When first acquired the figures on this krater, or wine mixing bowl, were obscured and the presence of the ladder, the window and the companion with the lamp led to it being called "The Elopement." Extensive cleaning and restoration has revealed a much different scene and led to considerable perplexity as to what exactly is being depicted here.

The figure on the left, originally believed to be Zeus, has now no recognizable identity, since no Greek artist would depict a god as an old man with a pot on his head, stuck in a ladder.

The figure on the right, originally believed to be Hermes accompanying Zeus on one of his earthly trysts, is now seen as a tall, heavily-pregnant woman wearing lipstick, dressed in a see-through tutu and high heels while carrying either a pair of squash rackets or an enormous lorgnette in one hand and holding a lamp in the other. The fact that no oil lamp could function at that angle may explain why her left shoulder appears to be on fire. On her head is an object generally believed to be a large snail, although the features have been worn away too much to be certain. Above her head is what is thought to be a floating tambourine, perhaps representing an idea, as we use the light bulb today.

The "woman in the window" may actually be the representation of a painting in a frame. The fingers overlapping the frame appear to show that the figure may be a drawing, depicted in the "Kilroy was here" style that would later become popular during the second World War.

Some art historians consider the krater to be an elaborate fake, pointing out the close resemblance of the figure in the window to Barbra Streisand, and the marks on the base which some insist can be interpreted as the English words "Archie McPhee."

 

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Krater with Strange Red Figures on Black Ground
(formerly known as "The Elopement")
Greece, 350 BCE
H 0.37m; D 0.36m ~ Fired potter's clay
(detail)