Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2013.12.10 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2013.12.10

Anne Coulié, La céramique grecque aux époques géométrique et orientalisante (XIe-VIe siècle av. J.-C.). La céramique grecque, 1.   Paris:  Éditions A. et J. Picard, 2013.  Pp. 304; 39 plates.  ISBN 9782708409262.  €88.00.  

Reviewed by Mary B. Moore, Hunter College (

Greek vases created from the 11th to the end of the 7th centuries B.C. seldom receive the attention that the more popular ones of the 6th-4th centuries have. Coulié’s book helps to address this need. For Greek ceramics, these centuries comprise a period of great experimentation with shapes, techniques and images, leading to the grand black-figured and red-figured vase paintings.

Chapter 1: The Pottery from the Iron Age (11th-8th c. B.C.). Coulié begins with a definition of Iron Age, and some general remarks about the history of the ceramics and techniques of the numerous regions that produced Protogeometric and Geometric pottery and she gives a very useful sketch of the chief characteristics of each. The accession number for the big ship krater, MMA 34.11.2 (fig. 12) is incorrectly cited as 34.11.12; CVA 5, pls. 1-7 and Met.Museum J. 35, 2003, pp. 13-38 should have been included in a note; they appear in the bibliography, pp. 289 and 293.

Chapter 2: The 8th Century: the Birth of the Styles and Images of Late Geometric. This is the true beginning. Fig. 31 is a drawing of the pedestalled krater (Athens 806) found in situ above Tomb III in the Kerameikos, proving these large vases marked graves; fig. 56 illustrates the actual krater. The major artistic presence in Athens is the Dipylon Master and the painters in his workshop whose vases are the first true masterpieces of Greek art. Coulié describes the styles and the figural compositions that make the work of these painters immediately recognizable. The Hirschfeld Workshop is discussed more briefly, but with no less admiration. The Attic section ends with of the Workshop of Athens 894, painters of marginal talent, and brief remarks about the innovations of Late Geometric II. Short discussions of the non-Attic styles, specifically Argive, Euboean, and Cycladic, conclude the chapter. The famous Cesnola krater (MMA 74.51.965) is reduced to a very poor, contoured illustration (fig. 72); CVA 5, pls. 46-49 should have been cited and the reference to Coldstream, GGP pp. 463-464 in note 176 is incorrect; it is pp. 172-173, pl. 35; Coldstream’s article in BICS, 1971, pp. 1-15, which is in the bibliography (p. 287), should also have been cited. On p. 101, notes 208 and 209, p. 103, note 211, I could not find the reference to Croissant 2008 in his bibliography on p. 288.

Chapter 3: The Orientalizing Pottery: Corinth. Coulié presents a very good discussion of “the orientalizing phenomenon”, reference to the borrowings/adaptations of models from Egypt and the Near East. These vases have none of the restrained purity of Geometric. In the past, orientalizing was often considered an interlude between the predicable Geometric and the easily recognized Archaic. Coulié and others have made it clear that this is an erroneous evaluation. The Orientalizing style is a very exciting period in Greek pottery: the introduction of new technical features such as polychromy, outline and incision, also the beginning of recognizable mythological representations of human, heroic , and divine figures, some with their names inscribed (as on the famous Chigi vase in the Villa Giulia: fig. 98 c). A burst of new vegetal decoration complements these energetic figures.

Coulié offers a sound overview of Corinthian in the 7th and 6th centuries B.C. down to 590/580 B.C., decades that embrace the entire Protocorinthian period as well as Early and Middle Corinthian. This pottery was exported all over the Greek world (see pp. 138-139).

Coulié reviews the history of the research, the establishment of the chronology, and gives a very good summary of the stylistic evolution of this fabric, its shapes and painters. The diversity of the decoration ranges from true masterpieces, often in miniature such as the Macmillan aryballos with its lion’s head spout and a fierce fight on the body (pl. 6), to more modest vases such as an aryballos from the Argive Heraion depicting two lions (fig. 92: Waldstein cited in note 114 is not in the bibliography). In her brief discussion of the fascinating plaques from Penteskouphia that depict digging clay, modelling it into vases, then firing it, Coulié describes the three-stage firing, but does not cite Noble, The Techniques of Painted Attic Pottery (1965), especially Ch. IV: “Firing the Vases”, even though this book appears in her bibliography (p. 294). This is a major omission. For MMA 23.160.18 (fig. 124), the conical oinochoe with a long-necked bird, a griffin-cauldron, and a wolf pursuing two horses, Coulié just mentions and illustrates the bird and cauldron; for more detail about this unusual vase, see Antike Kunst 52, 2009, pp. 3-17 and color pl. 1.

Chapter 4: The Pottery from the Greek East. After a few remarks on the cultural context of this part of the Greek world, Coulié briefly describes the Wild Goat style, borrowed from the East. She gives a very good description of the research on these vases and the problems remaining to be solved. Next comes Ionia, mainly Samos, Miletos and Ephesos. Samos was particularly productive, but the greater attention is given to Milesian ceramics of the 7th and 6th centuries; p.150 presents a useful classification and chronological table. Shapes and decoration, workshops and painters are discussed very clearly. Coulié singles out the Lévy Oinochoe in the Louvre (pl. X and fig. 152) which has some exceptional characteristics (shape, ivory slip, refinement and lively figures) and the Arapidès Oinochoe in Athens (fig. 155) which was decorated by two very different painters. This section concludes with the ‘Bird Nest’ cup in the Louve (fig. 163). On. p. 159, note 121, the citation of Mommsen et al. , 2002 was difficult to find; it is not under Mommsen and I discovered it only by chance in the citation of Kerchner on p. 292 of the bibliography.

In North Ionia, Clazomenae produced very colorful pottery, also clay sarcophagi. The Bird Bowl Workshop created some rather mundane bowls (figs. 165-167), but also an elegant oinochoe (fig. 168) and a dinos with its stand (figs. 168-169, and pl. XII). Coulié omitted the accession number of the fragment in New York cited on p. 175, note 182: it is MMA 55.71.9, not 55.791 as given by Kardara, p. 233, no. 17. Chian pottery may be less well known, but it is distinctive in character and technique. The clay is brownish and often covered with a white slip; notable examples are the Würzburg chalice (fig. 175), the Aphrodite Bowl (pl. XIII), and a handsome polychrome chalice (pl. XVIII). Significant vases from the Aeolids are the name vase of the London Dinos (pl. XIV) and the askos in London (fig. 176). Pottery from Rhodes, especially from Vroulia, and from other islands in the east complete the material presented in this chapter. The inscribed Euphorbos plate in London is the most famous (pl. XIX). Important are the plates that often have holes in the rim for suspension, similar to votive plaques. In the text on p. 184, fig. 178 should be fig. 177, the odd situla in London with black-figured birds perched on spirals and ornament below incised in the solid black glaze. Fig.178 a and b are plastic vases, one in the shape of a human leg, the other a pomegranate. Coulié concludes this chapter by summarizing the evidence of exchange between centers of production in Greece and Asia and asks if there is what one may call a regional style. The answer seems to be no.

Chapter 5: Traditions and Innovations in the 7th century: Athens, Argos, Euboea and Boeotia. Pottery made in Athens during the 7th century before the beginning of black figure proper is called Protoattic and 19th century excavations produced a good quantity of these vases, mostly from cemeteries. Coulié provides a valuable contribution with her overview of the research and provenances of Protoattic, the skills of the artists and the tastes of their clients. . The earliest masters are the Analatos Painter and the Mesogeia Painter, each named after a find spot. Coulié describes the very important fragment of a votive plaque from Aigina that may have part of an artist’s signature [...sonos epist...] (p. 199), but in note 124 merely cites Hampe 1960, p. 30 (Grabfund) and gives no further information: it is Athens, NM 18772, was discussed by Immerwahr, Attic Script. A Survey, 1990, p. 9, who believes the inscription is votive (Immerwahr appears on p. 291 of Coulié’s bibliography) and illustrated by Boardman, Early Greek Vase Paintng, p. 100, fig. 193. Then we come to the Passas Painter, one of the most important Early Protoattic artists. For MMA 21.88.18, Coulié writes that the man carrying a large cloth over his shoulder has been identified as Zeus or Poseidon, but does not give a source; the reviewer dealt with this cloth in detail in Met.Museum J.. 38, 2003, pp. 33-34 and opted for a mortal (Coulié cites the article in note 154, but not these pages). Middle Protoattic produced important masters such as the Polyphemos Painter, the Ram Jug Painter, the Kynosarges Painter, the Pair Painter and the Oresteia Painter, artists who foreshadowed the black-figured technique. There is a general summary of each with ample illustrations, including a very poor photograph(?) and drawing of the Ram Jug (fig. 187), which should have been in color since it is one of the masterpieces of Greek vase painting. I could only find a mere mention of it on p. 198 and no bibliography. On p. 218, Coulié presents a good discussion of polychromy. For Late Protoattic, there are old drawings (fig. 216) of the Nettos Painter’s name vase, Athens, NM 1002 (he is one of the first black-figure painters and does not belong here). Coulié mentions his vases from Vari, but does not cite Karouzou’s monograph, even though it is in the bibliography (p. 291). The chapter concludes with a very brief review of the seventh century pottery found at Argos, Euboea and Boeotia. Unusual are the two mugs with very tall necks from Eretria (figs. 222-223), whose function is still not understood. Fig. 226 illustrates a very interesting Boeotian krater decorated with a large fish.

Chapter 6: The Island Pottery: The Cyclades, Thasos, Crete, Skyros. This diverse group of islands produced very distinctive styles. Coulié deals very well with the problems presented by the material in this chapter. The most important Cycladic islands are Melos, Paros, Delos and Naxos, also Siphnos and Thera. Much of the pottery once identified as Melian is now thought to be Parian and Coulié’s presentation of this problem is one of her best. She combines historical considerations with the provenances of the finds, the sites, also the locations of the workshops if known and the characteristics of the pottery and other material. The famous Griffin Jug (fig. 243 a-b), found at Aigina, has distinctive features borrowed from Neo-Hittite prototypes, but the drawing style is island, perhaps Naxian. One of the premier workshops of the North Aegean is Thasos. The pottery includes all the shapes created at Paros, especially plates which are a little smaller than their Parian counterparts. Some are decorated inside and outside, such as the famous Horse Plate (fig. 261 and pl. XXVII). Very ambitious is the amphora with the scene of Peleus seizing Thetis (pl. XXVIII). Some painters developed a creative animal style, inspired by the Wild Goat style. Crete produced an eclectic style of pottery, not surprising given its geographic location. Borrowings from Cyprus and Syria were adapted by Cretan artists at Eleutherna and Eastern Crete.

The chronologies listed on pp. 278-279 are very useful, as are the outline drawings of the principal shapes on pp. 280-281, and the maps on pp. 282-283. Then comes a Glossary, Bibliography, Index of Potters and Painters, General Index. The bibliography is copious and up-to-date, though occasionally it is difficult to find a reference. A good example is Coldstream, Greek Geometric Pottery which is not listed with his other publications on pp. 287-288, but abbreviated GGP on p. 290. There is no list of abbreviations, a very serious omission. The all-too-brief notes are placed in the margins rather than at the end of each chapter; mere citations of author, date and page are not very helpful to the interested reader. A sentence or two in each note would be informative and welcome. One hopes that in future volumes of this series, the information included in the notes will be more abundant and the errors and omissions the reviewer discovered merely by chance will be avoided. These weakened the book’s contribution to the subject. The black and white photographs illustrating the text are plentiful, though some of them are contoured, which is unfortunate. The color plates round out the illustrations.

This is an important contribution to the scholarship on the Greek vases of this period and it will be of value to both the pottery specialist and to anyone interested in this creative period in Greek pottery.

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