Ca. 425 BC.
By the so-called Eretria Painter
Length: 0,26m. Height: 0,16m
Athens, National Archaeogical Museum 1629
Εxhibition Room: Temporary Exhibition "Eretria. Insights into an ancient city", Case no. 30.
The epinetron from Eretria is the most well known of its kind thanks to its rich and splendid decoration.
Epinetra were semicircular vessels, mainly of wood, although the surviving examples are of clay, intended for carding wool. The incised scales on the top of the vessel indicate it was used for this purpose. A unique representation on an epinetron (inv. no. 2179) held in the National Archaeological Museum, Athens shows that the vessels were fitted to the thigh like a saddle and so were also called onoi (= 'donkeys'). The world of women holds sway in the friezes on the long sides of the epinetra and their closed short end, with depictions of the carding of wool, scenes from women's apartments and encounters between women and men. Representations of Amazons, Maenads, warriors or of horse races are rarer. All this offers evidence relating to the life of the womenfolk of citizens, if one is to judge from the garments and hairstyle. It is not certain that clay epinetra were intended for use. They were regarded as wedding gifts, which were afterwards offered in sanctuaries or escorted their owners to the grave, although they might have been meant from the beginning as objects of dedication.
On our particular vessel the figures are identified by inscriptions: on one of the long sides, the friends of Alkestis visit her in the bridal chamber in Admetos' palace on the day after their wedding (epaulia). They bring flowers and decorate two nuptial lebetes and a loutrophoros, which were both vases for conducting bridal purification and burial markers for those who died prematurely.
On the reverse side, Harmonia, daughter of Ares and Aphrodite and wife of the Theban king Kadmos, is surrounded by the patron goddesses of marriage, Aphrodite, Eros, Himeros and Hebe.
At the closed end of the vessel, behind the relief female bust, which may depict Aphrodite, Thetis struggles and repeatedly transforms herself into a snake or a lion and so on, in order to free herself from the erotic embrace of Peleus, her future husband.
The so-called "Eretria Painter" earned his name from this vessel, which is unique for its exceptional drawing, its masterly adaptation of scenes to shape and the ethos the figures radiate. This miniature creation is not inferior in grace and finesse to the sculpture of the Parthenon or of the balustrade of Athena Nike.
Bibliography: V. Philippaki, Αγγεία του Εθνικού Μουσείου Αθηνών (Αthens n.d.) 114-117. Υ. Tzedakis (), Από τη Μήδεια στη Σαπφώ. Ανυπότακτες γυναίκες στην αρχαία Ελλάδα, Exhibition at the National Archaeological Museum, March 20-September 10, 1995 (Athens1995) 96-97 [Α. Κottaridou]. P. Badinou, La laine et le parfum. Epinetra et alabasters. Forme, iconographie et function, Recherche de ceramique attique feminine (Monographs of antiquity II, Louvain-Dudley 2003) 2-50.