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Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. Great Britain, 21. Harrow School

July 2006 (110.3)

Book Review

Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. Great Britain, 21. Harrow School

By Jasper Gaunt. With Thomas Mannack. Photographs by Robert L. Wilkins. Pp. xx + 65, figs. 42, pls. 56. The British Academy and Oxford University Press, Oxford 2005. ISBN 0-19-726306-2 (cloth).

Reviewed by

For Harrow School, which acquired a collection of ancient vases before even Oxford and Cambridge, a CVA is long overdue. In 1864 the British Egyptologist John Gardner Wilkinson, who had attended Harrow, presented his large collection of Greek and Etruscan vases to the school. Twenty-six years later the Cyprus Exploration Fund gave an assortment of Cypriot pottery dating from the Early Bronze Age to the Roman period. In the meantime, some 15 of Wilkinson’s vases have gone missing, “perhaps lost in the Second World War” (59). Because several of the Harrow vases are of considerable artistic importance and many have a known provenience, their comprehensive publication is cause for celebration.

That said, problems of organization, lack of discussion of iconography and context, and omissions of relevant references make this CVA less than satisfying. This raises the issue of what scholars expect to find in newly published CVAs beyond detailed descriptions, complete citations, high-quality illustrations, and accurate profile drawings. To these I would add relevant comparanda, both stylistic and iconographic. At the beginning (ix) the author states, “the recent appearance of the LIMC obviates the need to discuss canonical iconography.” One would have hoped, at the very least, for specific citations of the Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae and, given common practice in contemporary CVAs, some minimal discussion of iconographical problems and peculiarities. Imagery on Greek vases is not limited to myth, and examination of other types of iconography is not only warranted but expected. In the case of attributed vases, some mention of the relation of the vase under discussion to the extant oeuvre of the painter would certainly be useful. Along with drawings of the graffiti and dipinti under the feet, a discussion of their relation to other known trademarks as published by Alan Johnston seems basic in a CVA. In the case of this fascicle, a reader might prefer such essential information to the precise number of relief dots in the hairline of a satyr.

Although the collection contains earlier vases (Geometric, Proto-Corinthian, Corinthian, Cypriot), this volume privileges figural Athenian wares and so begins with Attic black-figure. The two previously unpublished pseudo-Panathenaic amphoras are of considerable interest for the Panathenaia, but the text lacks acknowledgment of the current literature on the festival and the specific events depicted (footrace, horse race). At the very least, reference should have been made to Martin Bentz’s article on and list of all pseudo-Panathenaics (including the two in Harrow) in Panathenaïka, edited by Bentz and Eschbach (Mainz 2001). The two neck-amphoras from Vulci depict Dionysos riding a mule or donkey flanked by satyrs, and thus might represent a matched pair, as so often found in Etruscan tombs. (Amusingly, here and elsewhere the erect phalli have been erased, presumably so as not to titillate the young Harrovians.) The name-vase of Beazley’s Harrow Class is a kyathos with a distinctive ridge at the bottom of the bowl that is also found on bucchero kyathoi. Tagged on to the Attic black-figure is a lone Attic Geometric plastic horse, which is apparently unique in being part of a yoked team.

The Attic red-figure vases are the glory of this collection: the much-published elegant amphora with twisted handles by the Kleophrades Painter; a krater with a bold centauromachy by the Cleveland Painter; a precisely potted oinochoe, the name-vase of the Harrow Painter; and not one but two cycle vases devoted to the hero Theseus. As an addendum to the description of the Kleophrades Painter’s amphora, Peter Corbett’s informative report of 1949 on the preliminary sketches is appended along with Beazley’s drawings. In the entry on the Cleveland Painter’s vase it is useful to have a list of centaurs foreshortened from back to front, but unfortunately there is no indication for the reader of recent studies devoted to this understudied painter. In the case of the Harrow Painter’s oinochoe, it is interesting to note how often the theme of the boy with hoop appears on this shape; certainly an allusion to Ganymede is intended. As for the Theseus vases, one is a mediocre pelike found with two others in a tomb near Corinth, which depicts the hero in the same but reversed pose fighting the Minotaur and Prokrustes. On the other vase, a kylix from Vulci(?) attributed to the Phiale Painter, he drags the Minotaur from the labyrinth in the tondo and faces six other opponents in the ring around it. The exterior repeats four of these encounters (in two he assumes the poses of the Tyrannicides).

The non-Attic vases are of less iconographic interest, but they represent a good range of fabrics and shapes that are useful for a study collection. The majority of the Etruscan vases have a provenience of Veii or Chiusi, while those with a known Cypriot provenance come from Paphos. A seventh-century bowl from Veii bears a horse tamer and two confronted horses in relief projecting from the rim, and a bucchero kyathos from Chiusi has a large molded handle plate with a frontal sphinx grasping two youths.

This CVA has been long awaited, and while it may not attain the level of scholarship of some recent fascicles, it is useful to have the Harrow vases in the public domain.

Jenifer Neils
Department of Art History and Art
Case Western Reserve University
10900 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44106-7110

Book Review of Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. Great Britain, 21. Harrow School, by Jasper Gaunt

Reviewed by Jenifer Neils

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 110, No. 3 (July 2006)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1103.Neils

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