This amphora, attributed to one of the most prominent artists of Hellas, the Darius Painter (340-320BC) was found in the beginning of the 19th century in one of the rich tombs of Ceglie di Campo in Apulia, near Bari in Southern Italy. It was acquired by an Austrian collector Baron Franz von Koller, who in 1828 sold it to the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm for the Royal Museum in Berlin. In 1945, together with other severely damaged pieces the amphora was relocated to The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. Broken into sherds, stained with resin, with a number of lost and deformed fragments, it was conserved first by Irina Makarova in 2004, and then in two stages by Elena Minina and Irina Sivovaya (in 2011 and 2014-2015). The painted ornament was digitally reconstructed by Igor Tkachev in 2016-2017.
This slender, elegant vase (99 centimeters in height) belongs to the type of Panathenaic amphorae given as prizes in the Panathenaic Games held in Athens every four years to honor Athena, the patron goddess of the city. Intended as a gift to the deceased, it symbolizes the idea of victory over death.
This amphora, as most Greek vases, has four sides. The main scenes are presented on its front and back sides, and the two remaining sides were left for so-called "transitional" scenes. The bottom frieze is a closed loop, while the top one is divided by large palmettes, a symbolic representation of Arbor mundi, the tree of life. The top part of the vase reflects the idea of constant rebirth of the world: its rim is decorated with an ivy wreath of Dionysus, a god who dies and resurrects.
There was no death in the ancient worldview: time was cyclical, and its every cycle transformed into a new one. The ritual of transition is the main idea of the scenes depicted on the vase.