Kallos Gallery

Attic Black-Figure Amphora Signed By Pamphaios As Potter

The sophisticated social protocols and conspicuous display of elite Sixth Century Athenian culture are here projected in the luxurious pageantry and elaborately ornamented forms of the gods Apollo and Artemis. At the pinnacle of the rich black-figure technique, the potter Pamphaios and his painter have compelled myth, art, and society into harmony. He signs his elegant masterpiece alongside the form of Apollo, patron of artists.

Attic Black-Figure Amphora Signed By Pamphaios As Potter

Late Archaic Period, 515–500 BC

Attributed to a painter close to the Euphiletos Painter, and to the Class of Cabinet des Medailles 218


H: 31cm


In different postures and attitudes on both sides of this slender amphora, Apollo plays a white-armed kithara before a goddess, most likely his sister Artemis, who perhaps accompanies his music with song. The god is dressed in a long chiton overlaid by a red and black striped himation with a hatched border, and is seen here in his role as patron deity of music and poetry. Artemis wears a tall polos crown and a long black and red chiton overlaid by a decorated peplos. Her long hair falls in braids over her shoulder, and as is usual for depictions of women on black-figure pottery, the goddess’s skin is picked out with added white clay paint. The scenes evoke Apollo’s performance on Olympos, as described in the Homeric Hymn to Pythian Apollo:

Leto’s all-glorious son goes to rocky Pytho, playing upon his hollow lyre, clad in divine, perfumed garments; and his lyre, at the touch of the golden key, sings sweet. Thence, swift as thought, he speeds from earth to Olympos, to the house of Zeus, to join the gathering of the other gods: then the undying gods think only of the lyre and song … And among them sings one, not mean nor puny, but tall to look upon and enviable in countenance, Artemis who delights in arrows, sister of Apollo … while Apollo plays his lyre stepping high and elegantly, and a radiance shines around him, the gleaming of his feet and close-woven vest. And they, even gold-tressed Leto and wise Zeus, rejoice in their great hearts as they watch their dear son playing among the undying gods.


The Kallos amphora is signed on Side A in black glaze letters by Pamphaios as potter, ΦΑΝΦΑΙΟΣ ΜΕΠΟΙΕΣΝ (‘Pamphaios made me’); it is the only known black-figure amphora to bear his signature. The foot is done in lustrous black clay paint, and the rim and the raised encircling band or torus between the foot and the body are reserved to the original warm orange Attic clay. The graffito ΑΛ is incised on the underside of the foot.

Rays emanate from the foot, and above them is an encircling maeander or key to left, between two black encircling bands. Alternating black and red tongues decorate the upper body just before the join at the neck. Palmettes adorn the reserved spaces on either side of the figures and below the handles. The handles themselves are triple-reeded and terminate in small double knobs at the body, perhaps mimicking the rivets on metal vases; each reed is accentuated along its length by a vertical line of black clay paint on the apex.

On the neck, on both sides, a lively satyr with arm outstretched advances to the right, in pursuit of a maenad or nymph who also advances to the right, glancing back over her shoulder in the direction of her pursuer. The hair and tails of the satyrs are in added red, as are the stripes of the maenads’ chitons, which also feature dots in added white. The lip and interior are glazed black. Pairs of confronted black panthers with added red adorn the rim, separated by small palmettes at the top of each handle.

In the facial features of the vase’s god and goddess and in the complex characteristics of their garments, the Kallos amphora demonstrates precise and finely-incised detail: for instance in the hem of Artemis’s chiton, the special patterning on her peplos, the ringlets of hair across her forehead, and the details picked out in her crown. Similarly, the neatly-executed zig-zags that decorate the hem of Apollo’s himation, and the array of tight curls depicted around his head on side B contrast with the details of side A, on which he wears an incised wreath of laurel.

The vase’s three demarcated zones of decoration, though at a glance quite different in subject-matter, each depicts interaction between a pair. The viewer’s eye moves from Olympians on the body, to hybrid satyr and mortal woman on the neck, and finally to panthers on the rim. The composition may well allude to musical ecstasy, evoking the myth of Orpheus, and the Apolline power of beautiful music to captivate man, beast and immortal alike.

In the potteries of antiquity, the ‘signature’ of the potter or poietes, ‘maker’, was written by the vase-painter, or possibly by a dedicated and literate inscription-writer. The potter Pamphaios produced mainly cups and ovoid or egg-shaped neck-amphorae; over 50 vases or fragments bearing his name have survived, a third of which are in black-figure. Pamphaios signed three red-figure neck-amphorae, two of which are in the Louvre,(1) and one in Zurich.(2) The Kallos amphora is the only known black-figure amphora to bear his signature.

It is assumed that the potter owned the workshop since he needed a large space for kilns, drying areas, the wheel and basins for the purification and preparation of the clay. Pamphaios employed several painters working in the black- and red-figure techniques, among them the outstanding early cup painters Epiktetos,

who signed a cup in the Louvre,(3) and Oltos.(4) The majority of Pamphaios’s cups were decorated by the Nikosthenes Painter, named after the potter Nikosthenes who produced figure-decorated copies of Etruscan Bucchero amphorae to attract Etruscan buyers amidst a then-booming market. Pamphaios also employed the Euphiletos Painter, for whom he potted a signed hydria in the Cabinet des Medailles.(5) The Kallos amphora has been attributed to the Class of Cabinet des Medailles 218, based on similarities in the style of the potting,(6) and to either the Euphiletos Painter or a painter near him, on the basis of the painting style.

Another work attributed to the Euphiletos Painter and signed by Pamphaios as potter, demonstrating similar precision in the painting and incision work as here with Apollo and Artemis, is a vase in the British Museum.(7) A strikingly similar amphora belonging to the Class of the Cabinet des Medailles 218, also depicting Apollo and Artemis, is now housed in the Antikenmuseum und Sammlung Ludwig, Basel.(8)

The real name of the Euphiletos Painter is not known; he was named by J. D. Beazley after an inscription praising Euphiletos as beautiful (ΕΥΦΙΛΕΤΟΣ ΚΑΛΟΣ) on a belly-amphora in Rome.(9) A much earlier fragmentary plaque from Eleusis10 preserves the inscription ΕΥΦΙΛΕΤΟΣ … Ν which can be restored to ‘Euphiletos egrapsen’, ‘epoiesen’ or ‘anatheken’ (‘painted’, ‘made’ or ‘dedicated’ me). He was active from about 530 BC to around 500 BC and decorated mainly large vases such as amphorae, hydriai, and column-kraters, and is especially known for his Panathenaic Prize Amphorae which were given to the victors in athletic contests of the Panathenaic Games.

The wide, curved handles of the Kallos amphora are related to the so-called ‘Nikosthenic amphorae’ with two distinct ridges on the body and strap handles, a shape pioneered by the potter Nikosthenes earlier described. Pamphaios modified the form and did away with the ridges, which sat uneasily with the figure-decoration, and replaced the strap handles with triple-reeded handles for his black-figure amphorae. Here, the painter omitted the shoulder frieze, allowing more space for the main figure-scenes. Nearly all known examples of this type have been found in Caere (Cerveteri) and Vulci, suggesting that they were intended predominantly for export to these regions of Etruria in central Italy.


End Notes:

(1) Paris, Musee du Louvre, G 2: Beazley, J.D., Attic Red-Figure Vase- Painters, 2nd edition (Oxford, 1963) 53.2, 1622; Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum, Paris, Louvre 5, III.IC.17, III.IC.18, pl.(364) 26.1.3–7. Paris, Musee du Louvre, G 3: Beazley, J.D., Attic Red-Figure Vase-Painters, 2nd edition (Oxford, 1963) 53.1; Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum, Paris, Louvre 5, III.Ic.18, pl.(365) 27.1–7.

(2) University of Zurich, loan 8865: Museum Helveticum 38 (1981) pls.1–4, at page 240.

(3) Paris, Musee du Louvre, G 5: Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum, Paris, Musee du Louvre 10, III.I.B.6, pls. (763,764) 9.2–3, 5–8; 10.1.

(4) Paris, Musee du Louvre, S1409: Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum, Paris, Musee du Louvre 5, III.IC.17, III.IC.18, pl.(364) 26.1.3–7.

(5) Paris, Cabinet des Medailles, 254: Beazley, J.D., Attic Black-Figure Vase-Painters (Oxford, 1956) 324.38; Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum, Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale 2, 42–43, pls.(444–445) 58.3–4.8, 59.1–5.

(6) J.D. Beazley, Attic Black-Figure Vase-Painters (Oxford, 1956) 319– 320, attributed 13 neck-amphorae to the class, which he described thus: “The … neck-amphorae, by diverse hands, are of the same type as Cab. Med. 218, although they vary in shape of foot, shape of handles, and other particulars.” In Beazley’s complex terminology, ‘Class’ describes vases grouped “for likeness in potter-work” (C.M. Robertson, in Carpenter, T.H., with Mannack, T., and Mendonca, M., Beazley Addenda, 2nd edition (Oxford, 1989) xvi).

(7) British Museum, B300: Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum, London, British Museum, 6, III.H.E3, pl. 74.1, 75.1.

(8) Antikenmuseum und Sammlung Ludwig, Basel, inv. no. LU26.

(9) Rome, Mus. Naz. Etrusco di Villa Giulia, 47231: Beazley, J.D., Attic Black-Figure Vase-Painters (Oxford, 1956) 323.24.

(10) Eleusis, Archaeological Museum: Beazley, J.D., Attic Black-Figure Vase-Painters (Oxford, 1956) 352.



Beazley, Paralipomena, Oxford, 1971, no. 104.4.

Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum, London, British Museum, 6, III.H.E3, pl.74.1, 75.1.

H. R. Immerwahr, ‘The Signatures of Pamphaios’, in American Journal of Archaeology, 88 (1984), pp 341–352.


The body of the vase is intact. The topmost rim was broken into several neat fragments and has been repaired, with two small areas of restoration. The handles have been reattached at the rim, and a small drop of spilt black clay paint marks the right handle. The foot has also been repaired; its black slip has degraded in one area and has been toned down. The black slip decoration and the figures, however, are generally in excellent condition, flaking slightly only on one of the palmettes on the body, and the leg of one of the figures on the neck. The red slip decoration on the figures is generally in good condition. The white slip decoration on the figures is strong but has flaked slightly in places, for example on the arm of one of the female figures. There are traces of lime encrustation from burial in the crevices. The overall surface condition of the vase is very good.

Private collection, Prof. M. Ebnöther, Schaffhausen, Switzerland, acquired prior to 1972.

Published: The Painter’s Eye, The Art of Greek Ceramics. Greek Vases from a Swiss Private Collection and other European Collections, Geneva-New York, 2006, 8–11, no.2.

Bonhams Sale 17855, Antiquities, London, 6 October 2010, lot 93.

Baron Lorne Thyssen-Bornemisza

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