You are here

Corpus vasorum antiquorum. Germany 97. Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Skulpturensammlung 2: Attisch rotfigurige Keramik

Corpus vasorum antiquorum. Germany 97. Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Skulpturensammlung 2: Attisch rotfigurige Keramik

By Eva Hofstetter-Dolega. Pp. 111, figs. 46, b&w pls. 76. C.H. Beck, Munich 2015. €98. ISBN 978-3-406-67747-2 (cloth).

Reviewed by

The CVA series has a long history, starting from the 1920s and continuing to the present; its original aim was to record vase collections by providing a record of each vase with small photographs and basic information, such as short description, attribution, date, and bibliographic record of each piece, but little or no commentary. Over time and in some countries, the series developed into detailed annotated catalogues and, on occasion, monographic volumes treating, for example, a specific shape within a given collection (cf. W. van de Put, “CVA, Corpus or Corpse?” in R.F. Docter and E.M. Moormann, eds., Proceedings of the XVth International Congress of Classical Archaeology, Amsterdam, July 12–17, 1998 [Amsterdam 1999] 428–29). The shift from quantity to quality by publishing fewer vases but with detailed commentary and ample illustrations is exemplified in the prolific series of the German CVA fascicles. Each vase is treated in entry format with subsections that bear on the vessel’s painter, potter, form, and iconography. The discussion is usually synthetic and annotated to the point that each entry becomes a small essay and thus a solid basis for further study. Recent volumes treat the history of the respective vase collection as well as the record of each vessel’s restorations, shedding light on the aesthetics behind the selection of figured vases and their journeys from Italy or Greece to Northern European museums.

The fascicle under review follows this framework. Hofstetter-Dolega presents 89 Attic red-figure vases of closed shape in entries with accurate description and comprehensive comment. The quality of illustrations is excellent, and the book is supplemented by indices that facilitate research by subject matter, technical issues, painter/potter, volume capacity, and provenance, among others.

In the foreword, the author sketches the history of the collection of Attic red-figure vases in Dresden, which goes back to the late 19th century, when wealthy aristocrats acquired vases from Italy and gave them to the royal art museums of Germany, where they were cherished as “objets d’art,” disregarding archaeological context. The Dresden collection expanded with the acquisition in 1873 of the collection of Prince Emil zu Sayn Wittgenstein. Most pieces were unearthed in Nola, Ruvo, Sorrento, or Taranto and are large shapes including amphoras, hydriai, and pelikai. Although the author treats the history of acquisition of those vases with Italian provenance, less is said about those from Greece. The latter comprise pelikai, hydriai, lekythoi, choes, and a loutrophoros. A large group, presumably from Attica, was given between 1896 and 1903 by Wolfgang Job, an engineer working in Laurion, about whom, the reader assumes, little is known. Another, acquired from Dimitrios G. Bellos in 1887–1888, comprises vases from regional Greek sites, namely Elateia in Phocis and Eretria. The former site is archaeologically elusive to the present day, and its cemeteries must have been looted in the late 19th century, probably in the same wave of illicit digs that destroyed other necropoleis of mainland Greece, especially in neighboring Boeotia. Besides the Dresden pelike perhaps by the Flying Angel Painter depicting a kitharod (pl. 23), only three other red-figure vases are known from Elateia, two pelikai (BAPD 216178 and 214776: G.A. Ζachos, Ελάτεια: Ελληνιστική και ρωμαϊκή περίοδος [Volos 2013] 67 n. 113, 71, figs. 14, 15) and an alabastron (BAPD 275017). The former pelike also depicts a player of a stringed instrument, highlighting the importance of music in the education of regional Greek poleis in the Early Classical period. Bellos was the brother of the Theban statesman, doctor, linguist, poet, and publisher Loukas Bellos (1848–1913), who was also interested in archaeology and whose connections with Dresden merit further study. (For archival material regarding Loukas Bellos, cf.

In a brief review such as this, only a few detailed comments are possible. The woman on the pelike H⁴ 17/47 (70–1, pls. 55.6, 55.7, 56.1–3) is described as extending her left hand toward the youth preceding her, but her bulging lower arm suggests that she is holding a tray of cakes, now faded, destined to be used in Dionysiac cult. This, together with the hanging tympanon and the bunch of grapes in her other hand suggests that she is a Dionysiac woman, not a hetaira. The pelike ZV 2032 (pl. 35), presumably from Laurion or its environs, is one more example attesting to the activity of the Academy Painter in rural Attica. As his works are also found in Boeotia (CVA Thebes 1, pl. 83, 1–3) and Corinth (I. McPhee and E. Kartsonaki, “Red-Figure Pottery of Uncertain Origin from Corinth: Stylistic and Chemical Analyses,” Hesperia 79 [2010] 113–43, esp. 114–16), he may have been an errant craftsman.

The lyre-holding youth on the amphora H⁴ 11/23 is tentatively interpreted as Tithonos or Kephalos (23–4, pl. 9). Unlike schoolboys, the youth sports long, loose hair and is running away from a woman before her wool kalathos representing the oikos. He recalls also Orpheus, a musician appearing with male audiences and portrayed with women only in scenes where the latter are chasing him with household utensils. Here the woman is a calm housewife, therefore the lyricist has no apparent reason to run away from her. Perhaps the painter meant to offer a mocking variant of the Orpheus story, presenting him as an ephebe who is not yet mature enough for the realm of women and the family.

Of interest is the amphora H⁴ 13/29 (42–4, pls. 29.7, 29.8, 30.1–6) depicting Circe with a skyphos and a man turned into a pig on the obverse and a man transvested as a woman on the reverse. The painter establishes an analogy between the transformation of Odysseus’ companions, as told in the epic, and sex transgression. The scene may visualize the transforming experience produced by alcohol and comparable to a magic potion, while transvestism may point to rites of passage in general. (For men as boars, see M. Bettini and C. Franco, Il mito di Circe: Immagini e racconti dalla Grecia a oggi [Torino 2010] 176–83; for Circe, see L. Schneider, “Kirkes Weg,” in D. Metzler, ed., Mazzo di fiori: Festschrift for Herbert Hoffmann [Wiesbaden 2010] 38–53.)

Some bibliographic additions may complement the detailed lists provided by the author. The draped silen at a herm on the pelike ZV 2335 (pl. 27) is discussed in the context of satyr imagery imitating cult activities of the citizens by Lissarrague (La cité des satyres [Paris 2013] 200 n. 31), and for the oklasma dance (pl. 60.1–3), add the discussion by Garezou (“Περσικόν,” ArchDelt 58–64, 2003–2009 [2012] 335–64).

In sum, the CVA Dresden 2 volume is a welcome addition to the series. Well researched and useful, it will benefit both scholar and student alike.

Victoria Sabetai
Research Centre for Antiquity
Academy of Athens

Book Review of Corpus vasorum antiquorum. Germany 97. Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Skulpturensammlung 2: Attisch rotfigurige Keramik, by Eva Hofstetter-Dolega

Reviewed by Victoria Sabetai

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 120, No. 4 (October 2016)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1204.Sabetai

Add new comment

Plain text

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.