Suicide of Ajax Artwork Comparison

Glen Gunawan
AH 50: DIS 1K
Art History 50 Essay
Myth or Life
During the late Archaic and early Classical art periods of Greece, Greece begins to reach their height of economic, cultural, and artistic success. While during the Archaic period, many artists attempted to depict the legends and myths of old, during the Classical period, artists begin to focus on humans. They begin to praise humanity in art, shifting the function of art from reverence of the gods and myths to the celebration of intellectuality and emotionality of humanity. The painter of the Wine Cup With the Suicide of Ajax and Exekias, the painter of the amphora with the painting of Ajax Preparing to Commit Suicide used the medium of mythology to portray the emotions and mortality of humanity rather than to simply portray the story of a myth.
Both artists noticeably do not portray mythological figures in either of their paintings. Exekia’s painting has Ajax preparing to kill himself, inserting a sword into the ground, with a tree in the background, and a set of armor and shield by him. This is, however, all there is to the painting. Even though Athena and Odysseus played major parts in the story, according to Sophocles’ tragedy, Exekias does not even show them in the image. There is little in the image that shows any out-of-this-world, supernatural figure that played a part in the myth. Exekias chose to focus solely on Ajax and his task: the preparation of his suicide. Ajax is alone, and Exekias purposely only showed him because Ajax is the only person, the only human, he wanted to show, not the myth. Like Exekias, the Brygos painter illustrates less myth and more “human”. The interior shows Ajax impaled on his sword, and Tekmessa, his lover, about to cover his body. The exterior of the cup shows the events leading to Ajax’s suicide; one side depicts the quarrelling of Odysseus and Ajax and the other side depicts the Greek leaders voting on whom would get the armor of Achilles. The...