Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2010.11.18

Martine Denoyelle, Mario Iozzo, La céramique grecque d'Italie méridionale et de Sicile: productions coloniales et apparentées du VIIIe au IIIe siècle av. J.-C. Manuels d'Art et d'Archéologie antiques.   Paris:  Picard, 2009.  Pp. 255.  ISBN 9782708408395.  €68.00.  

Reviewed by John K. Papadopoulos, University of California, Los Angeles (

At long last there is a well conceived, elegantly written, and lavishly illustrated synthesis of the Greek-inspired pottery of southern Italy and Sicily from the 8th through the 3rd centuries B.C. by two scholars whose contributions to the study of Greek painted pottery have been seminal. The book focuses on the painted, and largely figurative, pottery of the historic period, beginning with the Late Geometric period (750-700 B.C.) and ending with the demise of figurative work in the course of the 3rd century B.C. The book does not cover the non-Greek wares, matt-painted or plain, of Daunia, Apulia, Peucetia, Messapia, and Lucania. Although various edited volumes have touched upon aspects of the indigenous, colonial, and imported pottery of Magna Graecia, and the great Arthur Dale Trendall penned a classic overview of the red-figured styles of the region,1 there has never been before a single volume that treats the Greek pottery produced in the colonies of south Italy and Sicily across such a breadth of time. The volume is a “must” for anyone interested in Greek pottery and art more generally, the cultures and cultural history of southern Italy and Sicily spanning a period of over 500 years, the production and reception of material culture in a colonial context and, not least, the history of the Greek theater.

A short introduction briefly overviews the aims and scope of the volume and this is followed by 13 pages presenting 26 color plates which provide a stunning visual accompaniment of what will be covered. The color plates begin with early illustrations of Greek pottery in the volumes by Giovanni Battista Passeri (1770) and Alexandre-Isidore Leroy de Barde (1813),2 before presenting some of the veritable icons of the Greek colonial pottery of south Italy, from the Aristonothos krater and the polychrome vases of Megara Hyblaia, to the black- and red-figured pottery of the various regional styles of south Italy and Sicily, and ending with Gnathian pottery and the polychrome vases of Sicily and Centuripe.

Chapter 1 (pp. 23-32), entitled “La céramique de Grande Grèce et de Sicile hier et aujourd’hui”, begins with a historical overview and the formation of the first collections of Italiote red figure pottery before addressing questions of ethics and method in the study of the pottery of Magna Graecia today. Highlights include the centers of production and the identities of the potters, including signatures and names of painters, the important contributions of Trendall (1909-1995)—the latter presented as a boxed entry separate from the main narrative (there are similar boxed highlights in all of the chapters)—a brief account of scientific techniques, and the issue of fakes.

Chapter 2 (pp. 33-45) deals with the figurative pottery of the Geometric period (750-700 B.C.), with especial focus on pottery produced in Campania, the material from the cemetery of San Montano on Ischia (Pithekoussai), and the pottery of la côte ionienne, and eastern Sicily. Corinthian, Euboian, East Greek, and other influences are duly discussed, as are “entangled objects” (to borrow the turn from Nicholas Thomas),3 such as the celebrated Cup of Nestor, an East Greek Late Geometric kotyle found at Pithekoussai with an inscription in Euboian epichoric. Campania, the Ionian coast, and Sicily also feature in Chapter 3 (pp. 47-65), which covers the figured pottery of the Subgeometric and Orientalizing periods. This chapter includes discussion of the Aristonothos krater, signed by the “good bastard,” and the idiosyncratic polychrome pottery produced at Megara Hyblaia. One of the highlights, which goes back to the earlier work of Denoyelle,4 is the fact that the Analatos Painter, an Athenian potter of the Late Geometric and early Orientalizing period, spent the latter part of his career making pottery at Incoronata near Metaponto. Here is the movement of potters from the Greek mainland to southern Italy in all its glory.

In Chapter 4 (pp. 67-95) we move to the Archaic period proper and the appearance of black-figure workshops in south Italy. The chapter begins with the distinctive Corinthian-style black-figure produced at the Lakonian colony of Taranto (Taras), beginning with the work of the Kurashiki Painter. The existence of a number of workshops is discussed, not least one thought to have specialized in the production of vases for sanctuaries such as that at Satyrion. The shapes, including the common kotylai, and the style are strongly Corinthian. Between 570/560 and 540 B.C. there is another workshop at Taranto that produces a distinctive class of black-figured amphoras that are inspired by Attic “Tyrrhenian” amphoras. The products of several additional workshops are discussed, including the hydria from Massafra thought to have been made either at Taras or Sybaris (p. 74, fig. 88), together with the pottery produced at Siris, Metaponto and Sybaris (the latter two Achaian colonies,5 as well as, among others, Lokroi Epizephyrioi, Medma, and perhaps also Poseidonia (Paestum). The distinctive black-figure style long-known as “Chalcidian,” after the fact that the writing found on pottery of this class was in the epichoric script of Euboian Chalkis, and probably produced at the Euboian colony of Rhegion, is fully discussed (pp. 80-91). The style was first assembled by Andreas Rumpf and was later studied by Iozzo.6 The chapter ends with an overview of the black-figure pottery produced, or thought to be produced, on Sicily, including the products of Megara Hyblaia, Selinunte, and less certainly Syrakoussai, and perhaps Gela.

The next five chapters (Chapters 5-9) deal with south Italian red-figure. Chapter 5 (pp. 97-117), entitled "Apparition et premier essor du style à figures rouges: le rôle des cités de la côte ionienne (vers 440-360 av. J.-C.)", deals with the beginnings of the red-figure style and the important role played especially by Metaponto. Following an introduction that well lays out the earlier difficulties of scholars distinguishing between Athenian and south Italian production, the chapter summarizes the important evidence of the potters’ quarter at Metaponto. The chapter goes on to provide a well-illustrated summary of Lucanian pottery, beginning with the work of the Pisticci Painter and his contemporaries, the Cyclops and Amykos Painters, the successors and disciples of the Amykos Painter, and the workshop of the Dolon and Creusa Painters. There is also a discussion of the end of the Metaponto workshops, as well as an overview of Metapontine iconography.

Chapter 6 (pp. 119-136) is devoted to the beginnings of the early Apulian red-figure style at Taranto (440-370 B.C.). The production context is discussed first, followed by the pioneers of the early Apulian I style (440-390 B.C.), beginning with the Painter of Berlin Dancing Girl. This is followed by the beginnings of the Apulian “Ornate Style,” with the work of the Gravina Painter and others. Also discussed is the issue of a possible Apulian production center at Siris/Polieion/Herakleia (modern Policoro). This is followed by an overview of Early Apulian II and the development of the “Plain Style” (390-370 B.C.). It is here where we see the first discussion of Phlyax vases.

Apulian is continued in Chapter 7 (pp. 137-163), particularly the “triumph” of the Ornate Style and the diffusion of Apulian red-figure between 370 and 300 B.C. The chapter begins with Middle Apulian and the beginning of what has often been referred to as Apulian Baroque (360-340 B.C.), before moving on to the Varrese Painter and Late Apulian. The “grand workshops” of Late Apulian include the work of the Darius and Underworld Painters, as well as the Ganymede, Baltimore and other painters. It is with the work of the Patera and Ganymede Painters that the issue of Apulian workshops outside of Taranto is tackled (one of the few illustrations of a fish plate is to be found on p. 159).7 The chapter ends with the spread of Apulian style pottery to Lucania. In poring over the many images of Apulian Baroque, I was reminded of Sir John Beazley’s disdain of the work of the Athenian Meidias Painter of the late 5th century B.C.: "Here also there’s beauty; the gleam of gold, loves and ladies with soft limbs, in soft raiment, and all that is shining, easeful and luxurious: perfume, honey and roses, till the heart longs for what is fresh, pungent, and hard."8

Chapters 8 (pp. 165-179) and 9 (181-202) focus on the west—Tyrrhenian—coast of Italy; the former deals with Sicily and Calabria, beginning with the red-figured style in Sicily (410-370 B.C.) and ending with the workshop of Lipari (340/330-260 B.C.). Chapter 9 deals with the workshops of Paestum and Campania. Here there is a succinct overview of the products of both Paestan and Campanian red-figure. The former includes the work of Asteas and Python, the two only south Italian red-figure vase painters who actually sign their work. The short, and final, Chapter 10 (pp. 203-214) deals with the end of the figured styles of southern Italy and Sicily. The chapter begins with the plainer wares of the Xenon Group and the Group of the Red Swan, and goes on to provide a good summary of Gnathian pottery. The chapter ends with "La polychromie à tempera", including the polychrome pottery of Canosa and Centuripe.

The volume ends with a series of maps (pp. 215-217), including one of the Italian Peninsula, a detail of Daunia, Apulia, Peucetia, Messapia, and Lucania, another of the Campania, and a fourth of Sicily, together with Calabria. These are followed by a bibliography (pp. 219-233), and a glossary of terms (p. 235). Appendices I and II (pp. 237-242) deal with the various chronologies of the production centers, not least those facing the Tyrrhenian coast (Sicily, Paestum, Campania), by Trendall and others, as well as historical points, whether fixed or floating. There is a useful table presenting the 33 most common shapes of Italiote red-figure (p. 243), and an index (pp. 245-255).

There is a great deal in this volume, and the fact that it covers so much material briefly, yet with authority, is only one of its great strengths. The book will quickly take its place as a work that both the student and specialist might consult on virtually any topic dealing with the Greek or Greek-influenced pottery of southern Italy and Sicily. It is an important textbook, and I only hope that an English edition might be made available soon for use in the English-speaking classroom.


1.   See, for example, G. Pugliese Carratelli (ed.), The Western Greeks, Rome 1996; see also J. Boardman, Early Greek Vase Painting, London 1998, 53-55, 114-117, 217-219. For the red-figure styles of south Italy and Sicily, see A.D. Trendall, Red Figure Vases of South Italy and Sicily: A Handbook, London 1989.
2.   G.B. Passeri, Picturae etruscorum in vasculis II, Rome 1770; A.-I.L. de Barde, Vases grecs et étrusques, Paris 1813.
3.   N. Thomas, Entangled Objects: Exchange, Material Culture and Colonialism in the Pacific, Cambridge, Mass. 1991.
4.   M. Denoyelle, "Le peintre d’Analatos: essai de synthèse et perspectives nouvelles", Antike Kunst 39, 1996, 71-87.
5.   J.K. Papadopoulos, "Magna Achaea: Akhaian Late Geometric and Archaic Pottery in South Italy and Sicily", Hesperia 70, 2001, 373-460.
6.   A. Rumpf, Chalkidische Vasen, Berlin and Leipzig 1927; M. Iozzo, Ceramica ‘calcidesi.’ Nuovi documenti e problemi riproposti (AMemMGr Series 3, 2, 1993); M. Iozzo, Vasi ‘Calcidesi’ del Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Firenze, Pontedera 1996.
7.   For Apulian workshops see, most recently, T.H. Carpenter, “Prolegomena to the Study of Apulian Red-figure Pottery,” American Journal of Archaeology 113, 2009, 27-38. For fish plates, see I. McPhee and A.D. Trendall, Greek Red-figured Fish-plates (Antike Kunst Beiheft), Basel 1987.
8.   J.D. Beazley, Attic Red-figured Vases in American Museums, Cambridge, Mass. 1918, 185.

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