Achilles appears in an almost statuary pose with his head uncovered, armed with a sword and long spear, and wearing a short breastplate over a lightweight transparent chiton. The expressive study of the face is particularly accurate, finely traced and revealing a full mastery of foreshortening that does not omit even those details that are almost imperceptible from a distance, such as the eyelashes. On the opposite side there is a young woman, possibly Briseis, the hero’s favourite slave, in the act of performing a propitiatory libation. The Painter of Achilles is conventionally named after this monumental amphora. A pupil of the Painter of Berlin, he embodies in his ceramic painting the quintessential classical spirit, the art of Athens at its peak in the years of Pericles and Phydias. His distinctive characteristic is the high level of expressiveness of his figures, who appear to be pervaded with an ideal inner serenity, present but at the same time distant from the suffering and the fulfilment of their most tragic destinies.
The master's vases were widespread in the ancient Mediterranean world: from Greece to Asia Minor and Sicily, as well as Etruria, where this Vatican amphora was unearthed.