|THE BERLIN PAINTER
The Berlin Painter derives his name from a tall amphora in Berlin with Hermes and two satyrs. He is now credited with nearly three hundred vases, most of which belong to the years from about 500 to about 480. The Berlin Painter sprang out of the school of Phintias and Euthymides, the late 6th century masters of detailed analysis of the human frame and the exploration of movement and foreshortening. In his developed phase he liked large shapes; he is a pot painter, though a few pots have been assigned to his earliest period. Other shapes are amphorae, including red-figured amphora of Panathenaic shape; neck-amphorae of different types include so-called Nolans of which he was one of the earliest decorators, some pelikai, all varieties of krater, calyx-, bell-, volute- and column-kraters, many stamnoi, also hydriai, oinochoai, plates and numerous lekythoi. He is also known to have painted black-figured Panathenaic amphorae. In many of his pictures he uses one figure compositions, against the black ground without any frame or panel. He is extremely reticent with kalos names (love names) and then only uses them in his early period. No potters' signatures have been found on what is certainly his work. His mythological pictures include the Dionysiac circle, the heroes Herakles, Achilles, and of gods, particularly Apollo, Poseidon, Zeus and Athena. Besides these his favourites are athletes, again as isolated figures against the black background.
SET WORK: Volute Krater. 65 cms tall.
TECHNIQUE: The body of the vase is covered entirely with black glaze. The Berlin Painter decorates only the neck and handles. It is a scheme that draws attention to the shape, from the sheer mass of glossy black paint to the figured scene ‘spot lit’ against the dark background. Framing the frieze is a mirror-image lotus and palmette band like the one used by Euphronios on his calyx krater. But unlike the Pioneer group and Kleophrades, the Berlin Painter draws lighter, tense, lithe figures. He uses more incision for defining anatomy than the Pioneer Group who worked more with a glaze laden brush. The Berlin Painter has been referred to as the painter of grace (Kleophrades, the painter of power). The Berlin Painter is a little distant and shows isolated mood (Kleophrades invites us to reflect on the dilemmas of man and hero as does no other Greek painter)
The scene makes a strong contrast with the previous battle on the Kleophrades hydria (Destruction of Troy). Here only four figures are involved, with a great deal of space between them. It is a simple self-contained composition, symmetrically balanced about the duellists - in the Kleophrades there is a constant movement from one group to the next.
Both sides of the neck depict duels in which the Greek hero Achilles figures: On one side he fights Hector, watched by their respective divine patrons, Athena and Apollo, and has already wounded him; on the other side, he duels with another hero from the Trojan camp, Memnon from Ethiopia, this time watched by their respective mothers, Thetis - Achilles, Eos (Dawn) Memnon. *Note the caption in Richter is incorrect - we are looking at the second duel not the one with Hector.
Set side: Achilles is seen poising his long spear against Memnon, who holds up hi shield and lunges forward with drawn sword. Behind him his mother Eos (Dawn) holds up her hands in distress, while Achilles' mother Thetis shows her own anguish and worry at the left. The participants' names are scratched through the glaze, for identification. The two mothers frame the painting, gesturing towards the central pair, complete the W shaped composition characteristic of Euphronios' calyx krater but with delicate, fine drawing and with ample black background to project the figures forward. The figures of Achilles and Memnon, though differently posed, are still balanced: Achilles is seen from the front, Memnon from behind. The painter reveals a good understanding of anatomy (details are painted in dilute glaze) and pose: note how the abdomen twists into three-quarter view from the profile legs to the frontal torso in the figure of Achilles. Memnon's back view is extraordinary and well drawn with the minimum of lines. Some technical details about the arms of these two warriors: Achilles' shield has an arm-band and a handgrip, as well as four tassels; Memnon's shield is decorated with a bull's head for a blazon, his scabbard still has a sword in it despite the fact that he is using one, and his cheek guards raised. The nudity of the warrior is usually taken to indicate their heroic status, as opposed to ordinary mortals who wore armour.
Other side: Shows the duel between Achilles and Hektor. Achilles rushes against Hektor, who falls back under his onslaught. Athena stands behind Achilles in support and Apollo (not shown here) aids Hector. Achilles’ shield is the same in both scenes but his stance is slightly different and he has changed helmets. The emotions of all are effectively conveyed, and the artist shows great technical skill and vigour sly original powers of composition. He has captured Homer's mood: "Thus they fought like blazing fire". A full frontal view of the inside of Hektor’s shield behind him, leaves him exposed to the thrusting force of Achilles advance. Achilles' shield also in full frontal aspect shows us his hand well clenched on the grip. The further arms of the pair are not foreshortened and are like the shield and torso, frontal, little attempt at the three-quarter views of Euthymides and Euphronios.