manner of Antimenes Painter (fl. c.530 - c.510 BCE)
Decorated black-figure vases were a common feature in the homes of wealthy ancient Greeks. They survive in quite large numbers, but this example includes a particularly skilfully painted scene depicting a chariot with four horses, the goddess Athena and one of the labours of Heracles, a major Greek mythical hero. Many similar vases were exported to Italy, where they were considered high-status objects and buried as part of tomb treasure, probably as offerings to the gods or for use in the afterlife. This one may have been excavated from a grave in the Etruscan city of Vulci, which flourished prior to 200BC. It was probably acquired by the owner of Charlecote Park in Warwickshire, George Hammond Lucy (1789–1845), who was a keen collector of ancient art. It was displayed in his library to show the artistry and sophistication of the Greek civilisation.
An Athenian terracotta hydria (three-handled pitcher), c.540–510 BC. Black-figure technique, incised and painted in slip. Probably acquired by George Hammond Lucy. Having been given by Lord Brooke of Warwick a catalogue of Greek Vases and other artefacts to be sold in London, Lucy purchased some of the vases which are now in the Library. On 12 July 1838 he paid to Messrs. Brown, Scagliola Works, University Street, London, the sum of £125 for four vases. Some of the other vases were bought in Italy in 1842.
The golden age of collecting ancient Athenian vases began in 1828 with the discovery of over 3,000 examples in the ruins of Vulci, an Etruscan city in Viterbo, Italy. The land belonged to Napoleon’s brother Lucien Bonaparte, prince de Canino and Musignano, and his wife, Alexandrine de Bleschamp. Bonaparte’s excavations began in earnest in a serious archaeological spirit, but the tombs were soon ruthlessly stripped of their treasures, promoted and sold in international exhibitions and auctions. Additional finds were exhibited in 1837 in London by the Tuscan excavator and entrepreneur Vincenzo Campanari. By the mid-nineteenth century, Attic vases were part of the fabric of historic English collections, displayed in dedicated rooms, libraries or long galleries as objects for intellectual enquiry, yet few survive in their original locations. Among fourteen vases at Charlecote Park are five very similar black-figure ‘hydriai’ made around 540–510 BC and possibly excavated at Vulci. These vessels were made of bronze or pottery and were for carrying water. The black-figure technique was invented in Corinth around 700 BC. It involved painting a slip (liquid clay) over vessels of iron-rich clay and a three-stage firing process that turned the slip into a glossy black and the clay orange-red. This example includes a skilfully painted scene depicting a chariot with four horses, the goddess Athena and one of the labours of Heracles, who is seen wrestling the Nemean Lion. The vase was probably acquired by George Hammond Lucy (1789–1845). Lucy and his family travelled to Italy in 1842, where they visited Mount Vesuvius, Herculaneum and Pompeii. Details of their Italian tour were published in 1862 by George’s wife Mary Elizabeth (1803–90), who listed the following purchases in Naples: ‘large Etruscan vase, (modern), with a representation in colours on a white ground of the battle between Darius and Alexander, which now stands on the bookcase in the library, also four ancient Etruscan Greek vases, which stand on the bookcase’. The vases are still displayed in Charlecote’s library. Some may have been acquired by Lucy’s younger brother, the Revd John Lucy (1790–1874), who also visited Naples in 1840–2, or his great uncle George Lucy (1714–86), a Grand Tourist who was in Rome and Naples in 1756–8.Text adapted from Patricia F. Ferguson, Ceramics: 400 Years of British Collecting in 100 Masterpieces, Philip Wilson Publishers, 2016.
Presented to the National Trust by Sir Montgomerie Fairfax-Lucy (1896 – 1965), two years after the death of his father, Sir Henry Ramsay-Fairfax, 3rd Bt (1870 – 1944), with Charlecote Park and its chief contents, in 1946.
Makers and roles
manner of Antimenes Painter (fl. c.530 - c.510 BCE), painter
Ferguson 2016: Patricia F. Ferguson, Ceramics: 400 Years of British Collecting in 100 Masterpieces, Philip Wilson Publishers, 2016, pp. 184-5