BMCR 2021.07.43

Die Materialität griechischer Vasen: Mikrohistorische Perspektiven in der Vasenforschung

, , Die Materialität griechischer Vasen: Mikrohistorische Perspektiven in der Vasenforschung. Beihefte zum Corpus vasorum antiquorum, 9. München: Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2020. Pp. 176. ISBN 9783769637809 €59,00.

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

Martin Langner’s short essay on materiality and the evidence of the objects is the first of ten contributions that comprise the latest addition to the German series of supplements to the Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. Although this volume is a bit smaller than the nine earlier ones in the series, it still provides a very useful group of essays. Several others originally intended for the volume will be, or have been, published elsewhere. Thus, the volume as originally planned was larger than it ended up being, but this has had no effect on the high quality of the text.

Bettina Kreuzer’s excellent contribution centers on a late sixth-century red-figure neck-amphora, Brussels R 296, which she places in the circle of Euphronios and the Leagros Group. Her study contains more important information than can be fully summarized here. Of note are her detailed descriptions of the ornament and her observations on the potting of the vase, which displays slight asymmetry. Marks used to help in construction and decoration of the vessel are visible in places. The only other contemporary example of the use of multi-colored handles other than here is on a neck amphora in Kassel (inventory number T 820). Adding to the decorative program on the Brussels amphora are the stripes on the inside of its mouth and the reserved center on the outside of the triple handles. There are also bundles of short lines for preliminary drawings (e.g., figs. 7 and 10). A few vases, such as an amphora in Vienna, have a similar scheme of ornament. It should also be noted that both figures here depict Greeks, not foreigners.

Isabelle Algrain’s study concerns Attic, Boeotian and Etruscan black-gloss kantharoi. She highlights how innovative Boeotian painters and potters were during the seventh and late sixth centuries BC, and that the region itself was ripe for innovation, as evidenced by the variant of the Six’s technique that was used in Boeotia considerably earlier than in Attica.

Anne Coulié, Cécile Jubier, and Nathalie Buisson use a scanning electron microscope on the grey coloring of the fawn’s fur on the white-ground fragments of Louvre G 249. They belong most likely to a kantharos or rhyton: more likely the former than the latter. The subject on the vessel is primarily a very vivid picture of Dionysos mainomenos and diasparagmos. The god holds out in each hand a part of an animal; a satyr is on the left, a maenad on the right. The decoration on the god’s garment is in grey. An excellent set of color images supports the authors’ arguments and observations, adding to the scientific analyses of the colors. They help to demonstrate that plastic white-ground kantharoi are very rare.

Geometric Marathon and a rich deposit of Late Geometric vases excavated in the area of Plasi by Spyridon Marinatos and Efthymios Mastrokostas in 1969 and 1970, are re-examined by Vicky Vlachou. The site has two dumped fills close to one another that contained an assemblage of pouring vessels, possibly for libations. An heroic and chthonic cult appears to be the cause. The most common shapes in the early ninth to the eighth centuries BC are trefoil oinochoai and one-handled cups. Hydriai dominate from the middle of the eighth century to the early seventh century BC. There are three sizes of vessels: small, medium, and large. The vases appear to be locally made, replacing the earlier oinochoi and one-handled cups as evidenced by the pots. This is very important, for it suggests that we can recognize a new cult place at Plasi, and, during the Archaic Period, a heroic and chthonic cult. My one minor complaint to this excellent study is the author’s use of jargon in places, which can detract from the reader’s understanding of her presentation and hide the value of some of her conclusions.

E. Marianne Stern’s study of one shape, the epinetron from one archeological site, the Athenian Acropolis, is a model presentation. She reviews the past scholarship on the epinetron/onos—a device placed over the knee and upper thigh to be used in wool-working during the Late Archaic period and the second half of the fifth century BC. Details of interest on these objects include the incised scales in regular rows on the upper surface to aid in the wool working, an out-turned rim to help secure the wool, and various other stages in the production. These include fountain-house scenes for the collecting of water, and water being used to wash the women’s lower legs and wool baskets. Earlier scholars concluded that Attic fine ware epinetra were too fragile to be used, because they normally do not show evidence of use and most were found in sanctuaries or graves. –. Interestingly, there are more epinetra from the Acropolis in Athens than from any other site. Painters known to have decorated epinetra include those from the Golonos Group.

Kathleen Lynch and Richard Bidgood contribute a close study of the sympotic vessels connected with the debris from the sack of Athens by the Persians in 480 BC. The pottery was found in a Late Archaic well (J 2:4) in the Agora. The authors demonstrate that the house to which the well and pottery belonged could entertain as many as 14 diners at one time and that the capacities of the drinking vessels changed over time. Their analysis, however, is limited to objects found in the excavations of the Athenian Agora. Of enormous help for their enquiry was the online capacity calculator at the University of Brussels website. It was employed to obtain measurements for their material, and it is an important tool that can now be used by other scholars for their studies. Other tools, such as Photoshop and Adobe’s PDF measuring tool, were also helpful for this study. Two supporting tables give the inventory and catalogue numbers, followed by the shape, maximum volume to the rim, and a maximum volume less than 1.5cm. In general, there is an emphasis on equality and isonomia, as evidenced by, for instance, the equal amounts of diluted wine that the drinkers consumed.

In his excellent contribution to the volume Norbert Eschbach first reviews some of the recent finds related to Panathenaic prize amphoras while noting the imitations of the form in other media, including metal, Attic red-figure and Italiote red-figure. Noteworthy observations, for example, are that prize amphoras were found not only in private settings of the house, but also as dedications in sanctuaries, as grave goods, and in connection with specific pottery workshops. Some prize amphoras can be connected with specific painters from contemporary pottery workshops. A silver example was found at Vergina; some were decorated with gold. An examination of the Kerameikos prize amphora fragments reveals that some of the vases were freshly made yet never used. How do we know which PA were for the winner and which were for the second-place contestants? Eschbach concludes that no prize amphora was for the second-place winners, who received their oil in transport amphoras.

The study of the signs of use and wear on Greek painted pottery is Alexandra Villing’s contribution. These signs include the chemical or physical changes to an artifact resulting from “use, storage, cleaning or repair throughout the object’s use-life”. Villing takes as her starting place analyses by Ingeborg Scheibler and Bert Kaeser, but notes that the method has an older tradition in the studies of prehistoric chipped stone tools and animal bones. Experimental replication is still yet another approach, with its longest tradition in the study of prehistory, but there is also modern research on wear patterns comprising yet another area considered by Villing, e.g., knife cuts, fork or spoon cuts on dinner plates, foot-ring abrasion. The problems with these studies, as she indicates, are their subjectivity, the lack of standardized recording, and the impact of excavation and storage on the artefacts.

The final paper, by Angelika Schöne-Denkinger, is an excellent study of the restoration of four vases in the Berlin Antikensammlung. These include an Attic black figure oinochoe, a black-figure mule-headed rhyton, and two Attic red-figure bell kraters. The manner of restoration varies for each vessel. The rhyton is a pastiche, composed of parts from other vases: a molded donkey’s head with a tall cylindrical body, a foot from a cup, and a volute handle. The figures in the chariot race shown on the black-figure neck are modern, as are most images on the Attic black-figure oinochoe. The Hermes is copied from that on an Attic black figure oinochoe in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England. These, and the other changes discussed were made to make the vases more attractive to a modern customer.

To conclude, this is a terrific volume and an important addition to the literature on Greek vases, and we look forward to future volumes in this series.

Authors and titles

Martin Langner , Materialität und Objektevidenz griechischer Vasen
Bettina Kreuzer, Zu Machart und Design der Halsamphora Brüssel R 296
Isabelle Algrain, Paint it Black: Boeotia, Attica and Black-Glaze Pottery
Anne Coulié, Cécile Jubier in Zusammenarbeit mit Nathalie Buisson, Une enquête sur le gris: les fragments à fond blanc du Louve G 249
Vicky Vlachou, Too many Hydriae: Interpreting Material Actions Through a Vase’s Sensory Qualities
E. Marianne Stern, The Epinetra from the Athenian Acropolis
Kathleen M. Lynch, Richard A. Bidgood, Capacity of Sympotic Vessels from the Excavations of the Athenian Agora
Norbert Eschbach, Kein Öl in Panathenäϊschen Preisamphoren? Zu Funktion und Bedeutung einer repräsentativen Gefäßgattung der attischen Vasenmalerei
Alexandra Villing, Using Greek Vases: Developing Use-Ware Analysis as an Archaeology of Practice
Angelika Schöne-Denkinger, Überarbeitet – verändert – übermalt. Restaurierungen attischer Gefäße der Berliner Antikensammlung im 19. Jh.
List of Authors