Handmade and hand-painted ornament that is based on a piece of pottery, Achilles & Penthesilea, held within the British Museum collection.
The original dates from around 540-530BC, and is attributed to Exekias, an ancient Greek vase- painter and potter. Much of his work included scenes from Greek mythology. He was known for his ability to capture the most critical points of a story and illustrate them into one simple scene. This magnificent design portraying Achilles killing Penthesilea is such an example.
A vital part of the Trojan saga, it is the moment in which Achilles (a Greek warrior) and Penthesilea (a queen of the Amazons) fall in love. In the heat of battle, Achilles battles Penthesilea and with a fatal blow, causes her helmet to be pushed back. When he sees her beauty, he instantly falls in love. This, of course, is ruined by Achilles’ inability to control his bloodlust. Due to this tragedy Achilles refuses to fight and from this many consequences arise that eventually could be linked to his demise.
The plate shows Achilles thrusting his spear into the neck of the Amazon whose ambiguous pose - half fleeing, half falling - cleverly conveys the essence of her predicament. Penthesilea looks up at Achilles, brandishing her spear ineffectually. His eyes meet hers as he delivers the fatal blow.
This plate is made using the same traditional method that Exekias used thousands of years ago. The technique, which is called Six's technique, involves laying figures in white or red on a black surface and incising the details to reveal the black base colour. Exekias was perhaps the finest of all painters to use the black-figure technique.
An ornament that conveys a key historical story.