Collection Online

Bell krater (Campanian red-figure ware)
350 BCE-325 BCE

36.6 × 33.5 cm diameter
Place/s of Execution
Campania, Italy
Accession Number
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1973
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of Digitisation Champion Ms Carol Grigor through Metal Manufactures Limited
Gallery location
18th Century Decorative Arts - Great Hall Costume Corridor
Level 2, NGV International
Physical description
Large, wide-mouthed vessel of inverted bell-shape with a tall foot, and two short loop handles on either side of the body. Decorated in black-glaze and red-figured scenes. Side A: A scene from a phylax play; two padded and masked actors on a stage with steps, one (central) carrying a torch, the other, an old man carrying a sickle. To the left at ground level is a female flute player. To the left on the stage is a building. Side B: Two youths in cloaks, one holding grapes, the other a spear; in the field halteres and phiale. Under the rim is a band of laurel. Below the scenes is a wave pattern band.
This vase is decorated with a scene from a farcical comedy known as a phlyax play that was particular to Southern Italy. No phlyax plays survive in the literature, the only evidence of them being these lively examples of South Italian vase-painting of the fourth century BCE. The vases are particularly interesting for their representations of the stage. Pictorial evidence suggests that the stages utilised for the plays were impromptu in nature, making use of temporary sets and backdrops that might indicate a typical temple, house or street. This vase shows a more elaborate version with textiles draped between the posts of the stage base and a small flight of steps added.