Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2013.05.22 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2013.05.22

Norbert Eschbach, Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. Archäologisches Institut der Universität Göttingen, 4, Attisch rotfigurige Keramik, Deutschland, Bd 92.   München:  Verlag C. H. Beck, 2012.  Pp. 159; 30 p. of figures; 67 p. of plates.  ISBN 9783406635953.  €98.00.  


Reviewed by Thomas Mannack, Beazley Archive, University of Oxford (thomas.mannack@beazley.ox.ac.uk)

The fourth Göttingen fascicule of the Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum deals with the 164 Athenian red-figure pots, fragment groups and fragments housed in the museum of the archaeological institute of the University of Göttingen and includes loans by the Antikensammlung in Berlin. It follows the well-established traditions of the Corpus Vasorum, but also benefits from a change of policy, which permits the plates of German fascicules to be printed in colour. The volume has four main text sections: introduction, abbreviations, the main catalogue, and extensive indexes and registers. The illustrations, 41 figures in the text, Beilagen and plates, include detailed drawings of vase-profiles with cross-sections of handles and indications of reserved parts, black-and-white and colour photographs of restorations, joining vases and fragments, and the main body of colour plates.

The introduction, apart from giving due thanks, sets the scene, contains instructions of use for the volume and provides a key for the profile drawings, and information on the layout. The generous support of the Bavarian Academy has— amongst other benefits—enabled the author to travel widely in order to make certain that fragments in the Göttingen collection join shards in numerous other museums. Where necessary, vases have been restored and cleaned before being photographed.

The section ‘Abbreviations’ provides an extensive and exhaustive list of books and journals cited, and gratifyingly also includes the Beazley Archive’s pottery database.

The catalogue forms the main body of the text and continues the well-established tradition of recent CVAs; written by experts and giving the fullest possible information on every piece : find-place, full bibliography, and a wealth of accurate and precise measurements, including the volume where possible. It is arranged by shape, but where less imaginative authors would have dealt with shapes one by one, Eschbach has grouped some of them, beginning with closed forms or pots, amphorae, one loutrophoros and pelikai. Pyxides and epinetra have been combined, presumably because they were made for women. The CVA is most useful when dealing with a single shape or fabric like the Göttingen fascicule. The collection holds a wide range of shapes and a fair range of painters. The early phase of red- figure vase-painting is somewhat underrepresented; four rather pitiful cup fragments have been attributed to a painter working in the manner of Euphronios. Beazley’s great three, the Kleophrades, Berlin and Pan painters are attested by one fragment each. Cups are well-represented, and there are good and goodish examples of works by Onesimos, Oltos and the Penthesilea Painter’s workshop. There is also a fair number of white-ground lekythoi—not grouped with the red-figure examples but placed at the end—which benefit particularly from the use of colour. Numerous specimens are published here for the first time, some appear to have languished in deserved obscurity. It is one of the great strengths of the CVA that all objects in a collection are made accessible thus adding to the knowledge of numbers of vases made in a workshop—Eschbach’s attributions are reliable— and scenes chosen by painters.

Eschbach’s indexes are most useful. He provides concordances of inventory numbers and plates, painters and workshops, inscriptions, provenances, previous collections, joins with objects in other collections, technical observations, and subjects. A large number of items has been bought from Hartwig. The index of joins and photomontages in the Beilagen and main body of plates confirm Eschbach’s observation, made here and elsewhere (Beiheft, 2007) that Hartwig appears to have broken vases in order to maximise his profit.

The only slight and common problem is posed by the plates: the use of polarising filters takes away much of the typical and beautiful gloss of Athenian pottery. Moreover, the colouring of the vases appears to be somewhat uniform. In summary, however, this is an excellent example of the series and a worthwhile addition to any library on Athenian pottery.

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