Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2017.04.09 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2017.04.09

Dirk Piekarski (ed.), Corpus vasorum antiquorum. Deutschland, Bd 100; Bonn, Akademisches Kunstmuseum, Bd 4: Geometrische und orientalisierende keramik. Corpus vasorum antiquorum..   München:  Verlag C. H. Beck, 2016.  Pp. 93; 23 p. of figures, 59 p. of plates.  ISBN 9783406699979.  €98,00.  

Reviewed by Mary B. Moore, Hunter College, CUNY (

This very welcome Bonn CVA presents the Protogeometric, Geometric and Orientalizing Greek vases (ca. 900-690 B.C.), arranged geographically: Argive, Attic, Boeotian, Protocorinthian, Cretan, Cycladic, Laconian and East Greek, followed by some miscellaneous entries whose origins are uncertain. The bibliography (pp. 10-15) is as full as one might wish for. The profile drawings by G. Podzuweit are printed at a scale of 1:1 or 1:2. The color photographs by J. Schubert are so clear that the vases almost seem to be on the table in front of the viewer. The scale of each vase or fragment is given on the plate, a very welcome feature. Each entry contains all the pertinent information that fully informs the reader.

ARGIVE: pp. 17-22, pls. 1-3. These are mostly fragments of various shapes. The exception is the well-preserved unglazed pomegranate from Thebes, 2543 (pp. 21-22, pl. 3, 5-10). Pomegranates are known in Egypt in glass and metal since the 18th Dynasty. In Greece it is a symbol of fertility connected with Astarte and Demeter. Sherd 937.18 (p. 19, pl. 1, 12) preserves part of the tail of a lion with the start of a tassel, not the tail of a horse (pace Piekarski - p. 19). Nos. 937.27-29 (pp. 20-21, pl. 2, 7-9), fragments of kantharoi and a krater, each show the head and neck of a horse, two (7-8) with the head and shoulders of a man leading it.

ATTIC: pp. 23-40, pls. 4-19, 1-5. Much of this material comes from Athens and Piekarski makes good general remarks on the history of their acquisitions. There is a variety of shapes, both large and small. Items 2699 and 14 (pp. 23-24, pl. 5) are two elegant pyxides with lids. No. 17 (pp. 25-26, pl. 7) is a statuette of a horse, attributed to the Filla Workshop, which once decorated the lid of a pyxis. No. 6 (pp. 26-27, pl. 8) is a dipper decorated with elegant patternsfs. No. 1635 (p. 28, pl. 10-6-8) is an unglazed basket. Piekarski gives a full bibliography for this unusual shape. Nos. 9-10 (pp. 29-31, pl. 12) are two elegant bowls with upright rims: 9 has a frieze of birds on the rim, on 10, a quatrefoil and dotted circles are flanked on each side by a long-horned goat in a metope. A curious little vase in the shape of a bird ( 18, pp. 31-32, pl. 13, 1-5) seems to have no exact parallel. A krater fragment by the Hirschfeld Painter (16 , p.32, pl. 13, 6),, brings us to the heart of Geometric scenes: the ekphora with part of the bier and deceased placed on a chariot, accompanied by mourners on foot (part of two) on their way to the cemetery. No. 1632 (p. 35, pl. 15, 5-9) is an elegant fragmentary cup attributed to the Workshop of the Birdseed Painter and decorated with a frieze of the namesake birds. Piekarski notes that this type of cup is produced mostly in the second half of the 8th century, mainly in Attica. Item 830 (pp. 35-36, pl. 16, 1-4) is an oinochoe decorated with the eponymous circles of the Concentric Circle Group. No. 15 (pp. 37-38, pl. 18, 1), a krater fragment decorated with coursing hound to right, is attributed to the Painter of Athens 897 or an artist in his workshop, the latter very well discussed by Piekarski. . Item 292 (pp. 39-40; pl. 19, 1-5), the latest of the Attic vases, is an oinochoe from the Phaleron Group, decorated with two rows of inverted triangles on its very tall neck and with upright spirals on the body. The shape is found mainly in Attic graves.

BOEOTIAN: pp. 41-45, pls. 19,6-12; 20-26. This section begins with a scoop or ladle, 309 (p. 41, pl. 19, 6-12) decorated with zigzags on the neck and horizonal lines on the body flanked by a bird in a metope at each handle. Impressive is 996 (p. 42, pls. 21, 4-5 and 22, 5-7), an oinochoe from Melos decorated with three fish on the shoulder. Piekarski notes that fish are a characteristic feature of Boeotian pottery at this time and includes very good comparative material. No. 1000 (pp. 42-32, pl. 21, 1-4) is a kantharos decorated with a Diplyon shield flanked by concentric circles, a common shape in Boeotian pottery. Most interesting is 664 (p. 43, pl. 22, 1-6). On each side of this kantharos, a large boar attacks a man, a man stands behind the boar and on one side a small dog leaps at it. The painter has captured the danger of this encounter and reminds the viewer of later representations of Meleager and the boar (mythological subjects are not attested for certain at this early date). The show pieces of Boeotian pottery in Bonn are two large neck-amphorae which may come from the same workshop: 1590 (p. 44, pls. 23-24) and 2587 (pp. 44-45, pls. 45-46). The shape is influenced by Cycladic prototypes (p. 44). The size and decoration of each is similar (height of 1590 is 52.3 cm; of 2587, 50.2 cm) : vertical zigzags on the neck and body, diagonal crosshatching on the foot. On 1590, a fierce lion pursues a frightened deer, on 2585, a frieze of placid geese appears on the shoulder.

PROTOCORINTHIAN: pp. 47-49, pls. 27-29. The size of these vases is small and the Bonn collection offers a good cross-section of the decorative possibilities and the skill of painters confined to a restricted space (the maximum height of the tallest vessel is 9.3 cm.). Item 394 a [394a ?] (p. 46, pl. 27, 1, 3-5), a spherical conical aryballos, has spirals on the shoulder and horizontal lines on the body; 2054 (p. 46, pls. 27, 6-9 and 28, 1) depicts seven hunters confronting a huge lion and in the frieze below there are three running hounds and a swan. Most impressive is 1669, a pointed aryballos with four zones of decoration (pp. 47-48, pl. 28, 2-7 and Beilage 23, a drawing in color by Marie Reimer on p. 93, which is most helpful because the figures are scarcely visible today and the vase is only 7.6 cm). On the shoulder is a frieze of handsome lotuses and palmettes; above the foot, rays. The main zone on the body depicts three bigas, two youths and a man playing the aulos, all to right. Below, a frieze of coursing hounds, then one of two seated sphinxes and a lion attacking a bull. Piekarski notes that the amount of figural decoration is most unusual and gives parallels; there are not very many and two are by the painter of 1669. I wish Piekarski had discussed the attributions by different scholars instead of just citing them on p. 48. No. 25a (pp. 48-49, pl. 29, 6-10), an alabastron attributed to the Shambling Bull Painter, depicts a swan between two sphinxes and a grazing deer above a frieze of hounds pursuing a hare.

CRETAN: pp. 50-53, pls. 30-32. The first entries in this section (pp. 50-52, pl. 30) are fragments of various shapes, each preserving a little of the ornament. Most interesting are 3000 (p. 52, pl. 31) and 3001 (pp. 52-53, pl. 32), two rhyta in the shape of a dove that were found in the same grave on Crete. Each is roughly the same size (p. 52) and they were probably made as a pair. Similar geometric ornaments articulate each area of the bird and their beaks are open as if cooing. They look very well fed.

CYCLADIC: pp. 54-61, pls. 33-36. With the exception of 12 (pp. 58-59, pl. 35, 1-4), all of the entries in this section come from Delos, Melos, and Thera and mostly date in the 9th and 8th centuries. Most are fragments with geometric ornament. Item 12 is a handsome skyphos found in Athens and decorated with three metopes on each side: four spirals, flanked by a bird. No. 2040 (pl. 36, 5), the lower part of the neck and the start of the shoulder of a large amphora from the Melian Group, is the latest of the vases in this section and is discussed in full by Piekarski (pp. 60-61). Parts of two spirals and a little of some of the other patterns are all the remains of what was once a magnificent vase.

LACONIAN: pp. 62-66, pls. 37-39, 1-2. All of these fragments come from the Amyklaion near Sparta and may be dated Protogeometric. All are fragments of open shapes and preserve some of the geometric patterns.

EAST GREEK: pp. 67-78, pls. 39, 3-12; 40-51. Many of the entries in this section are Late Geometric and sub-Geometric. Piekarski presents a long discussion of the various shapes and decoration from this large geographic area. Four are well-preserved cups. On each side of 2735 (pp. 70-71, pl. 42, 1-4) there is a bird with a very long neck that may be a crane; 3198 (p. 43, pl. 43) has a single bird on each side. Geometric ornament decorates the other two. No. 1027 (pp. 73-74; pls. 45-46), a large handsome oinochoe with trefoil spout, is decorated with ibexes on both the shoulder and the body. Much of the glaze is lost, but the images are still visible. One side of 3004 (p. 75, pl. 48), a pyxis allegedly from Miletos, is decorated with a pair of large eyes and a nose. The eyes are in solid glaze but for the outline of the irises; three inverted triangles define the nose. There is a very good discussion of pairs of eyes on East Greek vases. Nos. 585 and 586 (pp76-78, pls. 50-51, 1-3) are elegant footed plates with geometric ornament on the inside.

MISCELLANEOUS: pp. 79-87, pls. 52-59. The final section of this CVA presents vases and fragments that do not have secure provenances. Item 328 (pp. 80-81, pl. 52, 8-11), a skyphos decorated with fine concentric circles, comes from Boeotia, but may not have been made there. No. 833 (p. 82, pl. 54), a ring aryballos with a tall neck and a trefoil mouth may be Attic or Boeotian. A stirrup-handled krater (900, pp. 84-85, pls. 56, 3-4 and 57) is a rather rare shape, and may be Protoattic or Boeotian (the glaze is very faint). On each shoulder is a large lion. Most interesting in this section is 1526 (pp. 86-87, pl. 59), an aryballos in the shape of the helmeted head of a warrior with a red beard, is one of the latest vases in the volume (ca. 640-625 B.C.). It was found at Corinth, but may be Rhodian based on a Corinthian prototype. Diamonds decorate the crest of the helmet and a thick line articulates the rest of it. The features of the warrior’s face are well preserved.

The fascicule closes with six indices: I, concordance of inventory numbers, plates and drawings; II, three vases formerly in Bonn, but either lost or re-homed; III, origins: find spots; IV, origins: collections and purchases; V, representations; VI, Groups, Workshops and Painters; VII: drawings.

As already stated, this new CVA fascicule is a most welcome addition to the series. The author describes each vase or fragment in meticulous detail and discusses all the relevant comparanda which are particularly up-to-date. It has been a pleasure to review.

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