BMCR 2007.07.40

Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum 81 and 82

, Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. Deutschland Band 81: Bochum, Kunstsammlungen der Ruhr-Universität, Band 2. München: C.H. Beck, 2006. 83 pages. ISBN 9783406544422
, Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. Deutschland Band 81: Bochum, Kunstsammlungen der Ruhr-Universität, Band 2. München: C.H. Beck, 2007. 109 pages. ISBN 9783406558542

In three successive years (2005-2007) the Bochum museum has produced three exemplary CVAs, all by the learned scholar Norbert Kunisch (hereafter K.), who has done so much to publicize the vases in this wide-ranging and distinctive collection. The Ruhr University Art Museum has two major areas of collecting (antiquities and contemporary art) which are uniquely juxtaposed such that one encounters a life-size cast of the Polyphemos Group from Sperlonga along with a bust by Giacometti. The bulk of the ancient art collection was donated by private collectors (Karl Welz and Julius Funcke) and so is unfortunately without provenience.

The first CVA (2005; see BMCR 2006.03.36) presented the Mycenaean through Attic black-figure, a total of 92 vases. CVA 2 is devoted to the 82 Attic red-figure, white-ground and black-slip vases, and CVA 3 contains the rest of the non-Attic collection (Cypriot, East Greek, Corinthian, Laconian, Chalcidian, Boeotian, Etruscan, Italic, South Italian, Sicilian, and Hellenistic) amounting to 162 vases. Thus, the Bochum museum has acquired 336 vases spanning over a millennium and representing an impressive array of fabrics, shapes, techniques, artists, and iconography. As a university collection one could not ask for a better teaching resource, and the ancient ceramics have been well utilized for thematic exhibitions over the years.

Like the first CVA, these two are exemplary with their crisp and generous images, 1:1 profile drawings, comprehensive descriptions, and ample indices. They will be a joy to consult for generations to come, even as the CVA plates are being added to the Beazley Archive on-line database. This review will highlight some of the more unusual and interesting pieces in the collection.

Among the numerous small Corinthian vases, mostly perfume flasks, the krater, attributed to the Detroit Painter by K., stands out. Previously unpublished it depicts in the main upper zone three pairs of padded komasts on one side, and a heraldic composition of two roosters flanking a large snake on the other. The Detroit Painter (formerly known as the “Banquet Scene Painter”) preferred riders and banquets, and this would be his first scene of komasts, although the antithetical cocks are also found on his krater in Riehen. A pair of nude, long-haired komasts appear in the tondo of a well-preserved Laconian kylix; they are dancing to the tune of the aulos played by a third young komast. A typical all-black Laconian krater with only a meander decorating the white-ground lip is also nearly intact. An East Greek band cup features six dolphins swimming left on each side, and, not surprisingly given K.’s interest in Fischteller,1 there is an extraordinary number (16) of South Italian fish plates in this collection. They range from modest (15 cm in diameter; 3 fish) to extraordinary (35.5 cm in diameter; 7 fish). Assigned to the Asteas-Python workshop in Paestum, the last has magnificent sea creatures, especially the octopus and squid, whose flesh is rendered in strokes of dilute slip. Three comparable Campanian fish plates can be found in the museums of Cleveland, Toledo and Princeton. A uniquely evocative vase painting is that on a Gnathian oinochoe: on an unusual grave monument in the shape of a truncated cone rests a hollow bronze (indicated by yellowish slip) muscle cuirass. Draped upon the monument are two fillets, on its step rest two eggs and a pomegranate, and it is flanked by two round shields. Oddly reminiscent of the Tomb of Lyson and Kallikles in Macedonia, one wonders if this unprecedented scene might not represent the cenotaph of a warrior fallen far from his home in southern Italy?

Among the Attic red-figure vases, kylixes predominate, and within that shape Makron is the best represented artist — again not surprisingly given K.’s scholarship on this particular vase painter.2 Three of Makron’s cups depict courtship scenes, which were popular in late Archaic Athens. On the earliest one women seem to be propositioning youths (side ἀ, while on a later one it is erastes with their eromenoi, displaying various modes of solicitation from the subtle gaze to the not-so-subtle a tergo approach. It may be of interest to economic historians that the older man in the center on each side is clearly holding two coins. Another cup shows maenads dancing ecstatically on the exterior (a favorite motif of Makron) but the interior is undecorated — a novelty in this period.

The fifth and largest (33 cm in diameter) cup is one of Makron’s masterpieces and it is surely for this reason that the charming spotted leopard with lolling red tongue under each handle has become the logo for the Bochum antiquities collection. It provides ‘portraits’ of a large number of Greek divinities (14), twelve on the exterior: enthroned Zeus with Ganymede, Dionysos and Semele (according to K.), Poseidon and Amphitrite (side A); Apollo and Artemis, Ares with Nike and Aphrodite above whom flutters Eros (side B). Most wear or hold appropriate attributes and all but Eros and Semele (?) have their names inscribed. Because with the exception of the twin gods, there is an erotic rather than familial relationship between the pairs of deities, one might possibly identify the woman with Dionysos as Ariadne. Sadly much of the interior of the cup is missing, but enough survives to recognize Herakles at left confronting the goddess Athena at right. She too was undoubtedly pouring a libation (as Ganymede and Nike do on the exterior) and K. provides a reconstructed drawing of this scene. The same pair, and even posed the same way, appears on a large cup decorated thirty years later by the Penthesilea Painter — and coincidentally (?) both sold to Bochum by the same Swiss dealer. In contrast to the late Archaic one, this early Classical pair do nothing but stand calmly and stare into each others’ eyes. The outside is somewhat more animated, showing as it does the departure of warriors, and, because of the chariot, the distraught woman (Eriphyle?) and the young boy at her side (Alkmaion?), possibly that of Amphiaraos.

Other noteworthy and rare scenes of myth on the vases in Bochum include: Herakles supporting the heavens in the tondo of a sixth cup by Makron; the contest of Apollo and Marsyas with Hermes, Artemis, Nike and Athena in attendance on a bell krater assigned to the school of the Kadmos Painter; Medea feeding the snake guarding the Golden Fleece as Jason (in oriental garb) watches on a Paestan squat lekythos; Herakles in hot pursuit of the centaur Eurytion, its side already pierced by one of the hero’s arrows, while his bride Deianeira clings to her father Dexamenos, on an Apulian oinochoe attributed to a forerunner of the Lykurgos Painter. (One German transcription error occurs here in the quotation from Trendall: “The Heracles/Eurytion oenochoe is a remarcable [sic] piece.”) The most remarkable mythological scene of all, however, appears on an Attic red-figure pelike attributed to the Niobid Painter: it is a unique depiction of the impending death of Achilles. As Paris aims his second arrow to the right, he gazes into the eyes of Apollo in the center, while Achilles stands nonchalantly at the far right even as the first arrow, in mid-flight, nears his vulnerable heel. More of a curiosity is the Pioneer cup with a running, backward glancing Amazon which nicely illustrates how one vase painter (Hermaios Painter) closely copies another (Euphronios’ signed cup in Munich no. 8953).

Also of interest is a large 4th-century wine jug, known as the Funcke Chous, which has a graffito scratched on the underside of its foot reading ΧΟΕΣ. K has calculated its volume as 2.267 liters, although one official chous should hold 3.28 liters. The inscription might refer to the Choes/Anthesteria festival, especially because there is a torch race on horseback depicted on the vase, but this association has been refuted.3 More likely to be a festival scene is the boxing match on an Attic skyphos by the Penelope Painter because watching the contest are two draped females. The larger one is holding the forked stick usually wielded by male trainers and umpires, and the smaller one is a girl with long ponytail who curiously stands within a large tripod. K. has argued for an epic interpretation, namely that together the girl and tripod constitute prizes in the boxing match, just as they do in the Iliad. The female umpire is a mystery unless she represents a goddess looking after her favorite as Athena does for Odysseus in the foot race during the games held in honor of Patroklos.4

There is clearly much of interest in these two CVAs from Bochum and the vases have received the level of scholarship and photograph presentation that they deserve. My only regret as a reviewer and as an archaeologist is the absence of historical context, which in the case of unique vases lacking comparanda would be doubly welcome.


1. N. Kunisch, Griechische Fischteller. Natur und Bild (1989).

2. N. Kunisch, Makron (1997).

3. R. Hamilton, Choes and Anthesteria (1992) 173-74.

4. The reference cited by K. is Iliad 18, 782f which does not exist; perhaps he means Book 23.