dbc0-47c7-842e-3570a3d702ff.

“Kerameikos.org: Leagros Group.” n.d. Kerameikos.org. Accessed April 21, 2023.http://kerameikos.org/id/leagros_group.

Mayer, Roland. Seneca: Phaedra. London: Duckworth, 2004. Ovid. Metamorphosis. Londini, 1678.

“Nike & Chariot of Zeus – Ancient Greek Vase Painting.” n.d. Www.theoi.com. Accessed April 21,

  1. https://www.theoi.com/Gallery/T24.2.html.
  2. Shapiro, H.A. 2021. “#Leagros: An Athenian Life.” Edited by Dylan K. Rogers and Jenifer Neils.

Cambridge University Press. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2021.https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/cambridge-companion-to-ancientathens/leagros-an-athenian-life/85965395A881142804065FFA05F99C95.

By Arul Yamdagni