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Aphrodite & Amphora: the Attic red-figure Nolan amphora

Attic red-figure Nolan amphora c. 460–450BCE from the Benaki Museum collections, on display in the Gods, Myths & Mortals exhibition at the Hellenic Museum.

Aphrodite was one of Greece’s most popular goddesses. In fact, the Hellenic Museum is full of artefacts representing Aphrodite! From a Roman statuette to a replica of the famous Venus de Milo sculpture, to gold earrings depicting Aphrodite’s son Eros and a myrtle wreath made in her honour.

Today, we will focus on the magnificent vase pictured above!

How do you think the boy and girl in the vase painting know each other? What might they be talking about? At first, it’s difficult to tell, but Aphrodite’s presence can be seen if you know what to look for!

  • The girl is holding a branch of myrtle, which she is twisting into a wreath. Myrtle was sacred to Aphrodite, and was planted at her shrines and temples throughout Greece.

  • The boy appears to be holding a ball or a piece of fruit. In fact, it looks quite a lot like an apple! Apples were especially sacred to Aphrodite, because she had won a golden apple in a contest of beauty between her and the other goddesses.

  • Finally, there is a duck standing between the man and the woman. Ducks, and many other birds that live near water, were sacred to Aphrodite, because she was herself born out of the foam of the ocean’s crashing waves.

So, now that you can see Aphrodite’s presence on the vase, what do you think about the boy and the girl? What are they doing, and what might they say to each other? Why are they holding these objects? Let us know what you think!

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