This remarkable collection spans the period from 2000 BC to 4th century AD.
The Hermitage has one of the richest collections of painted vases in the world. The archaic period (8th-6th centuries BC) is represented by various centers: Corinth, Rhodes, Chios, Samos and other regions, each distinguished by its own version of the ‘carpet' or orientalising style. Of particular interest are Attic black-figure vases, the most interesting being a hydria showing the struggle between Hercules and the Triton by Exekias, and vases by Amasis. The rich collection of red-figure vases includes works by Epiktetos, Duris and Euphronios, including his famous psykter with feasting hetaerae. The vases by Kleophon showing scenes of a warrior's farewell, of sacrifice and the return from a feast, give an idea of Attic ceramics of the age of Phidias.
The 5th-century white-ground lekythoi (sepulchral vessels) constitute an isolated group, and the lekythos with Artemis by the Pan Painter is undoubtedly a true masterpiece. A number of pieces in the form of a sphinx, a siren and Aphrodite, famous for their unusually well preserved colour, were found in the Phanagoria necropolis on the Black Sea coast. The lekythos by Xenophantos showing Persians hunting wild boar give us an idea of what kind of vessels 4th-century Athens exported to the distant regions. In these works several styles were combined - relief, red-figure style and polychrome. A fine example of such vessels is the hydria with a scene showing Athena and Poseidon disputing Attica (4th century BC).
Greek sculpture is represented in the museum almost exclusively by Roman copies, and hence the few original Greek pieces are of particular importance. These include a bronze statuette of a young athlete by Polycrates (6th century BC) with a dedicatory inscription, a mirror stand in the form of Aphrodite (5th century BC), and marble sepulchral monuments - Attic marble stele of Philostrata and Theodotus and a tombstone in the form of a vase with a relief showing a mother and child.
A star item in the Hermitage collection is the first antique statue to be brought to Russia – during the reign of Peter I – the famous Tauride Venus, a Roman copy from a Greek original.
The remarkable collection of 3rd-century BC Greek terracottas mostly consists of figurines of girls and young women from various centers of production. Those from the Greek town of Tanagra in Boeotia are particularly fully represented.
Black-Figure Dinos with Ships
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