BMCR 2003.03.20

Style and Politics in Athenian Vase-Painting: The Craft of Democracy, ca. 530-460 BCE

, Style and politics in Athenian vase-painting : the craft of democracy, ca. 530-460 B.C.E.. Cambridge studies in classical art and iconography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. xxii, 306 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm.. ISBN 0521791111. $80.00.

Richard Neer’s important book considers interactions between vase-painting and social or political discourses at Athens in the late Archaic and Early Classical periods. What sets it apart from other studies of such interactions, and constitutes its originality, is its insistence that vase-painting was a formative part of those discourses and not merely reflective of them. In the first chapter of the book, Neer describes the social practices of the symposium, the occasion for which the vases were most likely designed for use. He argues that three aspects of the symposium in particular are also thematized in red-figure Athenian vase-painting: first, poetry created for or performed in symposia is characterized by rich ornamentation, riddles, puns, and a high degree of self consciousness; second, the symposium played an important role in the formation of elite social identity, and sympotic activities (poetic performance and role-playing) encouraged the development of a notion of identity characterized above all by malleability and adaptability to the needs of the group. Third, because the symposium, as a social custom, was the prerogative of the social and economic elite of the city, it was inherently political. In subsequent chapters, Neer argues that Athenian red-figure vase-painting actively cultivated or exploited those three aspects of sympotic life. Chapter two makes the case that the origins and development of red-figure as a style can be understood according to the values of sympotic poetry: the red-figure technique gained favor because it made possible an especially rich, ornate pictorial style. The development of the new style among the painters of the Pioneer Group is characterized by playful ambiguity, self-referentiality, and a striking degree of self-consciousness. Chapter three examines vase-paintings in which members of the Pioneer Group depicted each other (or, in one case at least, in which a potter depicted himself) as participants in symposia and other activities associated with the aristocracy. Neer argues that the vase-paintings ought to be understood not as documentary evidence of social interaction between vase-painters and the Athenian elite, or as evidence of otherwise unattested working-class symposia, but as manifestations of the role-playing and fluidity characteristic of social identity in a sympotic milieu. He also argues that, because the vase-paintings were created during the very period of Athenian political history when aristocratic prerogatives were beginning to be abrogated by other socioeconomic groups, the potter-portraits have considerable potential ideological charge. Chapter four considers a number of different types of red-figure vase-painting that have traditionally been interpreted as reflections of post-Kleisthenic Athenian political life: representations of a public vote over the armor of Achilles, depictions of the dokimasia, the iconography of the deeds of Theseus, and representations of the Tyrannicides. Neer argues that the vase-paintings are difficult to interpret convincingly as straightforward, unambiguous, or value-free reflections of the democracy or its political innovations. The images neither advocate the new institutions entirely nor articulate a consistent opposition to them. Instead, like sympotic poetry, the vase-paintings afforded their elite viewers a means of creating a place for themselves in the new political environment.1

Running through the four chapters of this book is the idea that ambiguity is a definitive characteristic of Athenian red-figure vase-painting. By ambiguities, Neer does not mean those areas of a vase-painting that appear to us to be unresolvable, due, say, to our experience of pictorial styles or media that record information analogically. He argues that pictorial ambiguity was deliberately sought after and exploited by vase-painters and that it was a source of interest and pleasure to patrons. Most importantly, he argues that pictorial ambiguity afforded the vase-paintings a certain generative potency; they are not transparent windows onto the ancient Athenian world or into the minds of the artists and patrons. As Neer nicely puts it on the last page of the conclusion (p. 185), “painting is a process, an action, not the mirror of something else (‘politics,’ ‘literature,’ ‘history’).” As noted above, the argument is grounded in the social practices surrounding the use of the vases in symposia. It is also grounded in several different theoretical models and in numerous effective close examinations of particular vase-paintings. It is worth considering the theoretical foundations of the thesis in detail, because no other monograph on Athenian vase-painting that I know of uses them so effectively.

In the introduction, Neer explains that his approach is formalist in a post-structuralist sense: “formalism, at its best, takes seriously the idea that images and texts produce meaning, that meaning does not preexist the material sign.” (p. 7, his emphasis). For those concerned with the distant past, of which so few records survive, the principle is especially important: “a robust formalism will not recognize a clean break between artifacts and social life. On the contrary, it will insist that we only know social life in and through the artifacts. For us, the artifactual record just is social life; and, to a lesser extent, it always was” (p. 8). In the second chapter (pp. 23-26), this principle is contrasted with “contextualism,” the assumption that a finite and definitive set of concepts or ideas makes up the background of any object of interpretation, and is capable of providing a guide to understanding its meaning. The trouble with “contextualism” is that the object of interpretation is necessarily part of the set of ideas that makes up what one wants to call its context. Vase-paintings cannot be understood simply as reflections of “sympotic discourse,” because vase-paintings provide us with an important part of the data about what characterized the symposium. Moreover, the principle is significant or operative not only for modern scholars, for whom the ancient world is accessible only through the survival of particular artifacts, but also for the makers and users of the objects: “these vessels [i. e., those used in symposia]—which often as not depict the very symposia at which they were used—cannot be understood as the hypostaseis of some Ur-Symposium, for they helped to define the symposium in the first place: not just for us but for the Greeks as well” (pp. 25-26).

A post-structuralist understanding of the relationship between form and content also guides an important critique of traditional accounts of the stylistic development of late Archaic Greek art in chapter two (pp. 28-32). One weakness of some explanations of the development of the classical style of Greek art is the tacit assumption that, already in the Archaic period, artists had a notion of what characterized classical art, a sense of where style was headed. Gisela Richter’s use of the expression “groping attempts” to describe the representational or figural experiments of an Archaic artist nicely illustrates the problem because it suggests not only that the artist is working in the dark but also, more importantly, that he believes there is a light switch somewhere in the vicinity; in other words, that there is something inherently deficient in his current practice. The classical style is one thing that Archaic artists were, by definition, ignorant of: “the challenge for historians is . . . to understand what the Archaic Greeks were up to given that they did not have the conceptual tools of their Classical and Hellenistic descendants” (p. 29, his emphasis). Richter and others emphasized one particular aspect of classical art, naturalism, as the goal of stylistic development of Greek art. Positing naturalism as the aim of innovations in pictorial or sculptural representation was a means of getting around the obvious difficulty that early Greek artists could not have known what later Greek art would look like; the naturalism-hypothesis presupposed that Greek artists of all periods were attempting to describe accurately and objectively in visual media what the artists actually saw. Neer rests his critique of the naturalism-hypothesis in part on Ernst Gombrich’s critical account in Art and Illusion of the possibility of objective naturalism.2 Pictorial naturalism cannot preexist pictorial representation like some transcendental category of thought but rather comes into being only as a result of the interaction between artists, artwork, and patrons; as a result, what constitutes pictorial naturalism in Classical Athens, Renaissance Florence, or nineteenth-century Paris is not the same. And what constituted naturalism in the Archaic period at Athens will differ from notions of it in the Classical period.3 Standing partly in opposition to naturalism as an explanation of the development of Greek art is idealism, according to which the forms employed in Greek art to represent objects or figures were manifestations of the ways in which those things were conceptualized by the Greeks. The appeal of idealism is that it afforded the possibility of accounting for the development of pictorial style in terms of the development of human consciousness. As the author rightly points out, that kind of explanation of artistic development, grandiosely impressive as it may sound, conceals some deeply problematic assumptions, among which is, again, the idea that “meaning does not arise from the material object in its scene of viewing but rather precedes that object, is embodied in it” (p. 30, his italics).

In advancing his critique of traditional explanations of the origins and development of Athenian red-figure vase-painting, Neer relies not only on a post-structuralist understanding of signification. In chapter two, in an effort to describe with precision one part of the ambiguity of red-figure vase-painting, Neer also makes recourse to Richard Wollheim’s important writing on the nature of pictorial representation in the fine arts. Neer is particularly interested in the distinction between what the philosopher calls “seeing-as” and what he terms “seeing-in.” Perceiving a configuration of contours, colors, or materials as a figure or an object—mistaking the configuration for the thing itself—is not the manner of seeing on which pictorial representation is, most often, predicated. Pictorial representation takes advantage of the human capacity to see a figure or an object in a configuration of lines or materials while registering, at the same time, the lines or materials as such—to see a Wagnerian conductor in a cloud (to employ an example from Wollheim) while recognizing, at the same time, that one is looking at a cloud, not a human being. Wollheim emphasized that seeing-in is one experience and not two: a viewer does not oscillate between perceiving the conductor at one point and perceiving only the cloud in the next instant. Wollheim’s theory of pictorial representation—his belief in the inseparability of the two-fold nature of the perception of a representation in particular—not only guides Neer’s close looking at individual vase-paintings but also dovetails with Neer’s critique of earlier scholarly attempts to explain stylistic development in Athenian vase-painting. His account of Wollheim’s concept, for example, is prompted by a careful description of a set of fragments by Euphronios (pp. 44-47). In this lovely formal analysis, Neer puts a lot of emphasis on the iteration of particular shapes of line—hooks, s-curves, and arabesques. The repetition of the lines and the exaggerated character of some of them weaken the relationship between line and the visual world outside the image and call attention to the material nature of the painted line: “it resists the totalizing correspondence of sign and referent which defines the modern, ’empiricist’ model of stylistic development” (p. 47). By “empiricist model,” Neer is referring of course to some of the theories of the stylistic development of red-figure vase-painting that he analyzed critically at the beginning of chapter two.

The strengths of the critique lie not only in the effective use of contemporary theoretical or philosophical literature, but also in the perceptive and articulate close readings of vase-paintings. This book contains numerous extended descriptive analyses of vase-paintings that serve to demonstrate the difficulties of wringing transparent truths out of the pictures as well as the inherent playfulness of the works of art. In addition to the examination of the fragments by Euphronios mentioned above, I single out as especially persuasive Neer’s exegeses of Euphronios’ krater in Arezzo (pp. 55-56) and the name-vase of the Foundry Painter (pp. 77-84). In the former, he emphasizes that the revolutionary foreshortening of the foot of an Amazon archer occurs in close proximity to a tendril that has crept into the narrative representation >from the floral handle ornament. Whatever sense of pictorial space or depth the foreshortened foot may evoke is squashed by the intrusion of the floral ornament: “the radical assertion of space dissolves into a strange, duck-rabbit oscillation of flatness and depth” (p. 56). Moreover, as Neer shows, the close juxtaposition of radically foreshortened foot and flat palmette ornament on the vase in Arezzo is a juxtaposition that was repeated by several other red-figure vase-painters; it was not a compositional accident to be avoided in future vase-paintings but a pictorial conceit that was emulated. The point of departure for the lengthy analysis of the Foundry Painter’s cup is the valuation of the cup in modern scholarship chiefly as a source of information about ancient sculptural practices, and the notion that the style of its creator is a form of realism. Neer demonstrates effectively that, under the weight of those assumptions or expectations, the visual representation of the atelier collapses: the distinctions between parts of a statue and parts of a human body are anything but clear cut; in the case of the disembodied heads and the frontal face of the bellows man, placed in close proximity to one other, the vase-painting seems deliberately to be undercutting or at least toying with the difference. And the vase-painter seems to have gone out of his way to confound the scales or dimensions of figures on the reverse of the cup: are the spectators of the same order of being as the men polishing the statue but drawn to the over-life-size scale of the statue, or are they statues of an improbable subject matter and style? In appreciating the vase-paintings on the cup for whatever they can tell us about the operations of a foundry, we have to bracket that which ought to be a chief object of our attention, namely, the extent to which the vase-paintings actively work against any such “dream of referential perfection” (p. 84).4

In short, Neer’s critical account of modern scholarly explanation of style change in Greek art is a major contribution to classical archaeology and art history. There are few accounts of the modern scholarship on the origins and development of red-figure vase-painting that so thoroughly expose the underlying assumptions guiding the traditional theories of style change and that explain so well why they are problematic. It is well informed by recent philosophical and theoretical reflection on the nature of representation and signification, and it thoroughly demonstrates the relevance and usefulness of the concepts through effective close examination of individual vase-paintings. It may have the effect of fundamentally reorienting the scholarly debate on the development of style in Greek art.

I emphasize the effectiveness of the theoretical underpinnings and close readings of vase-paintings in Neer’s interpretation of the stylistic development of red-figure vase-painting, because I find parts of the other foundation of his project—the analogy between sympotic literature and vase-painting—to be problematic. Neer’s familiarity with the secondary scholarship on the symposium—on its poetry, customs, and iconography—is substantial; my reservations do not concern his knowledge of the material but rather what he chooses to emphasize. I single out two areas of apparent inconsistency: first, this book frequently employs a concept from the sympotic poetry attributed to Theognis, poikilon êthos, to characterize the kinds of malleability that it finds in the style of drawing of early red-figure, in the formation of identity in the elite milieu of the symposium, and in the social or political negotiations necessitated by the reforms of Kleisthenes: “‘to all your friends keep turning your poikilon êthos, properly mixing your temperament to the like of each. Have the temperament of a tangled cuttlefish, who always looks like whatever rock he has just clung to'” (pp. 15-16, Neer’s translation of Thgn. 213-218). The difficulty lies in precisely what this phrase means, and the trouble stems from Neer’s approach to Giovanni Ferrari’s interpretation of Theognis’ expression: “‘to see this as a Goffmanesque donning and doffing of social masks would be to appeal to the concept of an authentic ego “behind” the masks that seems to me simply not applicable here'” (p. 17, a quotation from Ferrari). Neer seems to accept this formulation—”although Ferrari’s vision of an Archaic man devoid of inner life may be too extreme, the basics of his reading seem valid” (p. 17)—and then repeatedly to draw back from this endorsement. As a result, I am not certain precisely what this concept means, a concept that is critical to Neer’s explication of ambiguity in vase-painting. For example, in the exegesis of Ferrari’s interpretation, one reads, in the same paragraph, two statements that seem irreconcilable to me: that “this adaptability is not quite the same as acting or role-playing. Quite the contrary: the cuttlefish’s transformation is, in theory at least, a complete identification with the environment” and “to be a good companion is to play a role, to engage in a mimesis strictly comparable to that of a theatrical actor” (p. 17). On p. 23, Ferrari’s interpretation of poikilon êthos is once again advocated, but this time its acceptance is qualified: “if it is taken to mean that the hetairos neither stood aloof from, nor melded wholly with, his hetaireia.” I do not see how this can be squared with the presentation of Ferrari’s views on p. 17, where there is no indication of any distance at all between the individual (cuttlefish) and his group (the rock). On p. 98, the interiority that originally had no real place in the interpretation of the expression (“as soon as one dispenses with an anachronistic notion of interiority” p. 17) has reappeared: “[ poikilon êthos ] a sympotic ideology that recognizes interiority even as it advocates corporate identity . . . .” Not only is there a lack of precision in the definition of this important and pervasive trope, but also flirting with Ferrari’s interpretation of it seems to me to stand in contradiction to other principles adhered to in this book. For example, in expressing approval of Ferrari’s interpretation, Neer notes (p. 221 n. 61) that Bernard Williams, in contrast, has argued “against progressivist and Hegelian notions of the development of the subject in the field of Classical Studies.” On pp. 28-30, however, Neer himself advances compelling arguments against progressivist and Hegelian accounts of the development of Greek art and thought, such as that of Bruno Snell; and in that section of the book, Neer is in agreement with the arguments of Bernard Williams (p. 223 n. 2). On p. 2, the book signals that it is going to resist the conceptualization of ancient mentalities as “childlike or primitive.” The book is largely successful in doing that, and so the interpretation of poikilon êthos toyed with in places strikes me as anomalous. Given the importance of this expression in the overall argument of the book (it occurs twice, for example, in the conclusions, and has twelve entries in the index), it is unfortunate that greater precision and consistency is not brought to bear on its meaning.

The second difficulty is with the interpretation of the representations of potters and vase-painters (all of which are referred to by the short-hand expression “potter-portraits”) presented in chapter three. The interpretation begins with a detailed analysis of the well-known stamnos signed by Smikros as painter, on the obverse of which the painter has depicted himself as a participant in a lavish symposium, and (a nice observation) “the men who actually work with vases [i. e., mix and serve wine with them] are banished to the reverse” (p. 99, his italics). Neer rightly emphasizes that the image is ideologically improbable, to judge from the many expressions of contempt for artisans on the part of aristocrats in Greek literature; if vase-painters actually did banquet with the social elite in late sixth-century Athens, the practice would have been aberrant, and the images of such interactions would still retain some ideological charge and invite some special explanation. The author’s close readings of Smikros’ self-portrait as well as other potter-portraits highlight a number of noteworthy pictorial ambiguities, which he relates to the paradox inherent in the subject matter of artisans dining with social elites. As noted above, he argues that potter-portraits ought to be interpreted along the lines of the role-playing that characterizes some sympotic literature. And he suggests that the appearance of potter-portraits is related to the social upheavals attending the democratic revolution at Athens. The emphasis on those points, however, comes at the expense of another line of interpretation, one that also has good parallels in sympotic literature, namely, that the potter-portraits are satirical or parodic in intent, and that the intended viewers of the visual jokes were other potters and vase-painters as well as the traditional patrons of painted pottery.5

One of the difficulties with an interpretation of potter-portraits that focuses on self-fashioning is that only one of the surviving vase-paintings (the stamnos by Smikros) is unquestionably a self-portrait. The other potter-portraits were made, or most likely made, to judge from signatures or attribution, by other members of the Pioneer Group, not by the potter or painter depicted in the vase-painting. In order to maintain that the vase-paintings are concerned with self-representation, rather than characterizing or caricaturing others, a rather big leap has to be made. In the opening paragraph of the chapter, the potter-portraits are all supposed to have the same aim: “the object represented is either the maker himself or a stand-in for him” (p. 87). The characterization of the potters represented in the vase-painters as stand-ins for the makers of the vase-paintings is a bold assertion that is not supported by detailed argumentation. On p. 102, it is stated that, on a well-known hydria attributed to Phintias, which depicts the vase-painter Euthymides receiving instruction in classical music, “Phintias effectively projects himself into the world of the aristocracy: but he does not do so directly. Here already, in other words, the insertion of the laborer into an elite milieu requires a certain masking . . . .” That is one possible interpretation of the artist’s intention, but I do not see how such a requirement for concealment can be squared with Smikros’ portrayal of himself as a symposiast. A more straightforward conjecture is that Phintias intended not to project himself into the world of the aristocracy but to insert Euthymides into that milieu. There are several possible reasons—flattery is one—why Phintias might have wanted to do that, but there are good reasons to believe that such a representation, whatever its intentions, would have been incongruous, as Neer persuasively argues; and several potter-portraits are amenable to the hypothesis that the incongruity of lowly potters engaged in sophisticated activities was meant to be a source of humor. On the shoulder of Phintias’ hydria, for example, there is an inscribed toast or tribute—”this [throw] is for you, fair Euthymides”—offered by one of the pert call-girls engaged in a symposium; one reasonable interpretation is that the girls are teasing Euthymides with the prospect of a sympotic experience or encounter that he will most likely never actually enjoy—saying, in effect, “in your dreams Euthymides.” The psykter in Malibu of uncertain attribution (possibly Smikros) depicts a man labelled “Euphronios” courting a youth named “Leagros.” Neer appears to take this as a positive tribute by Smikros to his role-model: “it is tempting to suppose that, in its own crude fashion, the picture shows what success—wild, impossible success; success worth emulating—might be like” (p. 101). But Jirí Frel perceptively suggested that the same scene is “rather gauche.” Eva Keuls suggested that Leagros does not appear to be responsive to Euphronios’ passes, and that his physique, with its weak chin, can hardly be considered kalos. She argued, in short, that the vase-painting is satirical in intent.6 Keuls also argued that Euphronios’ portrait of Smikros at a symposium depicts the latter in a less respectable light than Smikros’ portrait of himself at a symposium on the vase in Brussels, that Euphronios’ vase-painting contains satirical elements (the figure of Smikros appears to be slightly too old to play the role of eromenos; he is not as sensitive to the power of the music as he is shown to be in the self-portrait), and that one of the vase-paintings is likely to be a humorous commentary on the other.7

In Style and Politics, potter-portraits are interpreted either as collective forms of self-fashioning by one particular group of vase-painters, or as affording elite symposiast-patrons the comfort of seeing their prerogatives maintained in the period of Kleisthenic reforms (“we are all aristocrats now”—p. 131). What receives less attention is the possibility that the potter-portraits were part of the more or less friendly rivalry between the members of the Pioneer Group. The existence of such a rivalry is acknowledged by Neer in chapter two (p. 51), where he accepts the famous inscription on a vase signed by Euthymides as painter—”as never Euphronios”—as direct evidence for commercial competition between the two artists. But the potential relevance of that inscription for the understanding of the potter-portraits is not fully registered in this book. In chapter two, relations between vase-painters are correctly characterized as potential competitive rivalries, but in chapter three the vase-painters seem to put aside their rivalries, so to speak, and make common cause in their collective fantasy, as a social group or class, of enjoying elite privileges. There is an important structural similarity, however, between Euthymides’ inscribed taunt and most of the potter-portraits. In both instances, a vase-painter makes a statement about another potter or painter through writing and drawing on a vase that says, in effect, “you are not capable of undertaking this or that activity.” Euthymides’ inscription makes explicit—”never”—what is implicit, for ideological reasons well-articulated by Neer, in the representations of potters and vase-painters engaged in elite activities. It is possible that there is a further structural similarity between Euthymides’ vase-painting and potter-portraits. Like many scholars, Neer (p. 227 n. 74) takes Euthymides’ inscription to refer to the quality of the drawing. It is important to emphasize, however, that the reader of the inscription “as never Euphronios” has to supply a point of comparison, because the inscription itself does not explicitly specify what it is that is impossible for Euphronios. That the point of comparison is drawing might be suggested by the inscription on the other side of the vase, “Euthymides son of Polias painted [me],” i. e., as Euphronios never could. But there is nothing about the form or placement of the inscription on the obverse that encourages one to read it together with any particular inscription on the reverse. Other vases suggest that vase-painters sometimes wrote vase-inscriptions that required the viewer to supply a subject or action for the statement from the visual motifs included in the picture, for example, the pelike by Euthymides in St. Petersburg (pp. 63-64) or the amphora in Paris most likely by Euphronios (pp. 119-122). Engelmann and Neumann suggested that the statement “as never Euphronios” ought to be understood in this way, as referring to the dancing depicted in the image. Neer points out that there are several difficulties with the readings of the inscriptions proposed by those scholars. One does not have to accept their association of the inscriptions “komarchos” and “as never Euphronios,” however, to connect the latter inscription with the subject matter of the vase-painting, rather than the quality of the drawing. Taking the subject of “as never Euphronios” to be participation in the kind of aristocratic komos depicted on the vase would bring the vase-painting in line with most of the other potter-portraits, which depict potters and painters engaged in an elite social life that they, most likely, never experienced in real life.

The absence of consideration in this book of the effects the potter-portraits might have on other potters and vase-painters can perhaps be correlated with the brief sketch of workshop-client relations on p. 129. Perhaps owing to its brevity and schematic nature, the sketch seems to make several assumptions that are open to question. One implication of the account is that the only people who would not have known “that Euthymides was a banausos and not a lyre-playing aristocrat” would be purchasers of vases who lived in Etruria or South Italy. I am not certain, however, that elite Athenian symposiasts would remember the names of the artisans who painted the vases from which they sipped their wine, even if they were in the habit of reading all the inscriptions on their cups or kraters. Furthermore, the cleverness of the potter-portrait, in its usual form, is that name of vase-painting’s creator is not the same as the name of the banausos usurping the elite privileges; the purchaser may not have recognized the banausos by name as someone who ought not to be lying on a fine couch, and if he did, he may have been inclined to direct his displeasure—if he felt any—at the usurper represented in the image (these are, after all, rhetorically effective images) and not at the creator of the vase-painting. The other questionable assumption is that “the potter-portraits may have been comprehensible only to their makers, and their transgression of social boundaries could have been a private affair” only (and this is the questionable implication) if the vases were intended for export overseas. I do not see why we cannot posit two distinct groups of viewers of the potter-portraits and hypothesize more than one reaction to the vase-paintings. Neer has eloquently articulated one possible set of expectations, but I believe that there is room for another story.

The issues on which I have focussed in this review reflect my limited perspective as an iconographer or interpreter of Athenian vase-painting. I cannot do justice to the breadth of the scholarship that informs this book. Richard Neer is remarkably well informed about a wide variety of issues surrounding the reconstruction of Archaic and Classical Athenian culture and the interpretation of works of art and literature. Scholars interested in the culture of the symposium, in the style and attribution of early red-figure vases, and in the rise of democratic institutions at Athens will find many valuable and sometimes provocative ideas in this book. It is one of the most wide-ranging and ambitious books on Athenian vase-painting in the field. In its account of style and stylistic development in red-figure vase-painting, it is a landmark addition to the literature.


1. The book includes two appendices that contain arguments too large to accommodate within particular chapters. The first includes a detailed discussion of the evidence for the absolute chronology of Athenian red-figure vase-painting and an argument for establishing a terminal date for the Pioneer Group of 480 B. C. The second appendix addresses the question of what sort of vessels, metal or ceramic, were used in elite symposia at Athens in the Archaic and Classical periods and argues in favor of the latter.

2. On pp. 31-32, Neer also offers a lengthy critique of the explanation of the development of the classical style that Gombrich articulated in his well-known essay, “Reflections on the Greek Revolution.” I offer a different assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of Gombrich’s theory in Capturing Troy: The Narrative Functions of Landscape in Archaic and Early Classical Greek Art, (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001), 226-33.

3. To Neer’s bibliography on this matter, I would add the trenchant critique of notions of objective naturalism in Nelson Goodman, Languages of Art (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1976), esp. 3-43.

4. I am not as sympathetic to the author’s interpretation of the tondo of the cup, because it presupposes a detailed knowledge on the part of the vase-painter of the text of the Iliad as we have it. In my opinion, such a close familiarity with the epic or interest in its mode of narration on the part of vase-painters is unlikely in the late Archaic or Early Classical periods.

5. Compare, e. g., “Charilaos, son of Erasmon, by far the dearest of my companions, I shall tell you something funny and you will be delighted to hear it,” Archilochos frag. 168 West, trans. after Gerber; with a patronymic like Erasmon—”Darlingson,” as Gerber suggested—Charilaos himself may be the object of humor in this poem.

6. Jirí Frel, “A View Into Phintias’ Private Life.” In Festschrift für Leo Mildenberg, edited by Arthur Houghton, Silvia Hunter, and Jane Ayer Scott (Wetteren, 1984), 58. The relevant papers of Keuls are listed in Neer’s bibliography. Keul’s study contains an odd error (Euthydemus for Euthymides), but its identifications of possible places of satire or caricature in Pioneer vase-painting are worthy of consideration. See also Martin Robertson 1992, 26-27.

7. The possibility of parody in Euphronios’ vase-painting is also raised by Frel, and the relationship between the two vase-paintings was considered by Vermeule among others; both references are in Neer’s bibliography.