Above: The front of the famous Euphnios Krater depicts Sarpedon’s body carried by Hypnos and Thanatos (Sleep and Death), while Hermes watches.
The Euphronios krater (or Sarpedon krater) is an ancient Greek terra cotta krater, a bowl used for mixing wine with water. Created around the year 515 BC, it is the only complete example of the surviving 27 vases painted by the renowned Euphronios and is considered one of the finest Greek vase artifacts in existence.
The Euphronios krater stands 45.7 cm (18 inches) in height and has a diameter of 55.1 cm (21.7 inches). It can hold about 45 L (12 gallons). The style of the vase is red-figure pottery, in which figure outlines, details, and the background are painted with an opaque black slip while the figures themselves are left in the color of the unpainted terracotta ceramic clay.
The krater is decorated with two scenes. An episode from the Trojan War is shown on the obverse; this illustration depicts the death of Sarpedon, son of Zeus and Laodamia. The reverse of the krater shows a contemporary scene of Athenian youths from the 6th century BC arming themselves before battle. In the scene of Sarpedon’s death, the god Hermes directs the personifications of Sleep (Hypnos) and Death (Thanatos) to carry the fallen away to his homeland for burial. While the subject of Sarpedon’s death might normally be depicted as a stylized tableau, the figures in this scene are painted in naturalistic poses and with schematic but accurate anatomy. This style is emblematic of the Pioneer Group of late Archaic painters, of whom Euphronios is considered the most accomplished. The scene of the anonymous Greek youths on the reverse shares this naturalistic style, using all the Pioneer Group’s characteristic techniques of anatomical accuracy, natural poses, foreshortening, and spatial illusion.