Woman with torches and swans

Friday, 17 July 2020

Sometimes I wonder…
 
This is a Boeotian (5th-4th c BC) red-figure bell-krater. Athens, National Archaeological Museum. Depicting a woman holding two torches and a swan…The identity of the woman and the overall meaning of the scene „unknown“…
 
 
The discussion about these craters can be found in the paper entitled „Swan Riddles in Boeotian Red-figure Vase Painting“ by Chrstina Avronidaki.
 
Is it possible that this woman is Demeter who „carried a pair of flaming torches in her search for her daughter Persephone“.
 
Persephone was abducted by Hades and taken to the land of the dead. During her search, grief stricken Demeter, mourning the disappearance (death) of her daughter, forbade plants to grow…
 
This is normally interpreted as winter, the darkest part of the year (torches) when nature is dormant (no plants grow)…It is during the winter that whooper swans migrate to Greece from Northern Europe. 

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