This beautiful black figure vase painting by the Amasis Painter depicts Dionysos with a pair of attendant maenads. The image appears on a type of vessel that the ancient Greeks called an amphora. Amphorae (the plural form of the word amphora) were used to store such treasures as wine and oil.
The body of the vase is adorned with a gorgeous group of figures. Dionysos, the Greek god of wine and the theatre, stands on the left. The god is bearded and holds a kantharos (this kind of wine cup is often used as a symbol of Dionysos) in one of his hands. The right side of the vase features two women, who are often identified as maenads (female followers of Dionysos). These women are intertwined and clad in dark, intricately detailed garments. One of the maenads is holding a hare, while the other is carrying a deer. Each of the female figures is also grasping a sprig of stylized ivy. Notice how the skin of the male figure - Dionysos - is dark, while the female figures - the maenads - both have pale, buff colored skin.
The decorative details on the vase are bold and beautifully rendered. Large spirals serve to frame the composition in the center, and the figures also stand on a band of stylized grape leaves. This enchanting work is a masterpiece of the black figure style of vase painting.
Learn more about the role the god Dionysos played in Greek mythology at Mythography.
The Art and Culture of Early Greece
Professor Jeffrey M. Hurwit has written a wonderfully engaging book about the art, literature, and poetry of early Greece. Scholars and students alike should enjoy this book. Images of many works of ancient Greek art and an extensive glossary make this an excellent resource.
This beautifully illustrated book (from the Phaidon Art and Ideas series and written by Nigel Spivey) covers the subject of ancient Greek art brilliantly.