BMCR 1995.02.06

Greek sculpture in the Art Museum, Princeton University

, , Greek sculpture in the Art Museum, Princeton University : Greek originals, Roman copies and variants. Princeton: The Museum, 1994. 131 pages. ISBN 9780943012162 $45.00 (hb).

This thoroughly handsome and most professional volume is a publication of the Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University. Almost all the forty sculptures catalogued formed the subjects of a Graduate Seminar in the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology at Bryn Mawr College, directed by Professor Brunilde S. Ridgway during the second semester of the 1989-90 academic year (January-May 1990). Eight of the above wrote entries along with Professor Ridgway. Additional entries were provided at a later date by another Bryn Mawr College graduate student, Thomas L. Milbank (Princeton Class of 1990), and also by Joan B. Connelly (Princeton Class of 1976; Ph.D. Bryn Mawr, 1984), Associate Professor of Fine Arts at New York University and a former Dean at Bryn Mawr College.

In his Foreword, Director Allen Rosenbaum graciously and eloquently pays tribute to the Princeton archaeologists in classroom and field, Howard Crosby Butler, Erik Sjöqvist, Richard Stillwell, T. Leslie Shear, Jr., and William C. Childs, all of whom have been involved in some way with the growth and the understanding of the Classical collection. He then moves on to speak, and very rightly so, of the achievements of Frances Follin Jones, Curator of Ancient Art from 1943 to 1984. Her successor, Robert Guy, served as Associate Curator of Ancient Art from 1984 to 1991, when he departed for a senior research fellowship at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. His successor, J. Michael Padgett, has provided a History of the Collection, which follows the Director’s Foreword.

Here more names great in the annals of art and archaeology appear, notably Professors Allan Marquand and Arthur Frothingham, who convinced the College to build an art museum on Princeton campus. The first phase of construction was completed in 1888. In terms of ancient sculpture there were sporadic accessions until 1922, when Frank Jewett Mather, Jr., was appointed Director of the Museum and McCormick Hall was built.

In 1929 the Sardis Excavation Society donated two marbles, a Lion’s Head Spout (no. 22) and a Seated Kybele (no. 30), certainly from Professor Howard Crosby Butler’s excavations of 1910-1914 or 1922. Princeton’s work in the excavation of Antioch-on-the-Orontes, Seleucia, and Daphne (1932 to 1939) under the leadership of Professors Charles Rufus Morey and Richard Stillwell brought mosaics, sculptures, and architectural fragments to Princeton. The keeping of meticulous archives, field records, and photographs enabled Professor Doro Levi to spend his World War II years of separation from Fascist Italy producing the great volumes on the Antioch mosaic pavements, in the Archaeological Museum at Antakya, still in situ, and now scattered around America.

The largest and most important group of Greek and Roman sculptures came to The Art Museum during the Curatorship of Frances Follin Jones. In 1962 and 1964, Professor Emeritus Edward Sampson (’14) donated the collection formed by his father Alden Sampson. Alden Sampson had travelled widely around Greece and Italy, sometimes painting side-by-side with his younger contemporary Edward Waldo Forbes, long Director of the Fogg Museum of Art at Harvard. Alden Sampson acquired splendid heads from Attic stelai of the fourth century B.C. and fine, if battered Roman copies of likenesses of Demosthenes, Homer, a putative Perikles, and a fragmentary, upper part of the head of the playwright Aischylos. This collection had spent many years on deposit in the labyrinth-like old Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. As Michael Padgett has pointed out, when the much-missed Peter H. von Blanckenhagen bequeathed his very Late Antique head of the Lysippic Sokrates to Princeton, The Art Museum could rival any collection in the New World in its display of thought-provoking presentations of Greek literati and “Perikles” (no. 11), now recognized as a somewhat-ideal representation perhaps of one of the Greek generals in the Persian Wars. Even the Sampson head of an elderly man of around 340 to 330 B.C. has been thought to relate closely to the bronze original of the so-called Lateran (now Vatican) Sophokles. And to all this literate wealth must be added the Stroganoff relief of the playwright Menander contemplating a text and a collection of masks, a great Augustan sculpture (no. 32), which Frances Jones purchased at the time when M. Bieber was much on the Princeton scene, helping with F.F. Jones, The Theater in Ancient Art, teaching a seminar, and revising her own The History of the Greek and Roman Theater for the Princeton University Press. The presence of the Menander Relief in New York was due to the Neopolitan antiquarian-restorer Piero Tozzi, once a pupil of the great Vittorio Spinazzola, who wrote the book on the decorative arts of Pompeii and Herculaneum in the Museo Nazionale, Naples.

Being a lover of other marbles with histories, my eyes fell upon the small, rather pedestrian Attic Grave Stele (no. 6, broken across at the head of the larger figure, and somewhat worn), the gift of Mrs. Ernest Sandoz. Its nineteenth century associations far outweigh its aesthetic values, although students can find it a springboard to study of other Athenian grave markers, records of decrees, and votive reliefs of around 398/7 (Jones) or 340 B.C. (Ridgway). Frances Jones has shown ( Hesperia Suppl. 20, 1982, pp. 63-64 [not 65-66], pl. 10) that the donor’s father, Rear Admiral Thomas Crabbe, surely acquired the “modest gravestone” of a maiden and her servant or younger sister at the Piraeus or in Athens during the first eighteen days of August, 1852. The Admiral (then Captain) was forced by mechanical difficulties or required by protocol to stay in Piraeus harbor with the steam frigate under his command (the USS San Jacinto), while en route from Constantinople to Trieste.

Another acquisition from Athens in the nineteenth century came as a gift of Joan Prentice von Erdberg, a descendant of the collector (unnamed). This fragmentary, inscribed votive relief of about 390 to 375 B.C. (no. 3) shows Myron and Lykiskos, who may be descendants of the famous sculptor who made the Discobolus, Athena and Marsyas, the Cow, and perhaps a Dog and a Drunken Hag. Myron had a sculptor son named Lykios.

While Princeton is lucky to possess a Julio-Claudian version of the head of the Satyr from the popular Hellenistic rococo group known as the “Invitation to the Dance” (no. 26), the recently-accessioned Head of a Nymph (no. 27) of about A.D. 260, from the famous cache of sculptures at Antioch-on-the-Orontes, had its own head of a Satyr which has stayed in the Archaeological Museum at Antakya rather than coming to Princeton. It would have been useful to include a photograph of the Antioch Satyr in the text about the Antioch Nymph, and possibly even a view of the group on the Severan coin of Cyzicus or a reconstruction. I had already shown them together, thanks to the kindnesses of Richard Stillwell, in Essays in Memory of Karl Lehman, New York, 1964, p. 369, fig. 14. But perhaps photographic comparanda, useful also elsewhere, would have made this wonderful Catalogue too large and certainly more expensive.

Since the Nymph from the “Invitation to the Dance” was seated in a manner recalling an X-rated Tyche of Antioch, comparisons could be made with the other masterpiece accessioned by Curator Michael Padgett from the Syrian excavations, the Gravestone of Tryphe found at Seleucia-on-the-Orontes (no. 10). Tryphe is posed like the Tyche of Antioch, a footstool where swimming Orontes should be. Unfortunately her face and right hand raised to it have been smashed away. Compare Karen Manchester, “A Bronze Statuette Representing the Tyche of Antioch: Roman Copy or Roman Original?”, as Re/Collections, No. 1, 1994; also, “An Obsession with Fortune: Tyche in Greek and Roman Art,” Yale University Art Gallery, Exhibition Events, September through November 1994, p. 1.

At the end. of the Catalogue there is a section called “Dubitanda”, something that Professor Ridgway had addressed in connection with her catalogue of the Classical sculptures in the Rhode Island School of Design at Providence (the last five entries, nos. 51-55). Amy Brauer and I called such questionable sculptures in stone “Post-Classical or Post-Antique” in our 1990 Stone Sculptures, The Greek, Roman and Etruscan Collections of the Harvard University Art Museums. At Princeton, the Head of a Youth which T. Leslie Shear, Sr., purchased in Rhodes (no. 35) in the early years of the Italian occupation was surely created in Italy and planted in the new colony so recently wrested from the Ottoman Empire by gunboat diplomacy. The Head of Aphrodite (no. 36) likewise came to Rhodes from Italy, having been carved there at the turn of the present century. Adolf Furtwangler wrote about heads like this immediately after his visit to America in October, 1904. A similar head, also compared with the Aphrodite of Melos in the Louvre, was published without location by Gisela M.A. Richter, in her The Sculpture and Sculptors of the Greeks, Fourth Edition, Newly Revised, New Haven and London, 1970, p. 142, fig. 575 (Head of the Aphrodite of Melos, fig. 574). The Female Head (no. 37) is rightly published as a misunderstanding of fifth and fourth century B.C. models. The source of this head may have been an atelier in Athens, a workshop also available to the shopkeepers and others of Rhodes.

On the other hand, I do not feel ready to consign the pair of fragmentary Archaistic reliefs to the limbo of doubt (Hestia, no. 38, and Zeus, no. 39). Archaistic reliefs of this type have such iconographic and stylistic peculiarities that these sculptures can be explained as something one would have found in the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, or a contemporary house in Naples, Capua, or the areas of Rome and Ostia. The Small Female Head in the Alden Sampson Collection (no. 40) does not suffer from lack of contact with Antiquity. It must have come from an Attic fourth century B.C. votive relief. What has happened to put the viewer off is that someone in relatively modern times has taken a tool and “sharpened” the outline of the eyes, the worn-down nose, and the mouth. The head should have been allowed to remain in a condition similar to no. 67 in the Harvard University Art Museums, a gift from the daughters of Charles Eliot Norton, teacher of both Alden Sampson and Edward Waldo Forbes. (Indeed, Alden Sampson joined with Richard Norton of Cyrene fame, son of Charles Eliot, and Edward Waldo Forbes in presenting one of the finest Palmyrene sepulchral reliefs in America to the Fogg Museum of Art at Harvard. Richard Norton had purchased the sculpture in Damascus. See Stone Sculptures, p. 163, no. 149.)

To conclude on a note of triumph rather than one of mild negativism, the fairly recently acquired (1983-84) Tarentine Funerary (or Votive?) Relief, catalogued here by Professor Connelly, is a tour de force in the realm of sculpture related to the theater, so much a strength in the Princeton collection. The date is early in the third century B.C., because the subject is taken from the Rudens of Plautus (303 to 290 B.C.). In a big, bold, heavy and dramatic style, the distraught old priestess with her giant temple key over her shoulder protects and comforts the maiden Palaestra and the serving girl Ampelisca. The younger women are seated on the altar of Aphrodite, having survived a shipwreck and subsequent attempts at recapture. Maiden and servant were being abducted from Cyrene to Sicily by the pimp Labrax. While the play is classed as a comedy, and most such scenes in Tarentine funerary reliefs come from Greek tragedy, this relief could be funerary or votive since the presentation here is far from comic in outlook.

The Princeton and the Harvard Catalogues are exactly the same size and about the same thickness, a difference being 40 entries for the former and 156 sculptures in the latter. These numbers suggest the riches to come in the (Etruscan ? and) Roman volume from The Art Museum at Princeton University. In The Art Museum Princeton University, Newsletter, Fall 1993, “Recent Acquisition”, p. 2, J. Michael Padgett has published a Claudian (A.D. 41 to 54) marble portrait of a beardless, middle-aged man with short hair and the veristic look of an important person of the period around 50 B.C. He may be a dynastic memorial to Julius Caesar. In any case he will look splendid in the Roman volume, which I hope Curator Padgett will prepare, soon.