Nausicaa with Odysseus

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Odysseus and Nausicca

painted on a red figure attic amphora from Vulci, now in the Old Pinakothek in Munich

Odysseus stands on a rock to the left, naked, trying to screen himself with a branch which he holds in his right hand. In his left hand he holds another branch, concealing nothing and more likely, therefore, to be a gesture of supplication.

In front of him, but in the background and supposedly invisible, is Athene his protectress, easily identifiable from her attributes (helmet, spear and aegis).

Two young maidens complete this scene, one running away in terror off right, the other also going away but emboldened by the goddess to turn round and see with a gesture of surprise the hero. This is Nausicaa.

Both girls wear a chiton, girt high up around the waist, and a himation over their shoulders. Both wear diadems, to show their rank.

Behind Odysseus is a tree, with the clothes which the girls had been washing hanging out to dry.

On the other side of the vase are three other maidens doing the washing; the one on the right is standing in the water in front of a rock. She is treading the linen with her feet, and wringing it out by hand. All three have a chiton, girt high above the waist, and wear their hair in a cap. The two figures to the left turn and talk to each other, while wringing and folding the clothes.

This scene is closely modelled on Homer's account. The artist has only added the invisible presence of Athene, and the twigs of olive branches which Odysseus as suppliant wears in his matted hair.