Exekias (Ἐξηκίας; signature ΕΧΣΕΚΙΑΣ, Exsekias) was a potter and vase painter in Athens, active around 550-525 BC. He is considered to be the best black-figure painter. His signature as painter and potter has been found on two vases, and another ten as potter only. Around 30 vases are attributed to him. He is also credited with inventing new pottery shapes: the calyx-krater and the standard "type A" cup.
He taught the Andokides Painter, who with Psiax, is among those credited with the invention of red-figure painting around 530 BC.
His most famous work is an inscribed black-figure belly amphora (Type A), found in Vulci, Erturia (Lazio, Italy), and dated circa 540-530 BC. It is signed by Exekias twice: on Side A as potter, and on the mouth as painter. On Side A is a depiction of Achilles and Ajax (names inscribed) playing a board game. See depictions of this scene by other vase painters in Homer part 2. This image is still mass-reproduced on ceramics today and sold in tourist shops across Italy and Greece (see Now wait for last month at The Cheshire Cat Blog). Side B shows the return of the Dioskouroi: Kastor and Polydeukes with Tyndareos and Leda (names inscribed). Height 61 cm. The Gregorian Museum of Etruscan Art, Vatican Museums, Rome. Inv. No. 16757 (344).
Other works attributed to Exekias include:
The "Dionysus Cup", 540-530 BC, a black-figure Type A kylix (an eye-cup) decorated on the inside with a painting of Dionysus in a ship surrounded by dolphins. Signed on the foot Έχσηκίας έποίησε (Exsekias epoise, Exekias made it). From Vulci, Etruria (Lazio, Italy). Diameter 30 cm. Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich. Inv. No. 2044.
A black-figure calyx-krater painted by Exekias, depicting the apotheosis of Herakles (see photo below). From the Agora, Athens. Agora Museum. Inv. No. AP 1044.
An inscribed black-figure belly amphora, circa 540 BC, signed on Side A by Exekias as potter, Έχσηκίας έποίεσε (Exsekias epoiese, Exekias made it). Painted by a member of Group E. On side A a depiction of Herakles fighting Geryon (see image below). On Side B a warrior leaving home in a chariot. On the lid Sirens and stags. From Vulci. Louvre Museum, Paris. Inv. No. F 53.
A black-figure neck amphora, painted by Exekias, circa 540-535 BC. On Side A Achilles killing the Amazon queen Penthesileia. On Side B, Memnon, bearded and fully armed, facing right, flanked by two black African attendants. Inscribed above one, behind (left of) Memnon's head, έπ]οίησ(ε)ν (?); above the other, in front of Memnon's head, AMAΣIΣ (Αμασις). Scholars remain uncertain whether the inscription is the signature of Amasis as potter, or Exekias making a humorous comment on the potter's name or nickname, possible "dusky" appearance or foreign origin. Height 41.5 cm, width 30 cm, weight 3.6 kg. British Museum. Inv. No. GR 1849.5-18.10 (Vase B209).
The name AMAΣΟΣ (Amasos) also appears above a similar black African warrior being attacked by Menelaos on a fragmentary panel amphora painted by Exekias, circa 530 BC. University Museum, Philadelphia. Inv. No. MS 3442.
A black-figure amphora signed on both sides by Exekias as potter, Έχσηκίας έποίησε (Exsekias epoise, Exekias made it), inscribed retrograde (backwards). Circa 530-525BC. Side A depicts Achilles killing the Amazon queen Penthesileia. ΑΧΙΛΕΥΣ inscribed in front of Achilles; ΠΕΝΘΕΣΙΛΥΑ inscribed in front of Penthesilea; on the right Όνητορίδης καλός (Onetorides kalos, Onetorides is beautiful). On Side B Dionysus holding out a kantharos (wine cup) to his son Oinopion, who holds an oinochoe (wine jug). Inscribed retrograde ΣΟΣΝΟΙΔ (SOSNOID = Διόνυσος, Dionysos) in front of Dionysus. Inscribed OINOΠION above Oinopion, and behind him Όνητορίδης καλός, as on Side A. Height 41 cm, width 29 cm, diameter of mouth 18 cm. British Museum. Inv. No. 1836,0224.127 (Vase B210).
A black-figure neck amphora, from Vulci, signed on the mouth by Exekias as painter. On Side A Herakles (name inscribed) fighting the Nemean Lion. On Side B Demophon and Akamas leading their horses (names of the men and horses inscribed) as they leave for Troy. The horse on the left is named Φαλιος (Falios, dazzling white, or having a white forehead). The name also appears to the right of the mule's head on the funerary pinax in Berlin (see photo, above right), and on an unattributed black-figure hydria in the Louvre (Inv. No. F 40). The horse on the right is named Καλλιφορα<ς> (Kallifora<s>, a horse with beautiful mane and tail). A horse on Side B of amphora F 53 in the Louvre (see above) is named Kalliforas. Height 40.5 cm. Berlin State Museums (SMB). Inv. No. F 1720.
An inscribed black-figure Panathenaic prize amphora, perhaps from Vulci. On Side A Athena. On Side B wrestlers. Badisches Landesmuseum, Karlsruhe. Inv. No. 65.45.
The Suicide of Ajax Vase, a black-figure neck amphora, around 530-525 BC, with a depiction of Ajax preparing for his suicide (see image below
). Musée des Beaux-Arts et d'Archéologie, Boulogne, France. Inv. No. 558.