Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2006.09.19

Susanne Pfisterer-Haas, Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum, Leipzig, Antikenmuseum der Universität, Band 3, Attisch-Rotfigurige Schalen, Deutschland, Band 80.   Munich:  C. H. Beck, 2006.  Pp. 151; text ills. 77, pls. 81, Beil. 19.  ISBN 3-406-53755-3.  €88.00.  

Reviewed by Jenifer Neils, Case Western Reserve University (
Word count: 1673 words

The third fascicule of the vase collection of Leipzig University and its first to appear since the reunification of Germany, this CVA is devoted entirely to Attic red-figure cups. Because many of these are not previously published or well known, this volume is an important addition to the series, which now numbers 80 for German museums (as opposed to 37 for the USA). Most of these cups or fragments thereof were acquired either from the sale of Friedrich Hauser's collection in 1897, or as donations from the dealer Edward Perry Warren at the beginning of the twentieth century, and many of these have an Italian provenience (primarily Cerveteri and Orvieto, and several from Capua of which one has an Etruscan graffito). Hans-Peter Müller has contributed a history of the Antikenmuseum in Leipzig, which was founded in 1840 and was developed by eminent archaeologists such as Otto Jahn, Franz Studniczka, Herbert Koch, and Bernhard Schweitzer. The comprehensive text is by Susanne Pfisterer-Haas (S. P.-H.), who has also published some of the terracottas at Leipzig as well as a monograph on representations of old women in Greek art.

Only 26 of these cups are relatively intact, but the 250 or so fragments are equally interesting. They range from the Group of Leipzig T 3599 of ca. 525 B.C, which according to Beazley "might be very early Psiax," (and with the palmette and buds in the tondo it seems likely), to a loner from the second quarter of the fourth century, which well demonstrates the depths to which Attic vase painting could descend with its repetitious mantle-clad youths. Most of the cups date to the first half of the fifth century and include all the major cup-painters (Euergides Painter, Brygos Painter, Douris, Makron, Onesimos, Penthesilea Painter) and their followers.

The only well-known cup in the collection is the large Type B cup from Cerveteri potted by Hieron and painted by Makron. On each exterior side is a pair of male symposiasts, bearded on one side, youthful on the other. Beazley described the third pair sharing a couch on the interior as "man reclining and youth playing a flute." The frontal-faced aulos-player half-draped in a mantle certainly looks male, but the inscription above reads kale and so it is now taken to be a hetaira.1 Makron was a notoriously bad speller and on a pyxis found on the Acropolis he inscribed Hippodamas kale. Since he tended to use tag (or portrait) inscriptions, i.e., associated with a specific name, one might question whether this floating kale pertains to the musician or to the music. An x-ray photograph of this cup clearly shows the many fine small repairs made in antiquity.

Perhaps not unexpectedly the subject matter of these drinking cups is overwhelmingly masculine: warriors, athletes, equestrians, symposiasts, komasts, satyrs, and Dionysos. With the exception of a few centaurs, Herakles, Theseus, Pegasos, and a possible Minotaur, myth is rare. A dramatic scene of Hyakinthos riding a large swan over the fish-filled sea in the tondo of a cup by Apollodoros finds its only close parallel on a more complete cup (but much tamer composition) by the same painter formerly in the Robinson collection and now at the University of Mississippi. Another rare subject, the punishment of Ixion on the wheel, described in Pindar's second Pythian ode, appears on an unattributed fragment from Orvieto. Also rare is the episode of baby Herakles strangling the snakes. It is preserved here on a fragment of a large cup by the Pan Painter; sadly its white-ground interior is almost completely lost. The Leipzig collection contains a second cup by this artist who is better known as a painter of large vases (only 11 of his 207 vases are cups); it has the unusual feature of a ring of figures encircling the tondo and appropriately they are male symposiasts for whom the outer tondo border serves as their dining couch. Finally a large cup by the Phiale Painter shows the god Pan (only one leg preserved) confronting a standing, draped woman with a staff, usually identified as Aphrodite. But the scene is not an anodos and Pan can be paired with a variety of women besides Aphrodite and Persephone, so the identification remains open.2

Among the more unusual subjects of daily life are two cups by the Euergides Painter that depict nude youths leaning into or actually inside bell kraters. A third example attributed to the Aktorione Painter depicts a satyr in a similar position. While S. P.-H. suggests that this is some kind of symposium joke or a reference to the abundance of wine, others have taken these to be scenes of wine-making, either grape treading or vat cleaning.3 Cup fragments related to the Triptolemos Painter show the unusual scene of a fire on the ground tended by several men; the nude youth in the tondo with a fan may be part of the same scene, interpreted by S. P.-H. as preparations for a festival. A fragment by the Brygos Painter preserves the torso of a youth in the palaistra performing the not-often-illustrated act of infibulation. Victorious athletes holding victory fronds in the custom known as phyllobolia are depicted on vases by Pheidippos and Douris.

Among military subjects a cup by the Briseis Painter provides a rare glimpse of a peripolos or ephebe serving as border guard, as mentioned by Thucydides (4.67.2 and 8.92.2); he stands at attention in his alopekis or skin cap and chlamys, holding a knotted stick and two spears, his stone seat behind him. Appropriately enough there is a scene of dokimasia on the exterior of a cup by the Dokimasia Painter. One of the few scenes devoted to the female sphere is the tondo image by the Brygos Painter that shows a woman apparently doing her laundry in a tub at the fountain house.

Some scenes look as if they should be mythological but are not. For instance, an unattributed cup with affinities to Phintias and Euthymides shows a warrior or hunter aiming his sling-shot in the tondo, an action usually associated with Herakles taking aim against the Stymphalian birds. The rather quotidian task of washing one's leg in a podanipter is depicted in the tondo of a cup possibly by the Brygos Painter; the youth is an aulos-player as evidenced by his flute case hanging nearby, and the scene seems to be set in the palaistra with strigil and aryballos at the side. Leg-washing and podanipters are more common in scenes of myth, as Odysseus with Eurykleia and Theseus and Skiron, as noted by S. P.-H.

A sherd with four young dancers in short chitons, their heads missing, exemplifies the complex history and interconnections of vase fragments in the Leipzig collection. It was attributed by Beazley to the Triptolemos Painter but for some reason not included in his lists. Cup fragments attributed to the same painter in Bryn Mawr and Freiburg were listed by Beazley as possibly belonging together but the Freiburg fragments were lost in WWII. In 1976 Knauer obtained photos of the lost Freiburg fragments from the Beazley Archive and partially reconstructed the cup with a male courting scene on the interior and procession of men with lyres on side A. Side B remained a mystery until the Leipzig fragment was associated with this cup by Dyfri Williams and Knauer's publication of twenty years later brought all three far-flung groups together for the first time. These scantily clad figures have been interpreted both as boys dressed in the costume of Theseus running at a festival like the Oschopheria or alternatively as girls at some festival like the Brauronia. Another example is a cup by the Colmar Painter with satyrs and maenads to which five fragments in Florence and two in Strasbourg join. There are many examples like these in this CVA, and it is a tribute to the author that she has managed to make the connections clear for the reader.

Many cup fragments exhibit the use of special techniques, a topic of current interest because of the extraordinary exhibit organized by Beth Cohen at the J. Paul Getty Museum entitled "The Colors of Clay".4 A coral red stemless cup assigned to a "rude imitator of the Sotades Painter" by Beazley forms a pair with a similar cup in Boston. Both came from Greece via Warren and both show a seated woman with a suspended alabastron in the tondo. Another kylix also decorated with coral red inside and out is assigned to the late sixth-century potter Kachrylion who is responsible for other such cups in Florence and Malibu. The satyr on the interior and the red surface both nicely reference the original contents of this vessel.

What is particularly impressive about this CVA and what distinguishes it from others is the extensive apparatus at the back that makes it a joy to use. In addition to 18 plates with profile drawings, this CVA contains a concordance of inventory numbers with plates, a complete list of joining fragments from other museums (separately by both inventory number and museum), two provenance lists (findspots and ex-collections), a list of cups by shape, another according to technical features, and a third by painters, potters, and workshops. The most comprehensive list is iconographic as it includes not only mythological subjects as is the norm in CVAs but also all objects and figures represented from "Alabastron" to "Zwerg". In all there are eleven appendices; one could not ask for more.

While many classicists may be initially put off by so many small fragments, this corpus contains a wealth of information and imagery of great interest to historians and philologists as well as specialists in Attic vase painting. It is generously illustrated including 1:1 text drawings of all the inscriptions, not as isolated letters but shown in relation to the figures that they identify or comment upon. Each vase or fragment is thoroughly researched, and with all the appendices, it is a breeze to consult. This outstanding addition to the CVA series demonstrates why a digital database could never replace the printed fascicule.


1.   I know of no female aulos-player with a frontal face although it is common for youths and satyrs. See Y. Korshak, Frontal Faces in Attic Vase Painting of the Archaic Period (Chicago 1987).
2.   Compare for instance the Pagenstecher in Cleveland where Pan in a tree confronts a woman wearing a crown who may be Selene; see CVA Cleveland 2, USA 35, pl. 102.
3.   See B. Sparkes, "Treading the Grapes," BABesch 51, 1976, 47-64; H. R. Immerwahr, "New Wine in Ancient Wineskins, the Evidence from Attic Vases," Hesperia 61, 1992, 121-132.
4.   B. Cohen, The Colors of Clay: Special Techniques in Athenian Vases (Malibu 2006) is the catalogue of this exhibition. The Leipzig cup is illustrated in color on p. 51, fig. 9.

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