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Ancient Greek Pottery | Attic Black-Figure Neck-Amphora with Gorgon and Quadriga Attributed to the Swing Painter

Cuerdale Hoard coin .. courtesy of WW

This Attic Black-Figure, Neck-Amphora offered by Timeline Auctions on the 5 th March 2024 is more than an object of historical and cultural interest. Its narrative bridges the worlds of legend and history to speak to us of the artistic legacy of ancient Greece and the timeless attraction of its myths and heroes. Its creator merges clay and pigment to create a testament to the vibrancy and depth of Athenian culture during the 6th century B.C.

The extraordinary vessel, created around 550 BC, brings to life on its curved surface a tale of ancient mythology recounted with artistic brilliance. On one side a fearsome winged Gorgon in a black and red chiton, seems to leap from the vase. His gaze, though frozen in clay, evokes the petrifying power mythology ascribes to these beings. The image captures the essence of ancient human fears, as well as the artist’s own fascination with the supernatural elements of the world.

On the other side of the vase the artist stages a contrasting scene that exhibits human courage and noble pride in action. An aristocratic warrior, helmeted in Chalcidian style, drives a speeding quadriga. The necks and heads of the central pair of steeds superimpose, while the flanking horses pull to left and right. Their actions create dynamic movement, as if the chariot has burst from the confines of the vessel. The overall scene encapsulates the heroism and nobility of the warrior class of ancient Athens.

Beneath those primary scenes, a frieze of lotus buds and a band of Greek key motifs encircle the amphora, while the neck is adorned with alternating red and black palmettes and elongated lotus blossoms. These decorative elements not only serve to frame the mythological and heroic narratives; they also demonstrate the artist’s mastery over both form and motif. But who was the artist?

Ancient Greek painters rarely signed their works, so classical archaeologists named pot painters by reference to a vase they could assign to a particular workshop, and which was painted in a characteristic style. The painter of Lot 70 offered by Timeline Auctions, also painted, probably on more than one occasion, a vase that depicted a garden swing.. hence his Swing Painter name. He worked in Athens in the late-6 th century, and his black figure output included many mythological subjects, often with the inclusion of contemporary objects or figures .. domestic items .. and garden swings, for example.

The Attic Black-Figure Neck-Amphora, crafted around 550 B.C., stands at an imposing height of 39 cm, its clay body weighing approximately 3.25 kg. The vase's form is distinguished by an inverted echinus lip and a tall neck, flanked by ribbed
handles. Each handle curls into a delicate motif of lotus buds and palmettes, hinting at the elegance and complexity of the designs that unfold across its surface. The amphora's journey through time adds layers to its story. Acquired in Geneva in
1954, it once belonged to the Y. Forrer collection before finding its way into a private collection in Switzerland in 1999. It passed through the hands of Gorny & Mosch in Munich before being thoroughly VETTED against the Interpol Database of stolen works of art, and The Art Loss Register.

As a TimeLine Auctions lot, the Attic Black-Figure Neck-Amphora has, of course, also undergone, and successfully negotiated, rigorous interrogation by our Expert Vetting Team.

Aaron Hammond, TimeLine Auctions, 22nd February 2024