In this paper I discuss the scenes that decorate an unpublished attic red-figure loutrophoros at the Acropolis Museum. Given the vase’s extremely fragmentary state of preservation (more than a hundred sherds have come down to us, several of which have been rejoined), it is a great fortune that among the surviving sherds there is one bearing the inscription ΦΑΕΘΩ[Ν. On the evidence of this sherd, there is no doubt that the hero, so far thought to be unattested in the iconography of the archaic and classical periods, was in fact depicted in Greek art from at least the 5th c. B.C. The significance of our vase further lies in that its scenes shed light to some details of the myth that have been rather ambiguous up to now. Side A includes the adornment of a bride and thus of a prominent one, escorted, among others, by the goddess Athena. This nuptial scene, in conjunction with the ascertained presence of Aphrodite and Phaethon here, allows us to associate the vase-paintings with the euripidean “Phaethon”. Such a connection is supported not only by the date of the vase, which is consonant with that of the play, but also by the fact that the latter is known to have made particular reference to the preparations for the hero’s wedding.
One of the first scholars to have commented on Euripides’ Phaethon has been U. von Wilamowitz-Möllendorf. On the belief that the euripidean Phaethon was one and the same person with Hesiod’s homonymous hero, von Wilamowitz-Möllendorf suggested that Phaethon’s bride-to-be in Euripides’ work must have been Aphrodite, who, in the end of the play, would have led the hero to the skies, where she would have united with him. These views by the great German philologist, which have been accepted by several scholars but fiercely criticized by others, are corroborated by the iconography of the Acropolis loutrophoros. His only view gainsaid by the vase is the one pertaining to the date of the play: while he thought it to have been an early work by the poet, our loutrophoros seems to favor a date around 425-415 B.C.
The archaeological commentary of the loutrophoros and its painter is omitted here, inasmuch as it is thoroughly discussed in another paper that is going to be published in the proceedings of the Festkolloquium in honor of Prof. H. Froning, which took place on May 15th-16th, 2009, at the University of Marburg. Here I confine myself to some notes on the narrative devices employed in the iconography of the classical period, especially with regard to the denotation of space and time. Finally, I collect more or less ascertained depictions of Phaethon on works of the Classical period, which seem to have evaded scholarly attention.