Bryn Mawr Classical Review 96.8.16

Francesca R. Serra Ridgway, I corredi del Fondo Scataglini a Tarquinia. Scavi della Fondazione Ing. Carlo M. Lerici del Politecnico di Milano per la Soprintendenza Archeologica dell'Etruria Meridionale. 2 Vols. Milan: Comune di Milano, Raccolte Archeologiche e Numismatiche, 1996. Pp. vi + 366 & 227 Pls. [No stated price or ISBN].

Reviewed by J.R. Green, University of Sydney,

"Se l'intero mondo dei Beni Culturali non fosse di fatto in Italia economicamente marginale e politicamente dimenticato (come invece, purtroppo, esso e) le vicissitudini quasi trentennali che questa pubblicazione oggi chiude potrebbero essere scelte come "case-study" o solo immaginate come incubo collettivo."
So Schichilone begins his presentation of this important study of the material from a series of tombs at Tarquinia. Serra Ridgway in her Introduction makes clear the history of the publication and the problems it has encountered. As Schichilone implies, they are not unique, but what is singular in all this is the way that the author has overcome these problems, and, more importantly, the malaise that can so readily afflict such a project when subjected to so many delays. Indeed she has not merely overcome them but presented a model of how such material should be published.

The arrangement is artfully straightforward and easy to follow: a careful and economical description of the objects, tomb by tomb, in a standardised order in each case, and then a second part comprising a study of typology and chronology, well cross-referenced to the first half, and again going through the material by categories and making use of the associations through tomb-groups to develop important observations on chronology (relative and absolute) and on many other things besides. Here the reader should not be misled by the modesty of the style. Much is understated and needs to be teased out. The importance of the author's own contribution is often easily missed.

The photographs are good; the drawings are excellent and at the same time should serve as a paradigm of economical arrangement on the plate.

Part of the excitement of this publication rests in the fact that the material itself is unexciting: it is made up of the ordinary sorts of things that one runs into all the time and which has been so difficult to cope with in the absence of parallels from properly documented excavations. Museums around the world are full of the stuff. And yet it has the potential to tell us a great deal about the cultural and social development of an area whose relations with Rome in the fourth and third centuries were close and influential. One need only think of the origins of Roman drama and how much we would like to know about it in terms of Greek and Italic components and the variations on that. The degree of Hellenisation and the sources of any Hellenisation observable in the pottery (as an everyday material handled by everyday people) are complex issues, but one cannot begin to tackle them without first sorting out the material in its own terms, at a fundamental level.

Etruscan red-figure vase-painting can all too often be careless and shoddy, but occasionally the painter's quick brush will capture something vital and important: the satyr-head by the Painter of Tübingen F 18 (tomb 3-13, see p. 9, p. 228 and pl. 10), reproduced in colour on the covers of these volumes, already in a few quick strokes shows the approach of Hellenistic taste in the whimsy of the greying hair and elaborate wreath and in the archaism evident in the structure of the moustache and beard. But if one asks the quite reasonable question of just when and where it was made, one sees the difficulties, even on a relatively straightforward case like this. The author gives a brief but penetrating history of work on this painter and the reasons for thinking him local. The painter's period of activity must remain a more open question, but the fact that the cup in question has rouletting around the central tondo should mean that we consider the possibility of the early third century.

The section dealing with the red-figure pottery is perhaps the most obviously strong contribution (see also the author's 1989 publication of Etruscan Red-figure from Tarquinia), and the author's unchallengeable expertise is worth picking over in the greatest possible detail; but there are many good things too on Etruscan black-glaze and, importantly, on the dangers of over-simplifying the classificatory systems as a matter of scholarly convenience. Not everything which is called Volterran, for example, is necessarily Volterran -- and there is certainly an amazing amount of it for Tarquinia. Anyone interested in vases decorated with patterns in black will have to take this work into account.

She struggles valiantly and convincingly with the overpainted wares, of so-called Gnathia type. The floral work on the fragmentary situla 9-1 (p. 21, p. 236, and pl. 16) belongs to a distinctive group, presumably Caeretan, of which two especially fine examples are to be found in the shape VII oinochoai Villa Giulia invs. 19627-8 (from T. 406 in the Banditaccia necropolis, and published in MonAnt 42, 1955, 925-6 figs. 215-6). [See also other pieces such as Paris, Louvre, Campana 904, or the much closer parallel in Toronto for which Hayes (no. 221) could have done with this piece to quote.] The first impression is that they are inspired by east Sicilian of the very late fourth century, and this may well be. If so, they are remarkable evidence of outside influence. [It is possible that the fragmentary 57-1 is in fact Sicilian, the only obviously foreign piece I see in this category.] But they also fit within the growing taste for running floral-work seen in terracotta architectural friezes at this same period in Taranto and parts of Campania, and for that matter in Rome. In this way they make a tenuous and roundabout link with what had happened on Tarentine red-figure and Gnathia vases, and what was still happening on Macedonian and 'Sikyonian' mosaics. Also worth noting is the shape, a situla, rare in Etruscan pottery of any kind but more common in Greek southern Italy.

Also brought over from Cerveteri is the series with shaggy vine decoration which ultimately (but not immediately) reflects Apulian. Examples are 25-13, 28-8, 49-7, 159-1 and 159-2. They are of a kind that is not much published but that is extremely common in museum basements both inside and outside Italy. This is not the place to give a list, but some will be found in my survey of the various kinds of Gnathia in the forthcoming volume of the Ceramiques hellenistiques series from Besançon.

What is perhaps surprising is the comparative lack of much Roman influence. There is little to be related to the Volcani Group and the sequence that follows it except for the kantharos 49-9. I do not know where it was made; Rome remains possible. So too the fragmentary dish, 4-3, which continues the tradition of the so-called pocola (NB the drawing on pl. 109).

The terracotta 'mask' 52-33 (pl. 44) is distinctively local and its style has plenty of parallels in Stefani's publication, as the author observes. As a type it should derive from a pseudokore mask, but here the mouth is closed (it would not have been very wide open in the archetype), and as Serra Ridgway says (p. 285), in the present context it was probably regarded as a maenad whatever the original intention. This problem is also typically local. Greek drama had its influence, probably by way of South Italy, but what it meant to the owner of the terracotta is something else again. To judge by the context, the date should be later third or perhaps early second century.

Tarquinia at this period was an interesting and busy little world with strong local traditions and good networks into the rest of Etruria, but with little non-Etruscan penetration of outside influence apart from that already mediated by others. That one can say even this much with any degree of confidence is a recent development, and one in which Serra Ridgway has played a major part.

If I were to be restricted to owning two books on the Later Classical and Hellenistic pottery of Etruria, one would be Beazley's EVP, which still stands out as a monument in the treatment of any kind of pottery, and the other, some fifty years later, would be this. They share many qualities, and not only the conquest of adversities.