Artemis slaying Actaeon, on the name vase of the Pan Painter, early fifth century BC.

Artemis slaying Actaeon, on the name vase of the Pan Painter, early fifth century BC.

I hope you have had the opportunity, if at all possible, to observe the breathtaking panoply of constellations now turning across the night sky along the band of the ecliptic plane. 

The previous post explained that now is one of the best times of year for seeing the complete constellation of Scorpio for viewers in more northerly latitudes of the northern hemisphere, as well as stunning views of Sagittarius, Ophiucus, Hercules and the Milky Way (among many others).

Another earlier post also mentioned my visit last month to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the countless pieces of ancient art which attest to the ancient awareness of the system of celestial metaphor which forms the foundation for the myths, scriptures and sacred stories of virtually every culture on our planet.

The main piece of ancient art I wanted to see at the MFA (which I had never visited before) was the bell krater pictured above, which is the "name vase" of an ancient artist known as "the Pan Painter."

The image above shows Artemis in the act of slaying Actaeon, who is barely visible around the curve of the krater, in the act of being devoured by his own hunting dogs.

This artwork, and its astonishing and self-evident celestial correspondences, is discussed at some length in Star Myths of the World, Volume Two (Greek mythology), and the chapters about the goddess Artemis.

The modern scholar, John Davidson Beazley, who gave the so-called "Pan Painter" the name by which this artist is known to scholars of ancient Greece says of the above painting and bell krater in a text published in 1918

There is no finer vase in Boston, there is no finer vase anywhere, than the bell-krater with Pan pursuing a shepherd on one side, and Artemis killing Acteon on the other, published by Hauser in F. R., pl. 115.

The technique is admirable: the Artemis and Acteon is perhaps the most finished group in all vase-painting: the lean, surprising, devilishly elegant figures carry the mind far away from Greece to some Renaissance bronze worker, to Jean Goujon or Giovanni Bologna. In JHS. 32, pp. 354 - 369, I collected forty works by this artist and named him, after the Boston vase, the Pan Painter. 113.

The reader may agree or disagree with some of the sentiments J. D. Beazley offers above -- he certainly means the comparisons and descriptions as a compliment, and it is clear that he regarded this particular painting on this particular bell-krater, as one of the superlative pieces of red-figure art produced by the entire corpus of ancient Greek pottery painting. 

I agree that the artwork by this unknown ancient artist is amazing and moving. What I find most "surprising" about the images in this particular bell-krater, however, in addition to its high artistic quality and the mastery of the artist's conception of the scene and the force of the drama, is the incredible evocation of the stars of the night sky in this depiction of the encounter between Artemis and Actaeon on the name vase of the Pan Painter.

Can you see the zodiac constellations at play in the artwork above? If not, you may want to go outside and spend some time marveling at the glorious drama playing out right now in the zodiac constellations of the infinite night sky, while keeping the images from the ancient bell-krater above in mind as you do so.

(Note that it is, once again, imperative to keep the outlines which were suggested by H. A. Rey in mind as you look at the stars, or the bell-krater -- whether H. A. Rey was privy to some extremely ancient knowledge that was handed down to him in some way, or whether he just in his own genius came up with the system which also happened to have been used by the ancient system of celestial metaphor underlying the scriptures, myths and sacred stories of the world as well as the ancient artwork which depicts some of those myths and stories, is unknown to me and must be considered a very important question and a fascinating mystery; to my knowledge, he never made specific reference to the  precise correspondence between his constellations as outlined and certain pieces of fine art such as the bell-krater above).

I highly recommend that anyone who has the ability to do so make the effort to visit the Boston Museum of Fine Art. It is truly worth spending weeks within its walls and chambers -- I would recommend planning for more than one day at the museum if at all possible.

If you are not able to make the visit to Boston at this time, however, you can see the goddess Artemis in the sky this very evening. In fact, the ancient wisdom contained in the world's myths tells us very clearly that we have access to the divine realm at all times (see for instance this previous post).

One thing that surprised me about this bell-krater of the Pan Painter when I finally had the opportunity to see it in person is the sheer size of the vase. It was much larger than I expected!

Below is your humble author, standing next to this ancient treasure, for purposes of scale.