Urn with the abduction of Helen

Photogallery

Urn with the abduction of Helen
Urn with the abduction of Helen
Rooms X and XI. Hellenistic Age Urns

On the lid, not pertinent, an adult male is depicted, semi-reclining in a non-individual, typological portrait, dressed in a tunic and cloak that covers his head; he holds a ribbed patera (plate for libations) and a rhyton (vessel for drinking in the shape of a horn) with equine foreparts.
The abduction of Helen, depicted on the casket, is a subject treated by various workshops in Volterra. The model of reference may possibly be traced back to a port in the Orient or Egypt in the Hellenistic age, such as Alexandria. This iconographic model, with Helen advancing supported by two figures to be conducted aboard the ship, inspired the Pompeian painting of the house of the Tragic Poet, around 70 to 79 A.D.
In the reliefs of Hellenistic age Etruscan urns, alongside themes of a more explicitly funerary connotation, there appear subjects linked to myth and epos, with symbolic value. According to legend, found in the fragment of the Palinodes of the poet Stesichorus (630 – 555 B.C.), and taken up again by Euripides in his tragedy “Helen”, represented in 412 B.C., a simulacrum was conducted to Troy, a sort of phantom Helen; the true Helen would instead have remained hidden in Egypt in the palace of the King Proteus. As a result Paris, like death, would have ended up abducting only a form without substance, while the real Helen continued to live elsewhere.