The form and decorations of these vases come from the original vase made in marble in the permanent collection of the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Referring to the historical Sosibios vase, this pair of exceptional Capodimonte vases has the ivy fronds decorating the neck and the gadroon motif on the lower part of the belly which are very close to Greek examples. The handles terminate in swans’-necks at the lower attachments. On the belly, the relief decoration shows a Bacchic procession presided over by Artemis and Hermes, who stand by an altar with a burning brazier. The goddess, with a quiver on her back, a bow in her left hand and holding a deer by the hoof, appears in her role as huntress. Hermes is shown wearing the chlamys, the short traveler’s cloak, and bearing the caduceus. Maenads, female worshippers of Dionysus, dance to the sound of musical instruments and are accompanied by a dancing satyr, an armed warrior and Apollo, who plays the cithara.
Part of the royal collection of Louis XIV from 1692, the krater entered the Louvre in 1797 as confiscated property under the Revolution. In the nineteenth century its fame inspired many reproductions, as for example in Sèvres biscuit ware in 1824. It also found a place in literature, inspiring John Keats (1795-1821) to write his Ode on a Grecian Urn.
The signature of Sosibios the Athenian appears in Greek on the altar. This sculptor, otherwise unknown, was no doubt one of the Greek artists who worked in Rome at the end of the Republic. Using the decorative repertoire of the Athenian workshops, he made frequent reference to Greek models of different periods. This krater, made c.50 BCE, is one of the few signed examples of the “Neo-Attic” style that was appreciated with such enthusiasm by the Romans, especially in decorative sculpture intended to adorn luxurious villas and gardens.