Edited by Guntram Koch and François Baratte (Sarkophag-Studien 6). Pp. xii + 264, figs. 18, b&w pls. 96, color pls. 4. Franz Philipp Rutzen, Ruhpolding 2012. €99. ISBN 978-3-447-06691-4 (cloth).
The papers gathered in this collection originate from the series of recurring continental conferences on Roman sarcophagi, this one held in Paris in 2005 with the theme “Production in the Centers–Copies in the Provinces.” The 24 papers include contributions in German (17), Italian (4), French (2), and English (1). This lopsided proportion (which includes five chapters by the coeditor Koch alone) attests to the continued scholarly influence of the Germans in the field of sarcophagi studies, an influence that has been further cemented by their admirable commitment to disseminating its research outcomes in generously illustrated and immaculately edited volumes such as this one (since 2007, the publications of the Corpus des Antiken Sarkophagreliefs have operated under the editorial aegis of the German Archaeological Institute).
Generally speaking, contributions to previous volumes within the Sarkophag-Studien series have been characterized by their traditional art historical approach to the heterogeneous (if often idiosyncratic) material under study, with some authors treating particular objects and others taking a broader remit (such as an iconographic theme or geographic region). As a consequence, volumes in this series have tended to be of interest primarily to specialists in the field, while more cultural-historical and theoretically oriented work has seen publication in other venues (e.g., W. Hung and J. Elsner, eds., Res 61–62: Sarcophagi [Cambridge, Mass. 2012]; P. Zanker and B.C. Ewald, Living with Myths: The Imagery of Roman Sarcophagi [Oxford 2012]). The present volume is no exception to this trend, but it is unusual for its contributors’ sustained treatment of a single theme: the dynamic relationship between artistic copies and models as mapped through the interaction of workshops at metropolitan centers and local sites. The theme of artistic production has been of interest to sarcophagus specialists since the field’s inception, but one that has seen renewed interest of late, including among Anglophone scholars (e.g., B. Russell, “The Roman Sarcophagus ‘Industry’: A Reconsideration,” in J. Elsner and J. Huskinson, eds., Life, Death and Representation: Some New Work on Roman Sarcophagi [Berlin 2010] 119–47; M. Koortbojian, “Standardization and Transformation: Some Observations on the Roman Sarcophagus Trade and Sarcophagus Production,” in C. Hallett, ed., Flesheaters [Berlin (forthcoming)]). At the same time, in improving our understanding of the organization and specialization of individual workshops, the papers in this volume should prove of interest to Roman archaeologists generally, especially those concerned with issues of art and manufacture (e.g., see M. Flohr, B. Russell, and A. Wilson, eds., Art and the Roman Economy [Oxford (forthcoming)]).
The category of “workshop” might seem a self-evident one, and, indeed, it never receives definition in this volume from its editors. However, as Heilmeyer has argued elsewhere (“Ancient Workshops and Ancient ‘Art,’” OJA 23  403–15), the modern study of ancient workshops is marked by a tension between art historians’ focus on the characteristic traits of preserved “artworks” and their artists (e.g., school of sculptors, artistic regions) and archaeologists’ interest in the specific contexts in which such works were produced (e.g., kilns, casting pits, quarries). The comprehensive understanding of workshops will thus require the synthesis of both approaches. Despite its sweepingly suggestive subtitle, the present volume sits firmly within the art historical camp, as Koch makes clear in his introduction (1–14). There he articulates the five criteria—material, form, ornament, iconography, and style—that he considers crucial to distinguishing between sarcophagi produced at major working sites (“the center”) and their local copies and imitations (for other methodological reflections, see also M. Galinier, “À vendre: Les sarcophages romains dans les ateliers, suggestions méthodologiques,” in M. Galinier and F. Baratte, eds., Iconographie funéraire romaine et société: Corpus antique, approches nouvelles? [Perpignan 2013] 81–116). Most of the subsequent chapters adopt Koch’s fine-grained approach (or a variant of it) through case studies of a single specimen or small group of works. All of them make useful contributions to our knowledge through their careful autopsies, comprehensive documentation, and high-resolution photographs (including nearly 400 black-and-white images, with several in color).
The chapters are divided into four sections: “Rome and Italy”; “The Provinces in the West”; “Athens and Greece”; and “Asia Minor, the East and Egypt.” Some of the broader questions that the papers raise (and partially answer) follow:
Clearly, the debate over how to distinguish original works from copies or imitations and how to track patterns of influence between center and periphery (and vice versa) will continue to engage scholars (and it is to be hoped that there will be more interaction between continental and Anglophone scholars in future). In addition, there are many other fascinating lines of inquiry raised by the evidence of workshops, such as the historical contexts in which they produced sarcophagi for specific social groups, which go largely unexplored here but have seen some important interventions of late (e.g., R.R.R. Smith, “Monuments for New Citizens in Rome and Aphrodisias,” in F. de Angelis et al., eds., Kunst von unten? Stil und Gesellschaft in der antiken Welt von der “arte plebea” bis heute [Wiesbaden 2012] 171–84). Even so, Koch is surely right in concluding (260) that the greater our knowledge of the organization and specialization of the sarcophagus industry, the better our understanding of the production of other artistic genres and, moreover, of the mechanisms of trade and the Roman economy at large (see ch. 7, “The Sarcophagus Trade”; B. Russell, The Economics of the Roman Stone Trade [Oxford (forthcoming)]). In interrogating the theme of copies/models from different local and regional perspectives, Koch and Baratte’s volume helps lay the groundwork for that understanding in new and highly significant ways.
School of Art
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, Illinois 60115
Book Review of Akten des Symposiums “Sarkophage der Römischen Kaiserzeit: Produktion in den Zentren–Kopien in den Provinzen”/ “Les sarcophages romains: Centres et périphéries,” Paris, 2.–5. November 2005, edited by Guntram Koch and François Baratte
Reviewed by Sinclair Bell
American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 118, No. 1 (January 2014)
Published online at www.ajaonline.org/online-review-book/1737