Red-Figure Pelike with an Actor Dressed as a Bird



Red-Figure Pelike with an Actor Dressed as a Bird


430 - 420 BC


Greek, Attic


8 x 6 in. (20.3 x 15.2 cm)

Object Number



In the spring of 414 BC, the Athenian dramatist Aristophanes produced The Birds at the festival of Dionysos in Athens. The comedy described the attempt of two Athenians, discouraged by the ravages of the protracted Peloponnesian War, to enlist the help of Tereus, a mythical king of Athens who had been turned into a hoopoe, in order to start a fresh city in the sky, Cloudcuckooland. A chorus of birds participates in this enterprise, giving the protagonists feathers and wings.

The startling image on one side of this pelike (a vessel for storing oil or wine) represents an actor wearing a bird costume: all-over tights and shorts, both patterned with dots and circles (reminiscent of representations of animal skins), and soft but high boots (kothornoi). The shorts are equipped with a tail and a phallus, two more of which are attached to the boots like spurs. The mask takes the form of a rooster's head with comb and wattle. The reverse shows a bearded man, wearing a flowing chiton and a fillet in his hair, who provides musical accompaniment with double flutes.

Credit Line

Carlos Collection of Ancient Art


MCCM Permanent Collection Reinstallation, September 9, 2013 - April 28, 2014|
MCCM Permanent Collection Reinstallation, July 2014 - Present
MCCM Newsletter, September - November 2008.|
Adrienne Lezzi-Hafter, "15 Wheel without Chariot: A Motif in Attic Vase-Painting," in Athenian Potters and Painters Volume II, ed. John H. Oakley and Olga Palagia (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2009), 153, figure 9c.|
Eric Csapo, Actors and Icons of the Ancient Theater (Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010).|
Gregory W. Dobrov, Brill's Companion to the Study of Greek Comedy (Leiden: Brill, 2010), cover image.|
Mary Louise Hart and J. Michael Walton, The Art of the Ancient Greek Theater (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010), 28.|
Michael C. Carlos Museum: Highlights of the Collections (Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, 2011), 50.|
Martin Revermann, The Cambridge Companion to Greek Comedy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 104, figure 5.8.|
Gwendolyn Compton-Engle, Costume in the Comedies of Aristophanes (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 121-23, figure 31.


© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White, 2008.
This image is provided by the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University, who retains all rights in it. This image is made available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined by United States law. For all other uses, please contact the Michael C. Carlos Museum Office of Collections Services at +1(404) 727-4282 or Users must cite the author and source of the image as they would material from any printed work, but not in any way that implies endorsement of the user or the user's use of the image. Users may not remove any copyright, trademark, or other proprietary notices, including without limitation attribution information, credits, and copyright notices that have been placed on or near the image by the Museum. The Museum assumes no responsibility for royalties or fees claimed by the artist or third parties. The User agrees to indemnify and hold harmless Emory University, its Michael C. Carlos Museum, its agents, employees, faculty members, students and trustees from and against any and all claims, losses, actions, damages, expenses, and all other liabilities, including but not limited to attorney’s fees, directly or indirectly arising out of or resulting from its use of photographic images for which permission is granted hereunder.

On View



“Red-Figure Pelike with an Actor Dressed as a Bird,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed February 22, 2020,

Social Bookmarking


Copy the code below into your web page