Bryn Mawr Classical Review 97.12.01


Karl Schefold, Die Bildnisse der antiken Dichter, Redner und Denker, 2nd rev. and enlarged ed., with the collaboration of A.-C. Bayard, H. A. Cahn, M. Guggisberg, M. J. Jenny and Ch. Schneider. Pp. 599, figs. 329 + 2 unnumbered. Basel: Schwabe & Co., 1997. ISBN 3-7965-0997-5.


Reviewed by Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway, Bryn Mawr College, bridgway@brynmawr.edu.

Word Count: 2,880.

Professor Karl Schefold was born in 1905; it staggers the imagination to realize that this book is a product of his nineties that appears fifty-four years after the first edition. Collaborators helped with bibliographical references and contributed their special expertise, but the bulk of the revisions and the overarching vision carry the unmistakable imprint of Schefold's mind, enriched and tempered by decades of research and writing on all aspects of ancient art. Echoes of Schefold's masterly publications on Greek sagas, Roman wall paintings, and all forms of Greek and Roman art, resonate throughout this work. He stresses how groundbreaking and still valid is the research of the scholars who have previously written on ancient portraiture, but his name is to be counted among those of the giants on whose shoulders we now stand in our own efforts to understand this difficult aspect of classical culture.

Because this is a second edition, a reviewer's first duty is to point out the ways in which this book differs from the previous one. At first glance, the 1997 volume appears three times bigger (and heavier) than the 1943 edition, but the size of the print is correspondingly larger, and many of the photographs have been reproduced in more extensive or magnified format, especially the coins that were formerly displayed together on a single plate and are now given full prominence and legibility over several pages. Yet, on a rough count, approximately 152 illustrations have been added, whereas only fifteen that appeared in the previous volume have been left out. In many cases, different views of a specific portrait have been chosen, or a different replica of the same type. Drawings have been provided for objects of difficult reading, like the silver kantharoi from Berthouville. An entirely new category is that of terracotta statuettes and reliefs, which join the under life-size head (of Cicero) also included in the first edition. Portraits on gems and contorniates supplement those on coins, and more numerous reproductions of wall paintings and mosaics are accompanied by those of miniatures on various codices. In brief, an effort has been made to illustrate some of the more recent finds and acquisition of knowledge through inscribed portraits that have occasionally altered our previous attributions -- the most dramatic case being that of the Pindar that a labelled tondo from Aphrodisias has allowed us to identify in the bearded type once thought to portray the Spartan king Pausanias. But readers of the first edition will recognize many of the familiar selections, including the statuette of Christ in the Terme that closes the series, although the specific position of some portraits within the sequence has been considerably shifted, according to a more refined chronological articulation. As a whole, however, this new edition affords Schefold a chance to reaffirm many of his earlier positions and teachings, some of them strengthened by new studies or finds, although different opinions are frankly acknowledged.

The general layout of the book is approximately the same as in 1943, although essays have been almost entirely rewritten. After a brief Foreword and an even briefer, poetic Epilogue, a lengthy introductory section (I) discussing the issue of ancient portraiture through various artistic and temporal phases is followed by the photographs (Sections II-III), each with its own commentary amplified by a later section on documentation (V). But now the illustrations are numbered sequentially, although inconsistently, details of the same object being variously given a-b labels or a different number. This seriate identification, nonetheless, makes the search for the corresponding bibliographical apparatus much easier to find than the old one keyed to the page numbers. The discussion of each individual piece is also considerably expanded, and, as already mentioned, the chronological distribution has been refined. As in the previous edition, in fact, the portraits are arranged not according to the time when the persons represented lived, but according to the alleged time when the specific type was created -- hence some shifts from the previous arrangement, based on a revised conception of styles.

Section IV, coming immediately after the plates, summarizes results. It includes a survey of pertinent bibliography; comments on the mythical element in Greek portraiture; on the imitation of reality; on the importance of portrait statues in Greek life; on the portrait statue as symbol; on the survival of ancient portraits; on the appearance of the Greeks; and finally on iconography and sociology -- this last, a brief acknowledgment of Paul Zanker's The Mask of Socrates. The Image of the Intellectual in Antiquity (German ed., 1995) that appeared too late to be fully integrated into Schefold's text, although occasionally cited in the documentation. This lengthy section is followed by a chronological table of the portraits discussed in the book (now filling three pages, as contrasted with one in the earlier edition) and by a stemma of the philosophical schools, all made to derive, directly or indirectly, from Sokrates.

Section VI, following the Documentation, contains 177 end notes, some very brief, others quite extensive, that refer to both Sections I and IV. On a more slender book, this sequence would have presented no problem. In this heavy and large volume, the process is cumbersome and damaging to the binding; the reader has to flip from the first comments to the notes, then in turn to the specific plate, and, often, to its documentation in Section V, thus turning bulky portions of the book back and forth, with punishing effect on its spine. Yet this is a relatively minor problem in view of the elegant appearance of the publication and the good reproduction of the photographs allowed by the heavy paper; only two illustrations show a prominent screen, probably because no new pictures could be found and previously printed ones had to be used. The volume ends with a list of bibliographical abbreviations, one of illustrations and sources, a welcome museum index (not included in 1943), and a general index, thus greatly facilitating research.

As already mentioned, chronological distribution of the various portraits has been further refined. The earliest representations of singers and musicians (Apollo on a Melian amphora, Orpheus on the so-called Sikyonian metope at Delphi, Theseus on the François Vase, as well as a reconstruction drawing of the Geneleos group on Samos, probably because each figures is inscribed with its name and the youth holds the auloi) are followed by those of the Late Archaic period, which begin the official series of plates (with fig. 11, a red-figure sherd showing a female kitharist, I would say, not a kitharode, since her lips are closed). The corresponding introductory section includes the so-called Peisistratos in Berlin and a satrap's head in Ankara (figs. 6-7). The Early Classical plates begin with Fig. 19 (a red-figure kalathos in Munich depicting Alkaios and Sappho), but the corresponding introductory section adds a reconstruction of the Tyrannicide group by Kritios and Nesiotes (fig. 9) that rates a lengthy discussion in the Documentation and in note. It begins to be obvious that Schefold is writing a history of "portraiture" in Greek art, rather than limiting his comments to the three categories (poets, orators and thinkers) listed in his title. Under poets, he includes virtually any representation of a human being with a musical instrument that has a remote chance of being somebody famous (the female on Fig. 11, he admits, could be a Nike rather than Sappho). Under orators, he also ranks politicians, although not all of them known for their eloquence like Perikles (I cannot, for instance, understand the qualifications of Harmodios and Aristogeiton, except as early examples of personalized images). Under thinkers, he rates not only bona fide philosophers, but also doctors (hence the stele in Basel, fig. 10, although entirely anonymous), and historians, and even a priestess (Diotima, fig. 39) because of her inclusion in a Platonic dialogue. Once again, on a rough count through all chronological sections and classes, 37 items plus six coins seem to me to overstretch the limits of the definition (e.g., Miltiades, Themistokles, Konon, Hippokrates, Christ).

Early Classical is followed by High Classical, the phase of the Rich Style, and Late Classical, as customary. But Schefold differs from other scholars in accepting only an Early and a High Hellenistic phase, ending the latter c. 150, when Italian influence on the Greek world is considered so strong as to justify calling Roman the creations of the next phase, rather than Late Hellenistic (cf. pp. 50, 56). He then shows Hellenistic cycles of portraits in Roman replicas, portraits of Greek authors during the Roman period (including Herodes Atticus with, less obviously, Polydeukion and Memnon, and Marcus Aurelius), "neo-Alexandrian" and neo-Attic reliefs of the Roman period (The Apotheosis of Homer; the Ikarios relief), famous Greeks in Roman classicizing style (including the Ravenna herm inscribed "Miltiades," here idiosyncratically considered a creation of the Second Sophistic, c. A.D. 150), portraits of Roman authors (Caesar, Seneca), wall paintings and mosaics of the Roman period, coins, contorniates, and finally portraits of the Late Roman phase (Galen, Plotinus, Claudianus)

An important point of the book, to my mind, is the recognition (already noted in the first edition) that portraits of the same individual could be created at different times, each with its own stylistic imprint. The underlying rationale also varies: Greece has ideas, the Classicizing movement has ideals for the first time, a non-Greek concept (p. 551 n. 24). The most obvious example is Homer, whose likeness is, to be sure, imaginary, but who is immortalized in the round from the earliest to the latest times. Another, perhaps less understandable, is Sophokles -- from a head in Berlin supposedly copying a bronze erected around 380 B.C., to the Farnese Type in London, an Antonine copy presumably after a statue created c. 50 B.C. -- who still appears, in a different but labelled version, on a mosaic from Cologne dated 260/270 A.C. Mosaics, wall paintings, and coins, to be sure, form a separate category with needs and rules of their own. I shall limit my comments to sculptural monuments.

Some identifications have been revised from the first edition. The bronze Solon (?) of p. 104 (Naples Museum Inv. 5602) is now called Thales (?) in fig. 104; the Demokritos (?) of fig. 134 (a bronze head in Florence, Arch. Mus. 1647) was previously considered Apollonios Rhodios or Kallimachos (p. 129.1); the Villa Albani herm inscribed "Isokrates" has moved to the Late Classical section (fig. 55) from the original Classicizing rubric (p. 160).

In some cases, Schefold advocates original theories that have not found universal acceptance. He dates the Pindar from the Memphis Serapeion (fig. 230) around A. D. 200 (rather than Hellenistic, as usual), in imitation of the High Hellenistic style that he sees reflected in the Sperlonga sculptures. Yet he is explicit in viewing the latter as imitation themselves (what he calls sub-baroque), not as true copies, on the basis of his own refined understanding of the spatial illusionism of Second-Style wall painting (pp. 57-59). Here I am in complete agreement with Schefold's comment: it is remarkable that changes in wall decoration have not yet been sufficiently brought to bear on comparable changes in other artistic manifestations.

Although he is generally up to date on the latest controversies, the author still dates the Lykosoura cult images around 150 B.C., as examples of Classicizing. Recent excavations at Messene and new epigraphical information tend to raise that date by approximately 50 years (cf. P. Themelis in O. Palagia and J. J. Pollitt, Personal Styles in Greek Sculpture, 1996), thus engendering a different stylistic label. Schefold also believes in the possibility that the Porticello bronzes come from two different wrecks; yet all recovered fragments have the same alloy -- itself a rather unusual occurrence among ancient bronzes, not only from the same workshop but also from the same statue. In addition, the second head illegally recovered and smuggled to Switzerland before the wreck could be excavated has now been returned to Reggio, where it is exhibited next to the well-known long-bearded "philosopher" (see, e.g., Magna Graecia 28.1-3 [1993, publ. 1995]). Stylistic and technical affinities confirm this grouping, which, to my mind, further weakens the possibility of identifying the "philosopher" as Anacharsis, the Skythian ruler companion to the Seven Sages (Schefold, figs. 35-36). By Schefold's own reckoning, moreover, the Seven Sages receive official recognition only after Sokrates and Plato, despite occasional depictions of Solon and Chilon in Late Archaic vase paintings. A full-scale portrait of Anacharsis, perhaps first known to the mainland Greeks through Herodotos, would seem surprising before the advanced fourth century -- too late for the Porticello head, which I continue to consider the image of a mythical being.

Schefold agrees with Bernoulli that any portrait known through several replicas must depict a famous person; moreover, he is confident that we have identified the images of all major poets, orator, and thinkers that were famous in Athens and thus represented by statues there. When first published in 1943, this theory acknowledged some gaps in our repertoire, but these have since been filled (p. 472). Portraits erected outside Athens are less well documented, yet notes 160-63 list an impressive amount of individuals who have allegedly been recognized in iconographic form. I am less sanguine: according to my count of Schefold's sculptural illustrations, only 77 items seem to be safely identified (even when their qualifications for inclusion in his categories could be challenged). In addition, some pieces are headless but have been catalogued because inscribed or because they have the expected "philosophical" pose; some are uninscribed but are known through other labelled replicas. Identifications promoted by the author but not universally accepted or not based on firm evidence, and names marked by Schefold himself with a question mark, total fifty-seven.

The number game can be expanded to include Greek (and Roman) originals against Roman copies. Once again, limiting myself to sculptural works, I have counted twenty-two items from the Greek period (in the traditional sense) and from Greek soil, of which only one (fig. 200, the stele of Polybios) is certainly identified, and that relief shows the honorand as a young military man, not as a historian. Not included in my total are items that are uncertain or do not belong to the established categories (e.g., fig. 5, the Geneleos Dedication in Samos; fig. 7, the Ankara satrap; figs. 35/36, the Porticello head; fig. 39, the stele of Diotima). Some of the twenty-two are statuettes in the generic philosopher type or reliefs of doctors/learned man. Fig. 62 is the gravestone of a horseman in Moscow, openly admitted to be beyond the three classifications. At least two pieces, dated to the first century B.C. (fig. 202, Poseidonios? from Rhodes; fig. 203, Pompeius Theophanes? in Mytilene) could represent unknown Romans. Among the Roman creations, I have counted thirty-one portraits, including Marcus Aurelius, the Ravenna herm inscribed Miltiades, and some "Neo-Attic" reliefs.

Against a grand total of fifty-three "original" items, stand eighty-eight portraits known only through Roman copies, with all the dangers inherent in the medium. The difficulty of assessing on stylistic grounds not only the time of manufacture of the replica but also the date of the alleged prototype shakes my confidence in the procedure, even if the person suggesting the chronology is a keen connoisseur of ancient art like Schefold. Since his work, unlike Gisela Richter's, usually illustrates only one replica of types known through multiple copies, the process of selection involved in such choice, whether consciously or unconsciously, inevitably favors the items that would confirm the preferred dating for the assumed models, despite the clear recognition that sculptors could alter their prototypes to suit the stylistic preferences of their own day.

To mention a single example, I believe that the Copenhagen Anakreon (fig. 34) is a Severizing, rather than a fifth-century creation. This is not to say that my opinion is more valid than Schefold's, but simply that interpretation of styles can be subjective when it is not firmly anchored in objective evidence. The problem is compounded by the fact that many individuals of the Late Classical and Hellenistic phases wished to be depicted as philosophical types. A salutary lesson has just been learned from the so-called Delphi-philosopher statue, which recent research (M. Flashar and R. von der Hoff, BCH 117 [1993] 407-33) has shown to belong to a multi-figure dedication by private individuals, and which is properly left out from Schefold's catalogue.

Despite these strictures, the lasting value of this book lies in the many insightful comments about ancient portraiture, its symbolic meaning, the inherent difference between Greek and Roman images of litterati (Roman authors do not seem to have been portrayed before the advent of Trajanic Classicizing), and, in brief, Schefold's personal vision of a subject on which he has thought and taught for a lifetime. Assigned dates and identification may and will change with time, as studies on ancient portraits multiply in frequency, as we have seen in recent years. Yet we shall always remain indebted to Schefold for this masterly revision.