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Scolpire il marmo: Importazioni, artisti itineranti, scuole artistiche nel Mediterraneo antico. Atti del convegno di studio tenuto a Pisa Scuola normale Superiore, 9–11 novembre 2009

Scolpire il marmo: Importazioni, artisti itineranti, scuole artistiche nel Mediterraneo antico. Atti del convegno di studio tenuto a Pisa Scuola normale Superiore, 9–11 novembre 2009

Edited by Gianfranco Adornato. Pp. 366, figs. 272. Edizioni Universitarie di Lettere Economia Diritto, Milan 2010. €74. ISBN 978-88-7916-465-8 (paper).

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This volume presents most of the papers delivered at a conference on marble sculpture imports, itinerant artists, and artistic schools in the Mediterranean that took place at the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa in November 2009. One of highest priorities was to integrate marble sculpture of the Archaic and Classical periods found in Magna Graecia—here referring to both South Italy and Sicily (on the long and troubled history of the term “Magna Graecia,” see the introduction in G. Ceserani, Italys Lost Greece [Oxford 2012]), which is often neglected or given a Meisterwerke approach in modern scholarship—into the mainstream narrative of Greek art by reflecting on the formation of artistic schools, modes of transmission and reception of styles, and sharing of technical expertise in the ancient Mediterranean (7). Of the 16 essays, 14 are written in Italian by Italian scholars and two in English by non-Italians, a clear reflection of the predominance of Italians in the field. High-quality black-and-white illustrations and bibliography follow each contribution.

The essays vary in scope and method: they examine individual works (e.g., the kouros from Rhegion [Greco]), groups (e.g., Kleobis and Biton in Delphi [Aurigny]), types of sculpture (e.g., the classical funerary stelae from southeast Sicily [Chisellini]), entire regions (e.g., Poseidonia [Buccino], Attica [Palagia], Lycia [Poggio]), or lesser-known collections (e.g., the Archaeological Museum in Florence [Iozzo]). Marble sculpture at Cyrene receives a sweeping, primarily archaeometric, survey by Lazzarini and Luni that contains tables with petrographic data of the marbles used (197–202). Dimartino compiles the epigraphic evidence on artists and their mobility across the Mediterranean world from the seventh to fifth centuries B.C.E., providing very useful statistical information (21–30).

Studies presenting new interpretations or new excavation material invite closer attention. Lippolis and Vallarino offer many insights on the sculptor Alkamenes and the chronology of his oeuvre based on a reinterpretation of the Hephaisteion inscription (IG 1³ 472) (268–69). Recently resumed investigations at the Heraion at Capo Licinio at Kroton shed more light on the configuration of the classical Doric temple. Belli Pasqua stresses the close similarities of the newly reconstructed central floral acroterion from the site with Parian and Athenian examples, while Rocco suggests that itinerant Cycladic workshops played a far more important role than previously acknowledged in the transmission of certain features of temple architecture (elongated plans, hawksbeak moldings, and double corner contraction, among others). The author points out that the wide popularity of Parian marble for temple roofs in the early fifth century in the West led to the abandonment of the local, longstanding tradition of experimentation with the Doric order in favor of mainland prototypes. Both scholars attribute these developments to the antagonism of South Italian poleis to outperform one another in expensive building projects that demanded the technical expertise of island, especially Parian, craftsmen. It was indeed the influx of itinerant Cycladic craftsmen and marbles in Early Archaic Athens that, according to Palagia, contributed significantly to the emergence of monumental sculpture in the region. Renewed excavations at the classical Doric temple at the Sanctuary of Punta Stilo in Kaulonia conducted by Parra have provided architectonical members, mostly tiles and fragments of acroteria made from Parian marble, that allow for a better understanding of the roofing of the temple and its building phases.

The entire volume is built on two key, closely inter­related, themes: (1) the question of authorship of surviving marble works from the Archaic and Early Classical periods; and (2) the issue of center vs. periphery in sculpture production, usually expressed as originality of style as opposed to provincialism. The overarching narrative, established by time-honored connoisseurship, is that of regional schools of sculpture. Most contributors follow the familiar path of stylistic analysis that relies heavily on the degree of similarity or dissimilarity of western works with Greek sculpture from the motherland. In this sense, they do not deviate considerably from the traditional models of interpretation that they attempt to challenge.

Among these, Langlotz’s work figures prominently. In his Die Kunst der Westgriechen im Sizilien und Unter­italien (Munich 1963), the German scholar solidified the long-standing thesis that marble sculpture found in Magna Graecia is either imported or created by sculptors from the Greek mainland. His main arguments were lack of good-quality indigenous marble (for an analysis of the marbles used in Sicily, see R. Alaimo and S. Calderone, “Determinazione della provenienza dei marmi delle sculture di Selinunte attraverso le analisi di alcuni elementi in tracce e degli isotopi del carbonio e dell’ossigeno,” SicArch 17 [1984] 53–62 [not cited in the volume under review]) and presumed technical inability of native artisans to carve the harder and more challenging stone. Instrumental were also the dearth of archaeological contexts that have survived modern destruction and the almost total absence of literary sources in the West. As a result, marble sculpture in Magna Graecia was deemed inferior, and studies on the topic were marginalized.

Current belief holds that sculpture workshops gradually developed in the West, and most works found in Italy, especially after the end of the sixth century, were of local manufacture. Adornato, organizer of the conference and volume editor, addresses directly the issue of the perceived provinciality of western marble sculpture. He supports the existence of distinct sculptural schools, focusing his discussion on Akragas and Metapontum. This has already been argued by Holloway in his monograph on the subject (Late Archaic and Early Greek Sculpture of Sicily and Magna Graecia [Louvain 1975]), by Rolley in Greek Sculpture (Paris 1994), and again in The Western Greeks (G. Pugliese Carratelli, ed. [Milan 1996]). Interestingly, and somehow predictably, there is no consensus on which these schools are (except for Selinus). Adornato criticizes his predecessors for failing to establish clear, distinctive stylistic traits and calls instead for studies of the entire marble sculpture production of each polis in order to create a more “articulate and dynamic” (313–14) frame of reference.

The sculpture of Magna Graecia is frequently characterized as highly eclectic, an amalgam of Ionic, Attic, and Peloponnesian styles. At the same time, Greek art as a whole is considered multicentric, and originality of style is connected with the existence of the polis. It is hard then not to wonder why the western city-states, despite their similar political structures, failed to develop an individual style, distinctive not only in relation to the mainland but also among themselves.

I believe that instead of relentlessly trying to identify separate Ionian, Attic, Samian, and other stylistic traits, as so often happens in this volume, a discussion of the international style in Greek sculpture, a koine language of forms evident already by the late sixth-century korai, could potentially provide some answers. (B.S. Ridgway had argued for an international style from ca. 550 onward in The Archaic Style in Greek Sculpture [Princeton, N.J. 1977] 64.) Similarly, Dimartino cautions that the notion of an individual style in every polis of Greece is unwarranted (20).

In the concluding and very aptly titled essay of the volume (“Orgoglio e pregiudizio: Pride and Prejudice”), Marconi reviews the history of scholarship on marble sculpture in South Italy and Sicily, which has been oscillating between Italian national pride and foreign, mostly Germanic, prejudice. Not participating in the debate among supporters (old and new) and critics of connoisseurship, Marconi proposes an alternative approach that combines the analysis of the methods of production of Greek marble sculpture with later historical parallels. As a case study, he uses Sicily during the 15th century C.E., when massive importation of Carrara marble necessitated by major commissions of local elites fostered the development of highly skillful sculpture workshops on the island.

There are only a few typographical errors, and any aforementioned weaknesses or omissions cannot in any way undermine the value of this publication in highlighting the importance of itinerant artists and workshops in the dissemination of technical knowledge and artistic motifs. Both a useful collection of material often presented in hard-to-find publications and a survey of current research in the field, it contributes significantly in displaying the Mediterranean context of Greek sculpture and architecture and paves the way for more comparative, interregional studies. Assuming previous knowledge on the subject, this book addresses a mainly academic audience: sculpture specialists interested in recently excavated or little-known material as well as students of classical art and archaeology.

Kyriaki Karoglou
Department of Greek and Roman Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York, New York 10028

Book Review of Scolpire il marmo: Importazioni, artisti itineranti, scuole artistiche nel Mediterraneo antico. Atti del convegno di studio tenuto a Pisa Scuola normale Superiore, 9–11 novembre 2009, edited by Gianfranco Adornato

Reviewed by Kyriaki Karoglou

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 117, No. 1 (January 2013)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1171.Karoglou

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