Nikosthenic amphora, c. 550-525 BCE, signed (under the handle) by Nikosthenes, attr. to Painter N., Thiasos Group, Attic, from Caere, Etruria, The Cleveland Museum of Art, no. 1974.10
A group of Dionysiac dancers, seven satyrs alternating six maenads, lining up in the group-dancing format, a dance form often used to depict ancient Greek dances performed collectively, such as ritual and processional dances in religious festivals and choral dances at theatre. As far as we can understand from the Greek visual art, as well as classical writings, choral dances in ancient Greece often involved a uniformity of movements. However, the nature of Dionysiac dance is associated with individualism, improvisation, freedom, and ecstasy. Therefore, the satyrs and maenads who dance here are seen in a variety of gestures although the overall coherence of the dance form is still observed through the bent heads and torsos of the dancers.
Nikosthenes is the name of the potter of this amphora, whose signature is incised under one of the handles. He is said to be an Athenian potter and trader targeting Etruscan markets in Italy. Before him, the Etruscan ware were fully black or painted black. Nikosthenes not only exported various shapes of Attic black-figure ceramics to that region but made innovations in traditional vase forms. His amphoras, for example, had a heart-shaped body and wide, flattened handles stretched from the rim to the shoulder of the amphora. The painting on this vase is signed by N, hence the common name of Painter N, who again may well have been Nikosthenes himself.