BMCR 2011.11.18

Attisch rotfigure Gefässe – weissgrundige Lekythen. Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. Österreich. Wien, KHM Bd 5

, Attisch rotfigure Gefässe - weissgrundige Lekythen. Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. Österreich. Wien, KHM Bd 5. Wien: Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (ÖAW)W), 2011. 143. ISBN 9783700166122. € 72.00.


This is the fifth volume in the post-World War II Austrian Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum series and the first to be published since 1984. As the earlier ones, it features vases from the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna: in this case 123 vessels, all from the classical period, and mainly Attic red-figure askoi, oinochoi, shoulder lekythoi and squat lekythoi, in addition to white-ground lekythoi and head vases. Singletons include an amphoriskos and an Attic red-figure guttus, a kyathos and a fragment of an open vase. Highlights of the collection presented comprise a Type 6 oinochoe by the Painter of the Paris Gigantomachy with a lively komos scene (pls. 23-24 and 88.7), several white- ground lekythoi by the Achilles Painter, including one of a man and woman visiting a woman’s grave (pls. 69 and 83.3), and the famous white-ground lekythos by the Woman Painter showing a prothesis (pls. 74-75 and 84.1). Of particular iconographic interest are several of the squat lekythoi, one of which shows Aphrodite riding a griffin (pl. 63.1-6) and another with a diving or somersaulting Eros between women (pls. 64 and 85.2), all of whom hold what appear to be model ships.

In general, volumes such as this that include multiple examples of a particular shape are especially helpful to the user looking for comparanda and an update of the bibliography for that particular shape, so this volume is a welcome addition. The entries, in general, are very well-written and accurate, and the author is to be praised for her careful work. The comparanda and bibliography are also very rich, and the Beazley Archive CVA-Online number is cited when possible. There are several interesting observations about the proveniences of specific vases (e.g. pp. 40, 67, 92, and 103), the subject matter on lekythoi (pp. 64 and 86), and the use of inscriptions by the Carlsruhe Painter (p. 56), among others. Minor complaints are that in a few cases the person who attributed the vase is not indicated (e.g. pp. 13 and 18) and no use is made of Alan Johnston’s work on graffiti.

The illustrations are another story. Unfortunately, the quality of the black-and-white images is sometimes poor, with parts of the scenes depicted not clearly visible and not evenly lit; often sections are washed out by the light reflecting off the black gloss surface of the vessel. Very useful are the full set of profile drawings, but in a few cases they are reproduced at an odd scale, rather than the normal 1:1 or 1:2 (ex., Beilage 7, 12, 20.2, 38-39 and 40). There are also useful drawings of the scenes on two of the white lekythoi (Beilage 47-48). Similar drawings would have been very helpful for several of the other white lekythoi where the scene described is difficult to make out on the color photographs (e.g., pls. 72.1-4, 72.5-8, 76 and 78). In addition, there are also useful x-ray views showing the interior containers on three of the white lekythoi (pp. 107, 108 and 110), and in one case old photographs of the vase (pl. 70.4-6) are given which show many details of the drawing now lost on one white lekythos. A rich set of indices concludes the text, including for the first time to my knowledge an index of ornament types and another listing the earlier owners of the vases and the art dealers who handled some of them.

Perhaps controversial is the soft-bound cover instead of the traditional box or hard-bound copy. One wonders how long the shelf-life of this paperback will be before it needs to be rebound. On the other hand, an online edition is also available. All of the vases had the restorations removed so the reader knows quickly the ancient lines. The white-ground lekythos, inventory number IV 3218 (pls. 82 and 84,8), whose drawing is clearly modern, should not have been included in the volume, and the two non-Attic squat lekythoi on pl. 56 also should have been omitted.

Various technologies were employed in preparing this volume for publication, which include the use of a 3D- Laserscanner, multispectral measurements, x-ray, x-ray florescence spectroscopy, measurements in UV and IR light, and microscopy, so in many ways this volume is cutting edge, showing how there still is much life in this old series. The additional good news is that other volumes are now in preparation for the Austrian series, all of which we can greatly look forward to seeing in print. A few minor observations: p. 23 – The woman holds a girdle, not two ribbons.
p. 30 – I think this is more likely the tail, not the skin of an animal.
p. 35 – The K visible in the drawing is not mentioned.
p. 45 – The head seems to me to be that of a female, so the head of a maenad, not of Dionysos.
p. 48 – The vase must be one of a pair, the other showing the figure who pursues her, so she is not a maenad.
p. 55 – The youth is clearly shown in a back view, not a frontal one.
p. 72 – She holds an overlap basket, not a chest.
p. 77 – He does not hold a strigil but makes a wreath.
p. 95 – For kneeling, bathing women, see now R.F. Sutton, The Invention of the Female Nude: Zeuxis, Vase- Painting, and the Kneeling Bather,” in: J.H. Oakley and O. Palagia (eds.), Athenian Potters and Painters II (Oxford, Oxbow 2009) 270-279.
p. 123 – The lekythos is by the P Potter in the Achilles Painter’s workshop.