Online Review: Book

Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. Deutschland 86. Berlin 11: Antikensammlung (ehemals Antiquarium). Attisch rotfigurige Mischgefässe, böotisch rotfigurige Kratere

Helene Blinkenberg Hastrup

114.4

By Angelika Schöne-Denkinger. With a contribution by Hans Mommsen. Union Académique Internationale. Pp. 97, figs. 27, b&w pls. 80, color pls. 4, Beilagen 23. C.H. Beck, Munich 2009. $98. ISBN 978-3-406-59319-2 (cloth).

This CVA volume presents 50 red-figure mixing vessels from the now-reunited Berlin collection. The material is mainly Attic kraters: volute, column, calyx, and bell kraters. Also included with the Attic red-figure pottery are stamnoi, one dinos, and some fragments for which it has not been possible to determine the exact shape. Two Boeotian kraters—a calyx krater and a bell krater—are presented, as are one bell krater and one fragment of uncertain origin.

The main text has two interesting appendices. The first presents two vases that probably came from the Rothschild Collection in Paris and are still in Berlin (76); extant documentation for mixing vessels in the Berlin collection that were lost during World War II is also included. In the second appendix, Mommsen presents a scientific analysis of seven kraters to determine whether their origin is Attic or Boeotian.

There is not much room for longer explan-atory text in a CVA volume. Therefore, it is slightly surprising that the preface is not very informative. The author might, for instance, have explained the organization of the material in the volume or given a little more background to the material. The history of the Berlin collection is extremely complicated and cannot be crammed into a short preface, but it would have been useful to know the reason for this particular selection of red-figure mixing vessels; does it, for instance, include all the unpublished examples in the Berlin collection?

However, the principal idea and format for a CVA publication is clear description and presentation of the vases, and in this regard the current volume lives up to the most exacting standards: the descriptions are complete to the last detail. As in other recent German CVA volumes, they include some rarely listed but useful items such as the weight and capacity in liters of each vase. Each entry has a complete bibliography with subheadings on painter, shape, and iconography. Particular attention is paid to shape, which is still rare in vase publications and therefore all the more useful. The meticulous descriptions of each vessel’s state of preservation, earlier restorations, and the like are also interesting, especially in a case like plate 23 (inv. no. V.I. 3257), a well-known kalyx krater by Myson. This piece looks quite different in this publication because of a new restoration in 2006–2008, and Schöne-Denkinger explains that it had undergone at least two earlier restorations.

The material is organized first by shape, then by date. The reason for the sequence of the kraters is not quite clear. The volume begins with volute kraters and then goes on to column kraters; as the column krater is the earliest shape, one would have expected the opposite, something that might have been explained in the preface. Each section is headed by a useful and clear account of the development of this particular shape and such details as its probable ancient name.

On a column krater by the Pan Painter (inv. no. V.I. 3206, pl. 11), a naked woman is carrying a huge phallos on one side. This is suggested either to refer to the Attic festival of the Haloa in Eleusis, where there was a procession of women with phalloi, or to show a hetaira with an olisbos. It could, however, be interpreted as a joke: the phallos is enormous, and taken together with the image on the other side of a young man in contemplation of a herm with its (much smaller) phallos, the implication could be something like “women are never satisfied.”

The star piece in the section on kalyx kraters is Euphronios’ early essay on athletes (inv. no. F 2180, pl. 19). Even in the case of such a well-known piece, the publication brings a more complete picture of the vase in the literal sense, as the descriptions of the restorations in context—with a rare and valuable photograph of the inside of the krater—give new insight. One can clearly see the lines between the fragments and some of the 66 holes used for a restoration in antiquity. These holes have been filled in on the outside by the modern restorers. The glaze is thick and glossy but somewhat worn toward the bottom of the krater.

Much attention is given to the various inscriptions. One of the most interesting is a graffito on the foot of a stamnos (inv. no. F 2188, pl. 64), which probably gives the prices of different vases. The author rightly states that it is unclear whether the price is in obols or drachmas, and it is quite odd that the inscription mentions “lydion,” which is probably a perfume jar, though it is scratched on a stamnos.

While only a few Boeotian kraters are presented, this section is interesting in the context of the scientific analysis in the appendix, as the author suggests that some of the late so-called Attic calyx kraters might in reality be Boeotian. More research is needed on this question and, as the author rightly points out, with regard to clay analysis in Greece generally. The section on vases acquired or lost as a result of World War II is particularly welcome, as the situation is complicated—some vases remain lost and others have turned up recently in Moscow.

In this kind of publication, illustrations are of prime importance, and here there are excellent profile drawings (references to the plates for each vase would have been helpful, however). A number of line drawings of details and, interestingly, of the sketches that are preserved on some vases are equally well executed. The black-and-white photographs are mostly clear, and a number of useful detail studies are included. Yet it is not quite understandable why a sideview photograph of the handle area is included in some cases and missing in others, notably on plate 31 (inv. no. V.I. 3237), where a sideview would have been useful. The scene continues above the handles, and even though details of these figures are included, their exact positions are difficult to understand.

The overall impression of Schöne-Denkinger’s work aligns with the best tradition of German scholarship: thoroughness is the motto. The book is based on in-depth research, and the material is well-presented throughout. A model publication.

Helene Blinkenberg Hastrup
Section for Classical Archaeology
University of Aarhus
8000 Aarhus C
Denmark
hbhastrup@mail.tele.dk

DOI: 
10.3764/ajaonline1144.Hastrup

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