A Sophoclean slip: mistaken identity and tragic allusion on the Exeter Pelike

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8 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines the fourth-century ‘Exeter pelike’ (ARV2 1516.80) by the Jena Painter, situating it within the wider debate over the relationship between vase-painting and tragic text and performance. The front side depicts the meeting of Orestes and Electra at Agamemnon's tomb, and is commonly interpreted as relating closely to Aeschylus’ Choephori. However, a widely-missed inscription ‘Ism[ene]’ must be an error on the part of the painter for ‘Chrysothemis’, a confusion caused by knowledge of Sophocles. The inclusion of ‘Chrysothemis’ on the Exeter pelike alludes to Sophocles' Electra, but the painting is not a straightforward representation of any one play. Indeed, in tragedy Electra's recognition of Orestes becomes highly allusive, since both Sophocles and Euripides mediate their treatments of this moment through the corresponding scene in Aeschylus. In the same way, the Exeter pelike engages with numerous pictorial and textual traditions to create a complex and allusive re-telling.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-88
Number of pages22
JournalBulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies
Issue number1
Early online date15 May 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


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