Baltimore Painter was a vase painter, active in Apulia ca. 330-310 BC. He may
have worked near Canosa, where many of his vases have been found, though there
is some connection with the UNDERWORLD PAINTER, who was probably from Tarentum.
He is named after a monumental volute krater in Baltimore, MD (Walters A.G.,
48.86), possibly depicting Hermes and Persephone in the Underworld. There
are many other mythological subjects in his unusually large oeuvre. A
characteristic example of the Baltimore Painter’s slightly coarse but vivid
style is provided by another volute krater (Ruvo di Puglia, Mus. Jatta, 424),
with an agitated representation of the Death of the Children of Niobe. In
addition to large numbers of minor vases mostly decorated with a single painted
female head, his workshop produced many volute kraters with scenes at grave
shrines. The figures in the shrines, representing the deceased and members of
their family, are sometimes painted with various colours (red, orange–yellow and
white). In his multi-figured compositions the painter often depicted objects of
various types scattered all over the ground, the most characteristic being a
hydria with one visible M-shaped handle.
This handsome vessel was made in the Greek colony of Apulia located in eastern Magna Grecia (the pre-Roman name for southern Italy) along the Adriatic Sea. Initially, the Greek colonies of Magna Graecia were marked by their allegiance to the ceramic styles of the Attic mainland. However, over the years, native traditions and innovations heavily influenced the works of Magna Grecian potters. Unorthodox forms and painting-styles were seamlessly merged with the standard Greek style, creating distinctive works of art unique to the Hellenistic world. Apulia is known for creating some of the most famous red-figured vases of the Classical World. The workshop where this particular vessel would have originated was developed under the influence of Attic art, but gradually developed its own original style assimilating the local traditions of native potters.
The image on this beautiful hydria is
of two women in a naiskos, or small pavilion; one holds a parasol and leans on a
pillar, while making an offering to her seated companion. This perhaps
represents a bride and her maid. Four additional women making offerings flank
this scene. The hydria is further decorated with palmettes and a myrtle wreath
around its neck. We are caught up in the graceful drama of the vase, as if
watching ancient theater. What do the women say to each other? What secrets and
laughter do they exchange? In the presence of this exquisite vessel we catch a
glimpse of ancient lives, of a world vanished into the mists of time.