Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2019.02.47 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2019.02.47

Klaus Fittschen, Johannes Bergemann (ed.), Katalog der Skulpturen der Sammlung Wallmoden. Göttinger Studien zur Mediterranen Archäologie, Bd 6​.   München​:  Biering & Brinkmann Verlag, 2015.  Pp. 336.  ISBN 9783930609611.  €148.00.  


Reviewed by Martin Dorka Moreno, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen​ (martin.dorkamoreno@klassarch.uni-tuebingen.de)

Table of Contents

In 1979 the Archaeological Institute of the University of Göttingen, Germany, presented an exhibition of selected pieces, predominantly sculpture, from the Wallmoden Sammlung, a collection that was started in the second half of the 18th century by Johann Ludwig of Wallmoden-Gimborn, son of King George II of Britain and his mistress Amalie of Wallmoden. 1 The collection, which is the oldest private collection of antiquities in Germany, was transferred from Hannover to Göttingen, where it is still housed today as part of the University collections. 2 The aim of the 1979 exhibition was to present objects of ancient art hitherto mostly unknown to the public. In the small catalogue that accompanied the exhibition, Klaus Fittschen promised that an extensive study on the collection was in the works. 3 The volume under review, co-edited by Fittschen and Johannes Bergemann, honors this pledge and delivers—even if 30 years later—a splendid book, that may very well serve as an example for future publications that aim to make private art collections accessible to scholars and the general public.

The book consists of three major parts. An ‘Introduction’ (pp. 15–35) divided into several propaedeutic essays, the actual ‘Catalogue’ that forms the core of the text (pp. 38–176), and a useful ‘Appendix’ (pp. 177–188). The ‘Introduction’ includes a detailed biography of Wallmoden, an extensive history of the collection that carefully reconstructs his habits of acquisitions, and a survey of previous scholarship on the collection and its objects. The catalogue entries (see below) are by Fittschen, Bergemann, Daniel Graepler, Joachim Raeder, Frederike Sinn, and Christiane Vorster. The artworks are illustrated on 130 plates with over 500 figures of excellent quality and detail. Lastly, a useful ‘Appendix’ gives an index of items in other collections that serve as comparanda, some pertinent documents and other correspondence, and concordances to publications that have dealt with the Wallmoden Collection (e. g., the 1979 catalogue mentioned above).

Fittschen's ‘Introduction’ serves as a thorough and densely referenced preface for the catalogue, critically assessing relevant issues. Since the Wallmoden family archive was destroyed in WW II many aspects of the collection like its growth and former size are uncertain. Unfortunately, these uncertainties extend to the archaeological contexts and provenances of some pieces, for example a head of Artemis (on a modern bust) of the so-called Colonna type (Cat. No. 5; Pl. 22.23 a–b). The simple but challenging task here was to reveal any lack of information as explicitly as possible in order to provide a solid basis for further inquiries about the material. Fittschen, who is responsible for all the essays that make up the ‘Introduction’, scrupulously faced that task. Readers interested in the cultural context and development of an 18th-century art collection will be richly rewarded by this part of the book.

As for the ‘Catalogue’: the entries—almost all of them are written by Fittschen—follow approximately a single pattern, but the authors were allowed to emphasize different aspects, which results in some formal diversity but only a slight difference in quality. 4 Overall they are well written, well researched, and contain excellent observations. The first part of the catalogue, on ancient sculptures, is subdivided into four categories: ‘gods and heroes’, genre figures and decorative sculpture’, ‘portraits’, and ‘funerary monuments’. The second, third, and fourth part of the catalogue comprise modern sculptures after ancient prototypes, some of which have been damaged in WW II (Cat. Nr. 57–89). Lastly, parts five to seven are devoted to glyptic art works, stone and clay vessels. As for the latter, the extent of Wallmoden’s collection can only very tentatively be reconstructed from scarce evidence since no vessels are part of the collection today. Fittschen has to argue from older documentation alone (p. 176). The glyptic art works and stone vessels share a similar fate: they were either sold by Wallmoden himself or are lost today and thus only survive in drawings (pp. 172–173), or have come to be incorporated into other collections (p. 174). The so-called ‘Cameo Wallmoden’, or ‘Caligula-Cameo’, for example, is mentioned by Johann J. Winckelmann to have been acquired by Wallmoden in 1766. 5 It has been lost since the end of the 18th century, but survives in one drawing (p. 173, Fig. 45), a couple of plaster casts (Pl. 125 e–f), and a glass paste. Fittschen convincingly argues that the identification of the portrait as Caligula is wrong since it rests, in turn, on the false identification of a sculptured portrait type as the Roman emperor known in several replicas. The latter is tentatively identified by Fittschen as Agrippa Postumus (“in any case it is Augustan”) while the portrait of the ‘Cameo Wallmoden’ according to Fittschen might be a Julio-Claudian prince, or Augustus himself (p. 172). Gradually leaving behind the assessment of the ‘Cameo Wallmoden’ as an ancient artefact, Fittschen devotes the rest of his catalogue entry to various important but to some extent illusive questions, such as: Is the artist’s signature preserved in an inscription on one of the Cameo’s plaster casts (Pl. 125 e–f) that reads “Dioskurides” a modern forgery? And, if so, was Wallmoden aware of it when he purchased it in 1766? The discussion does not result in palpable results, Fittschen himself remains sceptical about various aspects, but it highlights the complexity of the evidence and background information (or lack thereof) for some objects of the Wallmoden Sammlung, and private collections in general, that are bought of the market and held in possession for only a short period of time only to be sold again. Such objects acquire individual but complex biographies that become equally complex fields of scholarly inquiry.

Let us return to the sculptures. Among the first group of the sculptures preserved from antiquity, among the ‘gods and heroes’, are an under life-sized group of Perseus and Andromeda (Cat. No. 1), a head of Apollo (Cat. No. 4), a head of Artemis of the so-called Colonna type (Cat. No. 5), a statuette of Athena (Cat. No. 6), a statuette of Attis (Cat. No. 7), a statuette of Dionysos (Cat. No. 8), and a statuette of Pan seated on a rock (Cat. No. 15). The group of ‘genre figures and decorative sculptures’ consists of, inter alia, a statue of a naked youth (Cat. No. 19) and various herms, such as one of an Archaistic Dionysos (Cat. No. 21), a Hermes (Cat. No. 23), and a Silenus (Cat. No. 24). All of them are Roman in date. To this illustrious group add thirteen Roman portraits. Five of them are Imperial portraits: of Titus, Antoninus Pius, Commodus, Septimius Severus, and Caracalla (Cat. Nos. 25–29). The remaining eight are private portraits from Iulio-Claudian to Gallienic times (Cat. Nos. 30–38). Lastly, among the ‘funerary monuments’, all Roman in date, we encounter a series of five marble urns, and one marble altar (Cat. Nos. 39–42; No. 43). This array that forms the inventory of the Wallmoden Sammlung as it is composed today, is supplemented by the parts two to four of the catalogue which mainly consist of the aforementioned modern sculptures after ancient prototypes. In what is to follow I will focus on the ancient sculptures. My comments here, however, can only be selective.

Among the pieces of great relevance—which are given longer entries—is the under life-sized sculpture group of Perseus and Andromeda (Cat. No. 1), the statuette of Athena (Cat. No. 6), and the statuette of Dionysos (Cat. No. 8).

The Wallmoden group of Perseus and Andromeda (Cat. No. 1) is, in fact, the best preserved Roman copy of the subject in sculpture: Perseus, having freed Andromeda from the rock to which she was chained, is helping her down to safe ground. The composition, which presents the two interacting figures in frontal view, allows a late Hellenistic date for the original (p. 43). Since the earliest preserved examples of the subject in painting can be dated almost to the same time (p. 40), Vorster suggests that the question of which came first—the sculpted or the painted version—is of little significance. Instead, she shifts her attention to a useful discussion on how the same subject was conceived and used in different media and settings across time and space (p. 43). The statuette of Athena (Cat. No. 6) is discussed by Raeder within a detailed account of the extant replicas of the Athena of the Woburn type (pp. 56–57) to which the statuette in the Wallmoden collection is added. The type is convincingly traced back to a Late Classical original. Refreshingly, Raeder considers how the various replicas relate to each other formally and how terms like “Konzeptfigur”, “Darstellungstypus”, and “Prototypus” are used in current scholarship on the practice of Roman copying. The statuette of Dionysos (Cat. No. 8), discussed by Graepler, is a case in point for precisely the same reason. It shows the god standing upright looking slightly to the right. Both arms are modern restorations, including the grapes and the cup that have been added to the hands as attributes. The list of no fewer than 26 works formally related to the Wallmoden statuette (pp. 60–61) is used by Graepler to describe the range of similarities and differences at play here and to challenge traditional conceptions about the concepts of “type”, “replica”, and so forth, a tendency that is prevalent in recent studies on Roman sculpture. 6 Some of the 26 listed versions of the Wallmoden Dionysos cannot, as Graepler states, be identified as replicas in the strictest sense of the of the term. Their relations demonstrate a certain flexibility of forms, and it is precisely this interplay of similarities and differences that needs to be accounted for in both our descriptions and classifications. Graepler rather parenthetically introduces the term “Schema” (p. 59) to group the respective works together. The term seems fitting, but, as of yet, still warrants a proper methodological foundation. Unfortunately, the discussion stops before it actually begins, but, like Raeder’s (and Vorster’s), Graepler’s entry is very thought-provoking, and can very well serve as a point of reference for studies on Roman sculpture that critically assess the formal relations between a given set of copies and their respective relation to a certain archetype, “Vorbild”, or “Urbild”. In their broader perspective on the material the mentioned entries refreshingly go beyond the usual scope of a collection’s catalogue by emphatically integrating the works of art into current scholarly debates.

This tendency is not present in all of the entries, but this can hardly be a point of criticism. The portrait of Titus (Cat. No. 25) is vividly presented by Fittschen as a case study for a reworked portrait. It can be convincingly shown to have been a recut from a portrait of Nero. The private portrait of a woman (Cat. No. 34), early Severan in date, is credibly freed from the suspicion of being a modern forgery. And the marble urn (Cat. No. 39) commissioned by a C. Pompeius Apollonius for his son C. Pompeius Fructus who died at the age of ten (see the inscription on p. 112) is re-contextualized to have been part of a funerary monument near the Via Appia.

€ 148 is expensive, but the book’s quality in content and layout, especially the over 500 figures, which are all in color and of supreme quality, justifies the cost: the volume deserves acquisition by art historical and archaeological departments of academic institutions. The authors have not limited themselves to merely compiling a catalog. Instead, they have produced a splendid volume that integrates the collection’s items into current scholarly debates and presents us with numerous other multifaceted approaches and information about the art works. At the same time the entries do justice to the object’s modern biographies. Lastly, the propaedeutic essays paint a vivid picture of the history of an 18th-century antiquities collection. For the scholarly community it will hardly come as a surprise that when Fittschen finally delivers a book that is based on a 30-year project, he himself and the contributing authors meet a high standard.


Notes:


1.   In fact, George II never recognized Johann Ludwig as his son, who was, instead officially considered a son of Adam Gottlieb of Wallmoden and Amalie: cf. pp. 15–17 of the book under review.
2.   The collection in Göttingen comprises 44 Roman sculptures, busts, and reliefs as well as 12 modern sculptures after ancient originals.
3.   Boehringer, Christof, Döhl, Hartmut, Fittschen, Klaus, Müller, Ulrike (edd.). Die Skulpturen der Sammlung Wallmoden. Ausstellung zum Gedenken an Christian Gottlob Heyne (1792–1812). Göttingen: Archäologisches Institut der Universität Göttingen, 1979.
4.   In some cases, the stylistic analysis, which is necessarily the primary method used to date the relevant works, too strongly blends stylistic similarities with similarities in motif. In my opinion, the latter are best avoided in any stylistic assessment. A motif per se can hardly serve as strong evidence that the art works in question are contemporary. The relevant criterion is rather how a given motif comes into effect. Obviously, no stylistic analysis can do without the description of motifs, but in order to reach tangible results it is necessary to distinguish sharply between the motif itself and how this motif is formulated. See, rather contradictory in this regard (although it does ultimately not affect the proposed date) Bergemann’s entry Cat. No. 3, in this volume pp 47–48.
5.   Winckelmann, Johann Joachim, Geschichte der Kunst des Alterthums. Mainz: Philipp von Zabern, 2006, p. 765.
6.   See, for example: Gazda, Elaine. The Ancient Art of Emulation: Studies in Artistic Originality and from the Present to Classical Antiquity. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002, 300 p.

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