Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2007.01.25

Carol Lawton, Marbleworkers in the Athenian Agora. Excavations of Athenian Agora: Picture Book 27. Agora color photographs by Craig A. Mauzy.   Princeton:  American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 2006.  Pp. 52.  ISBN 0-87661-645-7.  $4.95.  



Reviewed by Nassos Papalexandrou, University of Texas at Austin (papalex@mail.utexas.edu)
Word count: 734 words

This elegant little booklet is the 27th in the series of the popular picture books the ancestry of which can be traced back to Pots and Pans of Classical Athens by Brian Sparkes and Lucy Talcott, which remains nowadays as fresh and usable as it was in 1959, the year of its publication. As I compose these lines I have on my desk the 6th printing of Pots and Pans of 1977--one of the first books on archaeology to enter my personal library and for this reason a much cherished one--but I have no doubt that several printings of it have occurred since then. The same is the case with many a sibling of this aboriginal picture book. This tenacity is the result of a constant demand but also of the success of this unique series, the principal aim of which is to present to a wider public the fascinating insights on ancient life afforded to us by the excavations in the Athenian Agora. It is remarkable that the series has achieved this goal without fluctuations in the overall quality and without compromising scholarly standards in order to make the material more understandable. In this fortunate role the Agora picture books may be compared with homologous publications for other sites. Take, for example, the exquisite "Sites et Monuments" by the École Française d' Athènes or the qualitatively similar series of the German Institute, both of which, however, target very narrow, if not already specialized, audiences. Here, one may also note the expansive series, yet of varying quality, of guidebooks published by the Archaeological Receipts Fund of the Ministry of Culture of Greece. These publications may rarely reach the hands of specialists. They are, nevertheless, worth our attention, if only because they contribute to a wider public's appreciation of archaeology and its products. It goes without saying that this function is tremendously important, given that very often the public, however it may be defined, is largely uninformed--or more often misinformed--about the processes, methods, objectives, and results of archaeological sites and excavations.

The Agora Picture Book under review here is put together with the same care and attention to detail as its predecessors. Its content focuses on the ample evidence for the activity of sculptors or marbleworkers in the Agora and its surroundings until the period of Late Antiquity. The presentation, of course, is selective, with proper emphasis on various types of sculptures (both art works and other types of objects). Due emphasis is also placed on the remains, variegated in time or context, of permanent workshops that were used by sculptors, marbleworkers, etc. The artifactual protagonists are more often than not unfinished sculptures (e.g. the "Eubouleus" head, Agora S 2089, here fig. 37) or pieces with traces of various stages in the process of sculpting, copying etc. This emphasis is not unwarranted given that non-specialists often wonder first about how something came to be or the practicalities of manufacture. The Agora Museum has numerous pieces of very interesting sculpture that prompt this preoccupation, and this little volume does a good job introducing the essential processes, tools, and techniques with proper illustrations and drawings. The penultimate section of the booklet concentrates on evidence regarding the activity of some famous sculptors in the Agora. Alkamenes, for example, is represented in a good number of triple-bodied Hekataia (fig. 41); equally emphatically, and duly so, Euphranor takes pride of place as the sculptor of the well-known image of Apollo Patroos (fig. 43). The final section concentrates on the collection of sculptures from the Late Antique Omega House, whose deliberate mutilation or destruction aptly points to one more dimension of the social life of Greek and Roman Sculpture.

Authored by Craig Mauzy, the great majority of the excellent photographs in this booklet are in color and adequately sharp, especially when it comes to illustrating details such as tool marks or traces of color. The Agora Picture Books usually end with suggestions for further reading, and this volume is no exception.1

Marbleworkers in the Athenian Agora is a worthy addition to the Agora Picture Book series. It is concise, informative, and full of color photographs, the like of which rarely appears in more specialized publications. Academic teachers will be happy to add this booklet to their lists of bibliography, and interested students will find in it more than enough to spark their interest in Greek and Roman sculpture and the Athenian Agora.


Notes:


1.   Readers interested in the subject matter of marbleworking should take note of Olga Palagia ed. Greek Sculpture: Function, Materials, and Techniques in the Archaic and Classical Periods. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 2006, a volume that appeared simultaneously with the book under review here.

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