Online Review: Book

Ceramica etrusco-corinzia del Museo archeologico di Tarquinia

Roberta Gabrielli

116.2

Reviewed by Jean Macintosh Turfa

Pp. xiii + 567, figs. 31, pls. 30. Giorgio Bretschneider, Rome 2010. €190. ISBN 978-88-7689-251-6 (paper).


This book is a trove of valuable information, the fruit of painstaking research—if only one could access it efficiently. In contrast, a CVA format would have restricted the amount of analytical information, and I am grateful for Gabrielli's exhaustive parallels and commentary. The lack, however, of any indices, concordances, and, in many cases, illustrations makes the task of researching a particular vase type or historical situation especially daunting. Concordances of attributions, pictorial motives, locations, and findspots are needed; photographs are not always standard views, impeding comparisons.

All 654 vases catalogued came from the Raccolta Comunale of Tarquinia or the collection of the counts Bruschi-Falgari: all were offerings in tombs, but further documentation is not extant. (On the Bruschi-Falgari Collection, from necropoleis on their property, see the series Materiali del Museo archeologico nazionale di Tarquinia.

Of the vases, 518 are closed shapes, mainly 326 perfume flasks; most are imports from Vulci or Caere, while most of the finely potted but simply decorated open vases (kraters, cups, plates) are of Tarquinian manufacture. Caere seems to have led a domestic trade in perfumes/oils, preceded by its orientalizing glass balsamaria (516). The late Vulcian Etrusco-Corinthian workshops of Galli Affrontati and Ucelli are said to have worked almost exclusively in alabastra and aryballoi (but see also pyxides [230–38]).

Etrusco-Corinthian wares may fail to meet our aesthetic standards for Greek vase painting—yet historically and economically, they held their own in Italy and beyond, where trade was an expression of social networks and the family aspirations of increasingly affluent urban citizens. The archaic tombs of commercially savvy Carthage held genuine Corinthian vases alongside rather embarrassing Etrusco-Corinthian imitations. Many forms do not follow Corinthian models at all and may be tracked to East Greek ceramics, even Cypriot art (526), or Etruscan metalwork.

At the beginning of each category, Gabrielli offers an intensive description and discussion; lengthy conclusions (493–554) contribute to social, historical, or economic interpretations. Number 507 (373–77; feebly illustrated in pl. 21d, e) is a famous piece, the neck of an olpe depicting a sailing vessel, accompanied by a discussion of ship representations, trade, and the distribution of Etrusco-Corinthian wares around the Mediterranean.

Gabrielli considers many types of unguent vases to have derived from the influence of faience Egyptian and Rhodian luxury goods. Globular aryballoi (625–550 B.C.E.) were distributed throughout central Italy, southern Italy, Tharros, Carthage, and Spain. Omnipresent (also in the Punic sphere) ovoid alabastra decorated with bands and fields of dots were made, according to Szilágyi (CVA Budapest 1 [1981] 42, pl. 12.1), at Caere, Capua, and Tarquinia, but the author (139) excludes Tarquinia because no examples have been found in the Pian di Civita excavations.

An interesting phenomenon is the work of some painters on diverse shapes. While the Ciclo degli Ucelli almost exclusively decorated unguent flasks, contemporaries painted open shapes as well—perhaps some shops supplied multiple "bottlers," while others engaged directly in the perfume industry (see also 255, no. 351).

The 47 oinochoai illustrate the shape's typology, which initially followed Corinthian fashion, then delved into imaginative hybrids, then imitated "Rhodian" bronze oinochoai, for which Shefton has now restored an Etruscan rather than Greek identity (B. Shefton, "On the Rhodian Oinochoai," in F. Lo Schiavo and A. Romualdi, eds., I complessi archeologici di Trestina e di Fabbrecce nel Museo Archeologico di Firenze [Rome 2009] 128–38; see also J.M. Turfa, rev. of I complessi archeologici di Trestina e di Fabbrecce nel Museo Archeologico di Firenze, edited by F. Lo Schiavo and A. Romualdi, AJA 115 [2011] www.ajaonline.org).

Eleven amphoras illustrate the beginning of Etrusco-Corinthian at Tarquinia, associated with Caeretan workshops. Gabrielli describes three distinct fabrics: analytical materials studies could resolve problems of source identification. Other possibilities are raised: the Caeretan Ciclo di Monte Abatone amphoras have relatives in bucchero and impasto fabrics; Gabrielli suspects that most are of Tarquinian manufacture. Her exceedingly detailed observations may be lost on the economic historian but can be invaluable if you are puzzling over a museum piece or excavated find.

The move of the Bearded Sphinx Painter from Vulci to Caere (600 B.C.E.) is seen as the resurgence of the Caeretan economy and a depression at Vulci, where later, the "third generation" of painters seems to have coordinated a major reorganization and standardization of the industry, seen in the works of the Ciclo dei Rosoni: artists no longer had creative freedom but must supply a consistent product for the daily use of urban consumers, who seem not to have demanded "quality of execution" in graphics (532, 535). The footed cups (459–73), available painted and unpainted, were also found in domestic contexts at Tarquinia (see workshop of the Pittore dei Rosoni [nos. 581, 617]).

Tarquinia is assuming a more prominent place in Etrusco-Corinthian production. Gabrielli agrees with Szilágyi that the Painter of the Kithara was Tarquinian (381–85, no. 511). The photographs of pl. 22a–d are nearly illegible, and these are scenes that deserve renewed attention, as they include a male seated on a folding stool, and a sea serpent with two leonine heads and frolicking monsters or pups. Past publications are not much better (but see a partial drawing in J.G. Szilágyi, Ceramica etrusco-corinzia figurata. Pt. 2, 590/580–550 a.C. [Florence 1998] 478–79, fig. 89a, b).

For vase typology, see Gabrielli's figures diagramming the rays, bands, dots of the oft-neglected aryballoi, and alabastra that turn up in excavations and museum collections outside Italy (13–24 [figs.], 319–20 [figs.], figs. 1–26). I had to make myself a concordance of attributions and shapes: in short, piriform aryballoi and alabastra equate to "running dog" style; globular aryballoi and alabastra include the Pescia Romana, Code Annodate, Galli Affrontati, and Ucelli Painters and Gruppo Vitelleschi. Wine service (oinochoai, amphoras, olpai) was produced especially by the workshops Senza Grafitto (and its offshoots), Degli Archetti Intrecciati, and Gruppo a Squame.

The author includes notes on fabrics, so perhaps one day X-ray fluorescence or other analyses can resolve issues of origin and workshop. Many typos remain, especially in foreign words and names (Szilágyi 1988, 385 should be 1998, as cited above). Analyses and references are thought-provoking and comprehensive, and I hope Gabrielli will continue to publish other such collections. Furthermore, I fervently hope that publishers will support her scholarship with the indexing and illustrations it deserves.

Jean Macintosh Turfa
Mediterranean Section
The University of Pennsylvania Museum
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-6324
jturfa@sas.upenn.edu

DOI: 
10.3764/ajaonline1162.Turfa

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