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Le kyathos attique de Madame Teithurnai: Échanges artisanaux et interactions culturelles entre Grecs et Étrusques en Méditerranée archaïque

Le kyathos attique de Madame Teithurnai: Échanges artisanaux et interactions culturelles entre Grecs et Étrusques en Méditerranée archaïque

By Delphine Tonglet (Études d’Archéologie 13). 2 vols.: vol. 1, pp. 371; vol. 2, pp. 204. Centre de Recherches en Archéologie et Patrimoine, Brussels 2018. $71.81. ISBN 9782960202908 (paper).


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In this reworking of her doctoral thesis, Tonglet explores the appropriation and adaptation of Etruscan vase forms by sixth-century BCE Athenian potters, primarily for trade back to Etruscan consumers. The ladle-shaped cup (or cup-shaped ladle) known as the kyathos is her primary focus—and one particular example inscribed as belonging to an Etruscan woman (“Madame Teithurnai”) the catalyst—but this single shape sparks larger discussion about cross-cultural interaction and influence. The author aims for a balanced presentation that is postcolonial in spirit—that is, eschewing a solely Greek point of view—and acknowledges the agency of all parties involved (workshops, traders, consumers). The result is an admirable contribution to the ever-growing literature on Attic vases in Etruria.

In the first volume, an introduction gives the historiography behind the phenomenon, addresses the vocabulary of “copies,” and contends that Attic workshops engaged in market-driven production strategies. Tonglet explains the morphological approach at the heart of her study, situating her methodologies among those of other scholars for whom shape has been a research priority.

Chapter 1 opens from the Etruscan side of things by examining the forms and history of vessel types revisited by Attic potters and painters: not just the kyathos in various manifestations but also kantharoi, chalices, flat-handled amphoras (which in Athens became “Nikosthenic” amphoras), semi-cylindrical stands, the olla (an inspiration for the Attic stamnos, at least in part), goblets, and covered chalices (which may have inspired “Nikosthenic” pyxides). Tonglet emphasizes the regional variations in bucchero forms, for example between Vulci and Caere, in order to identify influences on Attic potters with more precision. Regional variation is a theme throughout the book, as readers are reminded not to consider the Etruscans a monolith in terms of tastes and customs (even though “Etruscan” remains a convenient moniker). She asserts Etruscan agency in this chapter precisely by highlighting the long history of these vase forms. Individual consumers in individual communities would be as selective in their choices to acquire Attic imports as Attic workshops would be in choosing to adapt these shapes in the first place. Etruscan black-figure workshops make a brief appearance, as some likewise adapt bucchero shapes for local consumption.

Chapter 2 dives deeply into morphological study of the Attic kyathos. Michael Eisman last undertook this endeavor in his unpublished 1971 dissertation (University of Pennsylvania); Tonglet builds on and refines his work. The kyathos provides an ideal case study because of the number of surviving examples (683 in her catalogue, compared to 416 in Eisman’s). Not all were available for hands-on analysis, but Tonglet has amassed enough data that her conclusions are persuasive. Instead of a straightforward, linear development of the shape, she posits a more complex scenario, identifying 16 different potters over multiple generations and grouping them into “ateliers.” These overlap chronologically, and while the basic form remains consistent, details vary, as does the degree of closeness to Etruscan bucchero examples. To distinguish hands, the author relies on overlapping profile drawings (reproduced in the book) but also considers secondary decoration and other elements. She explains each step of her methodology and is cautious where warranted, admitting that the reality is likely fewer than 16 potters. Predictably, the earliest potters (Theozotos and Nikosthenes) exhibited the greatest fidelity to bucchero forms and the latest the least, but even then things are not that simple. Tonglet grants a glimpse into the intertwined nature of Athenian potters and painters, and although the kyathos is her concern, other shapes enter the discussion, such as lekythoi produced by some of the same workshops. While technical, this chapter (like the entire book) is written in a clear fashion, with the author always careful to explain the larger picture.

Chapter 3 pulls back from a micro- to a macroperspective. Tonglet begins here by comparing the distribution of Etruscan bucchero kyathoi to kantharoi to evaluate accessibility to Athenian workshops. Where bucchero kantharoi did have a presence in the Aegean at Greek sanctuaries and other sites, kyathoi were less available in places where Attic potters might have randomly encountered them. The implication is that the choice of workshops to both adopt and adapt the kyathos was purposeful and market-driven. The how and the why are speculated on, though they are impossible to confirm: bucchero vases being brought to Athens by traders? travel of an Athenian potter to Etruria? some other scenario? The distribution of Attic figured kyathoi in turn evidences purposeful actions driven by demand, the large sample with known provenances permitting convincing observations. Only five kyathos fragments have been found on or around the Athenian Acropolis, which Tonglet proposes could have been dedicated by the artisans. Otherwise, the majority come from Etruria and especially Vulci, although other sites, including Caere and Orvieto, are also represented. Even allowing for the accidents of survival, the patterns suggest targeted production and trade.

The next section of the chapter places Attic imported kyathoi more deeply into historical context by tracing Etruscan use of this shape. The author shows that impasto and bucchero kyathoi have a long tradition in the banqueting services of tombs, to the extent of being an ancestral shape. These associations promoted the popularity of imported Attic versions in certain areas. Tonglet stresses the multifunctionality of kyathoi in different settings (sanctuary and domestic as well as funerary): used as drinking vessels but also as ladles, used for libations as well as for feasting, varying from miniature to oversized. Included in this discussion is the gradual introduction of Near Eastern and Greek drinking practices into Etruria. Etruscan banqueting maintained a strongly local character, with outside influences (e.g., the symposion) integrated with existing customs rather than replacing them.

The author then considers excavated examples of bucchero and imported Attic kyathoi. For tombs, Vulci is easiest to discuss because those in question (e.g., Tomb 47 of the Osteria necropolis) are single depositions instead of multichambered and multipopulated; even then, poorly documented or insufficiently published excavations can pose problems. Nonetheless, Tonglet affirms that funerary assemblages do not mirror Greek sympotic practice but preserve Etruscan forms of feasting. Local or imported, kyathoi played important roles thanks to the shape’s traditional lineage. Iconography is not her focus, but I will add that the interplay of subject matter among vases supports the intentionality behind their selection, for example in Tomb 145 of Vulci’s Osteria necropolis and the Tomb of the Necklace. Domestic and sanctuary sites yield fewer documented instances of Attic kyathoi, but Tonglet discusses examples from Caere and Adria for the former and Pyrgi and Gravisca for the latter, reinforcing Reusser’s contention in Vasen für Etrurien: Verbreitung und Funktionen attischer Keramik im Etrurien des 6. und 5. Jahrhunderts v. Chr. (Zurich 2002) that Attic vases were not limited to tombs. Tonglet then reasserts key points about Etruscan self-identity—undiminished by the presence of Greek imports—and the significant role of traders in carrying not only vases but also information. (Having arrived at similar conclusions by different means in my Athens, Etruria, and the Many Lives of Greek Figured Pottery [Madison 2019], which was in proof stage at this book’s publication and thus did not incorporate its findings, I was pleased to see the synchronicity in our thinking.)

In chapter 4, the author brings the discussion full circle by returning to other Etruscan forms as adapted by Attic potters: so-called Nikosthenic amphoras, carinated kantharoi, semi-cylindrical stands, one-handled kantharoi (aka giant kyathoi), and mastoid goblets. Taken as a group with Attic kyathoi, these reveal the range of creative yet business-minded responses of Athenian workshops to the lucrative Etruscan market. Not all were adapted by the same workshops: one-handled kantharoi are favored by the Perizoma Group (who also adapted iconography to Etruscan tastes), and “Nikosthenic” amphoras, traded primarily to Caere, by the Nikosthenic workshop. The fidelity of Nikosthenic amphoras to bucchero prototypes mirrors that seen in Nikosthenic kyathoi; the author is suitably wary about overemphasizing Nikosthenes’ role, but his entrepreneurial savvy cannot be denied. A brief conclusion synthesizes primary themes and opens possibilities for future research. Volume 1 closes with a bibliography that represents well both Etruscan- and Greek-oriented scholarship.

In addition to a catalogue of kyathoi (organized by potter), volume 2 features tables and appendices that eludicate points made in the main text. Appendices D and E, dedicated to provenance and contexts, are especially helpful. A collections index, map, color plates, and profile drawings complete this volume. Not all catalogue entries have an accompanying illustration or profile, but a large number do. The consistent, reader-friendly cross-referencing in both volumes is much appreciated.

This is a masterful work. Tonglet is fluent in the material, methodologies, and scholarship on both the Greek and Etruscan sides of the equation and through her efforts exposes the arbitrariness of separating these disciplines. By considering the whole package behind the kyathos—morphology, imagery, use, distribution, context in all its definitions—she presents a model for modern connoisseurship and shape studies, and she equally succeeds in modeling discussion of cross-cultural interaction in the Mediterranean.  

Sheramy D. Bundrick
University of South Florida St. Petersburg

Book Review of Le kyathos attique de Madame Teithurnai: Échanges artisanaux et interactions culturelles entre Grecs et Étrusques en Méditerranée archaïque, by Delphine Tonglet
Reviewed by Sheramy D. Bundrick
American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 124, No. 1 (January 2020)
Published online at
DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1241.Bundrick

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