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"Mythography and Greek Vase Painting"

Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Mythography book cover, featuring a fresco from the House of the Dioscuri at Pompeii. The fresco shows Perseus rescuing Andromeda after he has killed the Ketos.
Kathryn Topper. 2022. “Mythography and Greek Vase Painting,” in The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Mythography, eds. Stephen Trzaskoma and R. Scott Smith. Oxford: Oxford UP. 477–489.

This chapter examines points of overlap between mythography and Greek vase painting. Although vase painters had different goals from mythographers, they used similar organizational and rhetorical strategies to present and reflect upon myth. The chapter shows that the strategies of narrative, catalogue, and pendant can be detected vase painting, just as they can in mythography. The François vase is discussed as an example of visual narrative and catalogue; the “Heroines pyxis” in London is treated as another instance of catalogue; and Makron’s skyphos depicting the abduction and recovery of Helen is offered as an instance of pendant images. While vase paintings were not strictly mythographic in themselves, the examples considered in this chapter suggest that painters expected viewers to be adept at the same sorts of narration and comparison that made mythographic thought possible. The chapter ends by discussing some limitations of an approach that compares vase painting and mythography.

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