Magnificent Red Figure Apulian Bell Krater


A magnificent Greek large terracotta bell krater from Apulia, executed in black slip with red figures and with details emphasized in white pigment. The vessel presents a pedestal base, bell-shaped body, applied handles and a broad everted rim. Side A depicts a nude male figure shown sitting, facing left while holding a staff on his left hand and a phiale on his right hand. A woman sits in front of him, dressed in a finely draped and belted chiton. The male figure is embellished with details, such as the crown he is shown wearing, made with a delicate white paint.  Opposite him, the woman holds in her left hand a staff, a long drapery slips from her left arm, whilst in her right hand a bunch of grapes. The femininity of the figure is highlighted by the jewellery she wears, which is rendered in white paint. Side B, the less detailed of the two decorated sides, features two draped youths standing opposite each other, both holding staffs. They are completely enveloped in their himatia, the ancient Greek mantle. In the upper field, between their faces, is an object as yet unidentified. The draped youths are usual depictions for the reverses of Apulian vases. Further decoration includes typical Apulian features. Laurel leaves are used across the neck and rim. Other typical patterns include the geometric motif underneath the figures and the large palmettes beneath the handles.

Date: 4th Century BC
Provenance: Ex important North London private collection of Greek Art. Previously ex Parthenon Gallery.
Condition: Very fine condition, some slight surface wear to gloss.


The scene depicts a ritual offering performed by two youths. It is a frequent subject on Apulian pottery, especially for those used in a funerary context. The grapes and the phiale, the libation dish, can refer to the Dionysian symposium or to a more general celebration of life and fertility. Apulia was a region of southern Italy that was famed for its glossy black glazed ware pottery and for its polychromatic decoration – often using shades of white, ochre and red. This type of vessel was used for sacred ceremonial purposes, rather than everyday tasks. Ceremonial pieces were often placed as offerings in tombs, thus their subject corresponds with the iconography of funerary rituals.

A krater was a large vessel, of Greek origin, used in Antiquity to water down wine. This was not done by virtue of frugal hosting techniques, but in fact Greek wine, in its undiluted form, was incredibly strong. It would normally be mixed with water at a ratio of one part wine to five or six parts water – consequently, a large vessel was needed for this purpose. To find out more about different types of Greek vessel please see our relevant blog post: Collecting Greek Vases.

Weight 2250 g
Dimensions W 32 x H 29.4 cm


Pottery and Porcelain