WAITING FOR HIS MASTER’S COMMAND. This fifth-century B.C. “plastic” (from the Greek plasso, or “to mold”) rhyton, or drinking cup, in the shape of a dog’s head is attributed to the Brygos Painter from Athens, Greece. The Brygos Painter was a prolific decorator of pots and cups, with over 200 vessels attributed to him. The rhyton is molded from two separate pieces (the seam runs from the top of the dog’s cranium to below his neck) and is intricately decorated from tendons that bulge at the dog’s throat to the whiskers on his nose. The broad red line circling the neck serves as a collar for the dog and a border for the portrait that’s painted below on the cup’s rim.
The Brygos painter chose to depict a mythological fight between pygmies and cranes, a story well-known from ancient times that was also employed by Homer in his eighth-century B.C. epic, The Iliad. He likened the battle cries of the Trojans to that of the “clamor of cranes,” going up “to the heavens.”
The rhyton most likely belonged to a member of the Athenian elite as domesticated canines in ancient Greece were mostly employed as hunting companions.