Online Review: Book

Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. Leipzig Antiken-Museum 3: Attic Red-Figure Cups

Irma Wehgartner

112.2

By Susanne Pfisterer-Haas. With a contribution by Hans-Peter Müller. Pp. 151, figs. 77, pls. 81, inserts 19. C.H. Beck, Munich 2006. €88. ISBN 3-406-537-553 (cloth).

This volume contains 26 cups and 250 fragments of cups in Attic red-figure. The contribution by Hans-Peter Müller documents the history of the vase collection in Leipzig. The high proportion of fragments is understandable because there is an academic study collection at the Leipzig Antikenmuseum, which has always been connected with the archaeology program at the university. They came, with a few exceptions, either from the purchases of Friedrich Hauser in Rome (1897), in order to create a “collection of stylistic examples of Greek pottery” for teaching purposes, or from the American art dealer Edward Perry Warren, who made donations to the museum between 1901 and 1908.

This material provides a good overview of Attic red-figure cup production from the end of the sixth century to the fourth century B.C.E. Nearly all the important Athenian potters and painters are represented, but there are also examples of red-figure “mass production.” Many sherds are notable because they can be affiliated or even joined with pieces in other collections. They throw a somber light on the art market practices of the past, in which even archaeologists were clearly involved. Altogether there are 32 groups of fragments, which are listed in table 2 at the end of the volume. In some cases, these have been joined together through the exchange or permanent loan of sherds, as with fragments from the collections of the universities of Amsterdam, Erlangen, Strasbourg, and Vienna, as well as from the Staatlichen Kunstammlungen Dresden. In other cases, joins are made in the volume itself by means of a photomontage or reconstructed drawings. One can only hope that in the future further joins will be possible without a lot of bureaucratic red tape.

More than half the cups and fragments are included in Beazley’s lists of vases, and because of this have already been attributed to a painter or a workshop. Consequently, the pieces are presented according to Beazley’s ordering, so that those already attributed by Beazley are presented first, followed by those that are attributed by the author of the CVA or colleagues. Those not attributed to an artist or workshop are inserted into Beazley’s system in chronological order.

All pieces were carefully restored or at least cleaned for inclusion in this volume. Complete cups and bowls or feet of fragmentary cups are presented in profile drawings (70 drawings on 17 pages, at a scale of 1:1). Inscriptions are carefully reproduced in drawings, usually in the context of the associated figure at a scale of 1:1, and inserted at the relevant place in the text (77 figs.), occasionally connected with drawings of the sketch lines.

Production techniques and the actual condition of the objects, including traces of ancient repairs, are carefully noted and expertly described. The same is true for the design and the painting. Measurements are reported completely, as the preserved state of the pieces permits; even weight and capacity are recorded as far as is possible. The commentary and bibliography are written in detail and with competence, leaving few gaps. However, one should note that the stylistic comparisons made with pieces in the Martin von Wagner Museum Würzburg are not convincing (pls. 53, 60).

The text section is completed by an appendix with a list of missing cup fragments (appx. 1) and a list of those fragments given to other collections (appx. 2), as well as extensive indices, which not only make the use of the volume easier but also generally constitute a useful reference tool. Besides the aforementioned index of fragment groupings, there is a concordance of inventory numbers, plates, and figures (index 1), an index of find-spots (3), collections (4), shapes and measurements (5), technical qualities (6), representations (7), inscriptions (8), graffiti (9), painters, potters, and workshops (10), and loose-leaf inserts (Beilagen) (11).

The plates are not nearly as pleasing as the text. In the recent CVAs, text and plates are printed together, with the plates appearing at the end of the text (a publishing decision made because of cost). Therefore, the user is forced continuously to leaf back and forth between pages. The practical juxtaposition of text and associated plate (or various plates) for comparative purposes seems to be a thing of the past, and so the scholarly use of the new CVA volumes is made more difficult. It is entirely fatal when several plates are inserted crosswise (e.g., pls. 50, 51). Furthermore, on account of the pressure to accommodate so many pieces in a single volume, many figures are reduced to stamp size. Details of the drawings are sometimes clear only with a magnifying glass (e.g., pls. 33.2, 33.3, 34.6, 43.1, 68.5, 71.2, 74.1, 76.1, on which a little bird is hardly visible upon a strigil). Sometimes the photographs have turned out somewhat dark (e.g., pls. 4, 68.5), or bright spots and strong highlights appear that obscure the depiction (pl. 12). Frequently the scale is not given. The small-scale layout on the whole is busy and not always aesthetically satisfying: the size of the figures and the interstitial space varies greatly, and sometimes space goes unused.

Nevertheless, for researching Attic pottery the volume is valuable, above all thanks to its precise descriptions and commentary.

Irma Wehgartner
Martin von Wagner Museum
Antikensammlung Residenz, Südflügel
97070 Würzburg
Germany
museum.ant@mail.uni-wuerzburg.de

Book Review of Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. Leipzig Antiken-Museum 3: Attic Red-Figure Cups, by Susanne Pfisterer-Haas
Reviewed by Irma Wehgartner
American Journal of Archaeology Volume 112, Number 2 (April 2008), published online at www.ajaonline.org/online-review-book/557
 DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1122.Wehgartner

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