Title: The Recovery of Helen by Manelaos (Menelaus)
Dimensions: 5 7/8 x 5 7/8 inches (14.9 x 14.9 cm)
Acquired through the generosity of the Class of 1930 for the Frank and Rosa Rhodes Collection
The sixth century B.C. in Athens is the classic moment in ancient Greek vase painting; this composition was executed about 560 B.C. by Lydos, a major figure in Athenian painting, in black paint on the natural red of the plate itself. Details were scratched through the black with a needle, and other colors were added on top. Lydos shows us here the Greek king Menelaos forcibly bringing Helen, his unfaithful wife, back to Greece after the Trojan War. Menelaos, in sword and armor, climbs up the side of the plate, grasping the hem of Helen's robe, while she stands quietly, dignified and calm, and her servant waits modestly to the right. At the bottom, the king's dog - a favorite animal in Lydos's work - sniffs curiously at Helen, perhaps anticipating the couple's reconciliation and future happy years together. Much of the composition of the plate is based on an amphora in the Staatliche Museen, Berlin. In sixth century B.C. Greece, painting on vases was one of the most important ways in which problems of representation and narrative were worked out. This process is apparent in Lydos's lively scene, with each character given its own distinctive personality. The story of the Trojan War itself is told in Homer's Iliad, the touchstone for ancient Greek and Roman epic poetry and one of the great sources for writers and painters for the last three thousand years. (From “A Handbook of the Collection: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art," 1998)
NOTE: This electronic record is compiled from historic documentation which may not reflect the Johnson Museum's complete or current knowledge of the object. Review and refinement of such records is ongoing.