Ancient Art

Epiktetos (painter) and Pamphaios (potter)
Active Athens ca. 520 - 490 B.C. and 530 - 495 B.C., respectively
Red-Figure Eye-Cup
ca. 520-10 B.C.
Inscriptions on tondo and sides 1
Earthenware with slip decoration
H. (as restored): 4 7/8 in. (12.5 cm)
Diam. (of bowl): 12 3/8 in. (31.3 cm)
General Acquisitions Fund, 1967; Gift of the Trustees of the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1988 (fragment)
AMAM 1967.61 a-b

Decorated in the, then relatively new, red-figure technique, this late sixth-century Athenian wine cup (kylix) was painted by the vase-painter Epiktetos, who skillfully incorporates three lively figures engaged in activities characteristic of the Greek symposium.

In the early period of red-figure vase painting (ca. 530-500 B.C.), eighty percent of all vases employing the new technique were stemmed cups or kylixes. Of these, many belong to a group known as "eye-cups" because of the prominent pairs of large eyes painted on either side of the exterior. Standard eye-cups also display single figures in the interior tondo and between the eyes, and large palmettes flanking each handle. The Oberlin kylix, however, belongs to a variant known as the "palmette-eye cup," in which the positions of the eyes and palmettes are interchanged, thus diminishing the anthropomorphic appearance of the cup. 2

The artist Epiktetos decorated only one other preserved palmette-eye cup, now at the Musée du Louvre, Paris. 3 On both the Louvre and the Oberlin cups he collaborated with the potter Pamphaios. We know this because of the inscriptions painted in red on the Oberlin cup: "Pamphaios made it" in the tondo, "Epiktetos" on side A, and "painted it" on side B. 4 The majority of Greek vases are unsigned, but on the basis of style have been attributed to various artistic personalities. Of Epiktetos's extant vases, about one-third bear his signature, while the remainder can be attributed to him because of his distinctively dainty figural style.

Like many eye-cups, the Oberlin kylix displays three figures. The interior tondo, the least spatially constrained surface on the vase, bears the most detailed scene. Here a wreathed, half-draped youth reclines in profile facing to the right on a thin, slightly curved board, graphic shorthand for a kline. Other accoutrements of the symposium include the striped pillow behind him and the food basket hanging in the background. The youth holds two lipped kylixes, the one in his right hand held aloft with his index finger inserted into one of the handles. He is preparing to flick the wine lees at a distant target in a drinking game known as kottabos. 5

The male figure on side A also holds two wine vessels: an oinochoe or wine jug clenched in his right hand, and a lipped kylix balanced on his extended left arm. Such balancing acts were another aspect of symposium entertainment, and one especially featured in the paintings of Epiktetos. 6 In contrast to his companion in the tondo, this man is older (bearded) and nude, except for a wreath, and is squatting frontally. This pose, often used by Epiktetos for satyrs, is probably meant to be uncouth and thus humorous. 7

Even with the help of the Getty fragment (see Technical Data), it is impossible to determine the gender of the figure on side B. Although citizen women do not appear in painted images of men's drinking parties, flute-girls and prostitutes are common. Given the figure's nudity, the cup in its left hand, and its reclining posture on couch cushions, it might well be a hetaira or courtesan, as on the kylix attributed to Epiktetos at the J. Paul Getty Museum. 8 If so, then Epiktetos economically illustrates on a single cup the range of activities characteristic of the Greek symposium: eating, drinking, gaming, balancing acts, and love-making.

J. Neils

Epiktetos was a vase painter active in Athens during the last two decades of the sixth century and the first decade of the fifth century B.C. He specialized in kylixes; to date over a hundred have been attributed to his hand. He also produced fine red-figure plates, a fairly rare item in Athenian potteries, probably used as votive plaques. We know from inscriptions that Epiktetos collaborated with a number of potters: Hischylos, Nikosthenes, Andokides, Python, and thrice with Pamphaios. That Epiktetos was also a potter is indicated by his signature on a plate from the Athenian Acropolis.

Pamphaios was a late sixth-century potter who made both cups and larger vases, which have been decorated by Epiktetos, Oltos, and the Nikosthenes Painter. A number of his vases were also decorated in the black-figure technique.

General References
Kraiker, Wilhelm. "Epiktetos." Jahrbuch des deutschen archäologischen Instituts 44 (1929), pp. 141-97.

Bloesch, Hansjörg. Formen attischer Schalen. Bern, 1940, pp. 62-69 (Pamphaios).

Boardman, John. Athenian Red Figure Vases: The Archaic Period. London, 1975, pp. 57-59, figs. 66-78 (Epiktetos).

Robertson, Martin. The Art of Vase-Painting in Classical Athens. Cambridge, 1992.

Cup (67.61 a)
Sale Basel (Münzen und Medaillen, A.G.), 6 May 1967, lot 145

Fragment (67.61 b)
Collection Walter Bareiss, Munich (to 1986), inv. S.81.AE.1.55

J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, inv. 86.AE.385, by whom given in 1988


Art Institute of Chicago, 1979-80. Greek Vase-Painting in Midwestern Collections. 22 December - 24 February. Cat. no. 75. Cup only.

Cahn, H. In sale cat.. Basel Münzen und Medaillen A. G., 6 May 1967, pp. 73-74, lot 145.

Mac Sweeney, Alix. "A Red-Figured Eye-Cup by Epiktetos and Pamphaios." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 25, no. 3 (1968), pp. 105-13.

Beazley, J. D. Paralipomena. Oxford, 1971, p. 329, no. 14 bis.

Finkenstaedt, Elizabeth. "Attitude and Gesture in a Palmette-eye Cup by Epiktetos." Bulletin Antieke Beschaving 49 (1974), pp. 241-45.

Cooney, J. D. "Way Stations on the Primrose Path." Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art 61 (1974), p. 243, fig. 5.

Boardman, John. Athenian Red Figure Vases: The Archaic Period. London, 1975, fig. 68.

Cohen, Beth. Attic Bilingual Vases and their Painters. New York, 1978, pp. 431-32, no. C 52, pl. 116.1.

Berge, Louise. In Greek Vase-Painting in Midwestern Collections. Exh. cat., The Art Institute of Chicago, 1979, pp. 132-33, no. 75.

Carpenter, Thomas H. Beazley Addenda. 2nd ed., Oxford, 1989, p. 167, no. 72.14 bis.

Lissarrague, François. The Aesthetics of the Greek Banquet. Translated by Andrew Szagedy Maszak. Princeton, 1990, pp. 76-77, fig. 59.

Technical Data
The kylix is not complete: its original foot is missing, as is part of the central tondo and much of side B. In 1988 a fragment (4.2 x 1.5 x 3.5 cm) at the J. Paul Getty Museum was identified by Dietrich von Bothmer as belonging to side B of the Oberlin cup and was subsequently donated to the Allen Memorial Art Museum. It has not yet been integrated into the vase.

The kylix was broken and has been recomposed from numerous fragments. Major losses include the right elbow and cup held in the left hand of the tondo figure, part of the left leg below the knee of the squatting figure on side A, and the head and torso of the figure on side B. Most of the right-hand palmette on side B is inpainted.

The restored foot is modern and is not of the proper type for this Type-A cup. The correct foot profile (known as AY) can be found on the palmette-eye cup by Epiktetos in the Louvre (G5), described in note 3 above.


2. On palmette-eye cups, see J. D. Beazley, Attic Red-Figure Vase-Painters, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Oxford, 1963), pp. 39 and 49-51.

3. The other palmette-eye cup attributed to Epiktetos is Paris, Musée du Louvre, inv. G 5; reproduced in Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum, Louvre vol. 10 (France vol. 17), pls. 9, 2-3 and 10, 1. The potter Pamphaios may have been responsible for the palmette-eye arrangement as well as the distinctive ribbed petals of the palmettes.

4. See note 1 in label above for the inscriptions on this kylix. For information on inscriptions on Epiktetos's vases, see Takashi Seki, Untersuchungen zum Verhältnis Gefässform und Malerei attischer Schalen (Berlin, 1985), pp. 112-14; Henry R. Immerwahr, Attic Script: A Survey (Oxford, 1990), pp. 61-63.

5. For details of this game, see Brian A. Sparkes, "Kottabos: An Athenian After-Dinner Game," Archaeology 13 (1960), pp. 202-7.

6. For balancing acts in general, see François Lissarrague, The Aesthetics of the Greek Banquet (Princeton, 1990), pp. 76-80. For those depicted in vases by Epiktetos, see J. D. Beazley, Attic Red-Figure Vase Painters, 2nd ed. (Oxford, 1963), p. 75, nos. 54 (Paris, formerly coll. Pourtalès) and 58 (Rome, Torlonia).

7. For vases by Epiktetos with frontal squatting satyrs, see J. D. Beazley, Attic Red-Figure Vase-Painters, 2nd ed. (Oxford, 1963), p. 71, no. 8 (Wurzburg 468) and p. 76, no. 67 (Geneva, private collection). On this pose in general, see Jenifer Neils, "Who's Who on the Berlin Foundry Cup," Acts of the 13th International Bronze Conference, suppl. vol. of Journal of Roman Archaeology, forthcoming.

8. A cup attributed to Epiktetos in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu (inv. 83.AE.287) shows a nude hetaira reclining on a striped pillow with her right foot pressed against the border of the tondo (like the Oberlin figure whose foot rests against the right-hand palmette); see J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 12 (1984), p. 244, no. 67. On hetairai, see Sarah B. Pomeroy, Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity (New York, 1975), esp. pp. 88-92; Eva C. Keuls, The Reign of the Phallus: Sexual Politics in Ancient Athens (New York, 1985), esp. pp. 153-203; Robert F. Sutton, Jr., "Pornography and Persuasion on Attic Pottery," in Amy Richlin, ed., Pornography and Representation in Greece and Rome (Oxford, 1992), pp. 3-35; and Martin F. Kilmer, Greek Erotica on Attic Red-Figure Vases (London, 1993). A perusal of the illustrations in these books will demonstrate the frequent association of striped pillows and copulation.