Thanks to the iconographic analysis of the scenes depicted on two red-figure calyx kraters made by the same workshop, it is possible to analyse the close connection between the local tradition and the musical iconographic choices made by one of the main Western workshops at the beginning of the last quarter of the 5th c. BCE. This case-study highlights how music - and its allusion through painted images - can be ‘inflected’ resulting in different meanings in relation to its context of use and according to its cultural and religious implications. Moreover, the comparison of these two kraters showcases how the important musical changes of the second half of the the 5th c. BCE, together with the contemporary theatre performances, caused deep repercussions and shifts in the communication strategies applied to red-figure pottery production. The first calyx krater features a very peculiar scene with a Thracian musician. The value of this iconography is strictly related to the ritual activities performed within the ‘sacred house’ where the krater was found. This case-study shows us the important symbolic role of music and its relation to some important passages of status. The second calyx krater (from the Nostell Priory collection, but currently preserved in a private collection) features a rare scene with Marsyas and his pupil Olympos. This iconography allows us to retrace the specific choices and the visual strategies set up by the Himera Painter. The rarity of this iconographic theme, with its peculiar combinations of unique iconic signs (especially the aulos), supports the hypothesis that the local market of Himera was influenced by its own cultural substratum, that included the lyric musician Stesichorus of Himera. The Himera Painter’s calyx kraters allow us to glimpse a close connection between local material culture, local musical tradition and social identity, within the context of a Western Greek colony at the end of the 5th c. BCE. The results of these case-studies suggest the importance of defining the relationship between the symbolic musical space – evoked by some figurative ‘media’, as in the case of the red-figured vases production – and the local cultural (and real) space related to the archaeological context itself.
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