Vase paintings representing Greek comedy from South Italy and Sicily have been a source for the nearly lost visual aspect of ancient dramatic performances since the 19th century. The corpus of 250 red-figured vases from the 4th century BC depicts interacting actors with masks and costumes on low wooden stages. Since the first catalogue (by Heinrich Heydemann 1889) it was under discussion whether these comic scenes derived from Aristophanic comedy or depicted Italian forms of comedy. Nowadays, important scholars like Richard Green and Oliver Taplin are convinced that the vases show Attic or Greek stage performances, although most of the scenes are not specific enough to ascribe them to a specific play, and due to a lack of sources we do not know how and in which form Greek drama was brought to South Italy and Sicily.
Although the modern interpretation builds up on the ground-breaking monographs on Greek drama by Thomas B. L. Webster (published from the 1950s onwards), German scholars ascribed a vase painting to an Aristophanic comedy already in the 19th century: a crater once in Berlin that was lost during the war. It was bought for the Berlin museum, because it seemed to depict a scene from Aristophanes’ Ranae: the scene when Dionysus, dressed up as Heracles and accompanied by his slave Xanthias, knocks on Heracles’ door (Aristoph. Ran. 460-478). However, the vase painting does not accurately repeat the performance given in the literary sources and the question arises, why? Is the interpretation of the scene wrong? Or does the vase painter just alter some elements to create an appealing image? Door-scenes are neither unusual in Aristophanic comedy nor in comedy-related vase paintings. Therefore, Elisabeth Günther will present how this comical motif is represented both in texts and images and to what extent the vase painters adapted or transformed door-scenes in the framework of a visual medium. Afterwards she will look behind the door and ask, how the spatial concepts of inside and outside, private sphere (oikos) and public life (polis), female and male gender roles are confronted in both media. She will not only stick by doors, but also include windows, a common pictorial element in Paestan vase paintings.