Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2003.04.12

Martin Bentz (ed.), Vasenforschung und Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum -- Standortbestimmung und Perspektiven. Beihefte zum CVA Deutschland, 1.   München:  C.H. Beck, 2002.  Pp. 144; ills. 192.  ISBN 3-406-49043-3.  EUR 51.30.  



Reviewed by Thomas Mannack, Ashmolean Museum
Word count: 1778 words

The first German Beiheft to CVA publishes a series of papers given at a conference of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences in 2000. The various contributions are divided into five parts -- history and purpose of CVA; vase-shapes; making, use and preliminary sketches; ornaments and inscriptions; the history of collections.

The papers demonstrate the scholarly usefulness of the Corpus and suggest further categories which might be added to enhance its value to scholars. One such is the recording of weight, volume and restoration history of vases. Practical obstacles such as the increase in price are considered. However, such extensive additions would require the republication of many of the over 300 volumes of the existing series to provide a statistically useful number of vases. W-D. Heimeyer and M. Bentz draw attention to the value of computerised records, and the Beazley Archive at Oxford has been commissioned to build an electronic version of CVA, which is linked to a database of Greek pottery. New catalogue entries could be added to these records without any difficulties, but it is questionable whether there is a sufficient number of scholars willing to publish in purely electronic form.

All contributions are written by eminent scholars in the field of vase-painting and are superbly illustrated. Since the Beiheft presents a series of papers there is some repetition.

The volume begins with a brief account of the history of CVA. Its history has been described before (e.g. D. v. Bothmer in: Papers on the Amasis Painter and his World [Malibu, 1987] 198-301) but M. Bentz adds a fascinating insight into the political difficulties. Germany was excluded from the newly founded Union Academique Internationale in 1921 and could only join in 1936. Bentz includes the rather hostile reviews of and reactions to CVA in Germany. One document warns that Germany could do better than the other member countries but should keep her contribution at a small scale in order not to cause envy. But Germany's late entry meant that German CVA volumes could avoid the weaknesses of earlier fascicules.

W.-D. Heilmeyer recommends the inclusion of new sets of data, such as more detailed profiles with information on repairs and restorations, the volume of vessels, a scientific analysis of the clay, technical observations on surface and slips, documentation of preliminary sketches, evidence for the process of making and decorating vases, their weight and other details, but also points out that this would increase the cost of the project considerably.

The first section concludes with statistical observations by M. Schultz which record the usefulness of the series for scholars working with Greek pottery.

The second part begins with an article by H. Mommsen demonstrating the use of detailed studies of shape in conjunction with a close examination of ornaments and figure decoration. In the case of Exekias, the notoriously difficult study of shapes is aided by potter signatures. Choosing neck-amphorae in London (B 210) and Berlin (F 1720), Mommsen illustrates that changes in shape were determined not only by chronological development but also by the particular care a potter devoted to a given vase. Judged by the shape alone, some neck-amphorae (e.g. Boston 89.273 and Munich 1470) appear to be earlier than Berlin F 1720, but the height of the ornament and the addition of an animal frieze below the main figure decoration show that they are later. Mommsen also demonstrates that the study of shapes can shed light on Exekias' rôle in Group E, where two signed belly-amphorae (Louvre F 53 and Toledo 80.1022) can be connected with two amphorae in the British Museum (B 147 and B 194).

F. Utili discusses a kyathos attributed to the Philon Painter, a Siana cup with evidence for a support in the kiln, and a Little Master cup, as examples for the presentation of profile drawings and technical observations.

In the third section, E. Böhr recommends the documentation of preliminary sketches in CVA. These sketches provide an invaluable insight into painters' work. Examples from the Berlin collection show that the painter could change his mind at the last minute and deviate from his original plan (Berlin V.I. 3166). Sketches also help on understanding the process of figure painting: Odysseus on the hydria F 2176 is naked in the sketch and the painter "dressed" him with the brush. Usually sketches are rather brief and lack detail, and Böhr suggests that painters may have been aided in the final drawing by additional sketches executed in a material that left no traces after the firing process.

S. Pfisterer-Haas discusses ancient repairs with bronze rivets or bronze or lead brackets. In some instances it can be shown that vases were broken and mended before they left the workshop. The drinking cup is the most commonly mended shape, followed by kraters and amphorae. Inclusion in CVA of detailed information on ancient repairs could shed light on why some shapes such as hydriai were not restored in antiquity and whether vases once broken were exclusively destined for graves.

B. Fellmann scrutinises cups in the Munich collection. His contribution concerns circular traces on the underside of cups caused by cylinders and rings that supported vases in the kiln. Close photography reveals that these expanded during the firing process, while the cups they supported shrank. This indicates that they were probably made of clay: clay supports have been found near ancient workshops and tiny fragments have become attached to some of the Munich cups during the firing process.

Further examples are given by B. Kaeser who suggests that information given in CVA should include the ratio between volume and weight of a given vase, which would provide a reliable measurement of the thickness of the clay. This could help us either to identify a potter or to recognise types of vases which were made more sturdily than others (perhaps to withstand long sea voyages?). On a number of large Apulian vases the painter appears to have marked the area for the figure scenes with "frames" (two incised lines) to aid composition. Other vases bear clear traces of changes in composition even after the figures had been painted with clay paint, and yet others show that black-figure painters sketched even those parts of figures which would be obscured in the final version, e.g., the head of Peleus on the amphora Munich 1541. Traces of spacers on the bellies of large amphorae indicate that vases were also stacked horizontally and that the drawing of a densely packed kiln on the famous Penteskouphia pinax is not as far from the truth as is commonly thought.

In a paper on measurements M. Bentz draws on his expertise on Panathenaic amphorae. He argues that recording the volume of vases would enable archaeologists to recognise whether the volume was only standardised in the case of transport and Panathenaic amphorae, or whether a variety of vases were made to hold a defined amount of liquids or solids. Measuring the volume of a vase is not easy and requires either a detailed profile to enable computer calculation, or repeated manual measurements with peas, lentils or styrofoam balls. Preliminary examinations show that Panathenaic amphorae for example, held 3 litres fewer than the expected 39 litres, which may indicate some tax on the oil contained in them, and that cups do not confirm to any recognisable standard. The examination of black-figure oinochoai indicates that potters increased the height of vases to increase their volume. E. Böhr has established that there is a relationship between weight, size and volume of Athenian hydriai.

Scientific analysis of pottery excavated in Miletus is the subject of M. Seifert's contribution. The determination of the provenience of pottery requires the excavation of potters' kilns, workshop discards and clay pits. Thus it is possible to establish that Fikellura pottery was made in Miletus. However, similar geological conditions in Samos make it difficult to differentiate between Samian and Milesian vases.

Part four demonstrates that detailed records of ornaments and inscriptions help us recognise workshop connections and chronological changes. E. Kunze-Götte revisits the workshop of the Kleophrades Painter (Der Kleophrades-Maler unter Malern schwarzfiguriger Amphoren, Eine Werkstattstudie [Mainz, 1992]) where the handle ornaments of neck-amphorae allow the reconstruction of a workshop which was established in the last decades of the sixth century BC and was probably terminated by the Persian invasion. The scrutiny of ornaments should be supported by a detailed examination of vase-profiles.

B. Fellmann utilises the appearance of palmettes, the style of drawing, the vase shape, and even the change of single letters in inscriptions to establish a reliable relative chronology of Little Master cups. With time, painters extended the central leaf of the handle palmettes and changed the shape of their sigmas, while the potters produced ever thinner walls.

The volume concludes with articles chronicling the development of German university museums and a contribution to the history of the Berlin Museum. W. Schiering relates that German universities began to acquire vases rather later than other classes of originals and plaster casts. Only a few institutions acquired vases before the middle of the 19th century, among them Berlin, Munich, Leipzig and Halle. The procurement of pottery often depended on the private collections of resident academics, the donations of collectors or benefactors and good connections with the art market. Several outstanding scholars such as Hartwig, Helbig, and Hauser were also art dealers. Collections of ancient pottery grew rapidly until after the middle of the 20th century. While vases and other objects were originally bought as study aids they were increasingly made available to the wider public and are now commonly displayed in dedicated rooms or purpose built university museums.

The history of the Berlin Antikensammlung proper began in the late 17th century with the acquisition of the Bellori collection. Earl v. Sack donated vases excavated in Greece in 1826, and in the course of the 19th century the Berlin Museum purchased a large number of private collections in order to present a representative collection to the public. From 1833 E. Gerhard served as "Archäolog" at the museum and bought vases with interesting mythological scenes and inscriptions. In 1837 D. Campanari became the first restorer of Greek pottery. Curiously, Berlin maintained two catalogues of pottery, the catalogue proper and a list of vases of less importance many of which were sold or given as permanent loans to other Prussian museums. Furtwängler's 1885 catalogue united the two classes of objects. Acquisition and excavations added considerably to the museum's holdings. New, more spacious accommodation was provided in the Neues Museum. Clay analysis and other scientific examinations began in 1888. The second World War and the division of Germany divided the collection until 1995 when it was reunited in the Altes Museum.

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