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Deliciae Fictiles. Vol. 3, Architectural Terracottas in Ancient Italy: New Developments and Interpretations. Proceedings of the International Conference Held at the American Academy In Rome, November 7–8, 2002

Deliciae Fictiles. Vol. 3, Architectural Terracottas in Ancient Italy: New Developments and Interpretations. Proceedings of the International Conference Held at the American Academy In Rome, November 7–8, 2002

Edited by Ingrid Edlund-Berry, Giovanna Greco, and John Kenfield. Pp. xix + 508, b&w figs. 661, color figs. 86. Oxbow Books, Oxford 2006. $70. ISBN 1-84217-208-5 (cloth).

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The title of this series could perhaps be translated as “Terracotta Delights.” Choice of the love-word deliciae found in Vergil, Catullus, and other authors helps to convey something of the genuine and irresistible passion felt for the objects in this specialist field by faithful devotees and by the newer participants in the international conferences that have now been occurring for some 20 years. The first conference entitled “Deliciae Fictiles” and dealing with Italian architectural terracottas was held at the Swedish Institute in Rome in 1990, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of the great seminal study of Arvid Andrén, Architectural Terracottas from Etrusco-Italic Temples (Lund and Leipzig 1939–1940). The second “Deliciae Fictiles” was held at the Netherlands Institute in Rome in 1996.

The present volume publishes the proceedings of a conference organized at the American Academy in Rome in 2002 by the editors. The momentum built over the previous decade and the cumulative collegiality of the participants made this the largest of the conferences to date, resulting in the publication of no less than 44 papers by scholars from seven different nations. This reviewer counted 10 contributors who attended all three conferences: Concetta Ciurcina, Ingrid Edlund-Berry, Völkner Kastner, John Kenfield, Patricia Lulof, Anna Maria Moretti Sgubini, Simonetta Stopponi, Maria Josè Strazzulla, Charlotte Wikander, and Nancy Winter. As luck would have it, Winter comes last on this alphabetical list. But all would place her first on the list in terms of leadership in the field of ancient architectural terracottas, an “alter Andrén,” according to Riemer Knoop (P.S. Lulof and E.M. Moormann, eds., Deliciae Fictiles. Vol. 2 [Amsterdam 1997] 2).

It is impossible in this review to summarize the individual entries, but this task has been done for us by the editors, who highlight the main points and overall themes of the papers in their introduction (xiii–xix). Edlund-Berry, Greco, and Kenfield can claim a great accomplishment in assembling and editing these various contributions and presenting them in such an attractive format (for photographs of the organizers and attendants at the conference, see

The geographical range of the third volume is notable, featuring sections on the oft-studied areas of Latium, Campania, Sicily, and Etruria (Tarquinia is surprisingly absent), as well as the territori italici, where sanctuaries may be associated with Samnites, Aequi, Marsi, Pae-ligni, Vestini, and other little-known peoples of ancient Italy. (The one criticism that might be made regarding the geographical scope of the volume is that few readers will have the ability to situate unaided all of the locations; a master map would have been a great help.) Particularly stunning are the terracottas from Pagliaroli di Cortino, near Teramo, in the territory of the Praetuttii (Abruzzi), revealing, as Strazzulla notes, knowledge of the canons of hellenism but providing an “interpretazione esuberante e fantasiosa” (37). This third Deliciae features color reproductions of these truly delightful items, including a frieze of vegetation that is displayed on the book’s cover. Inside are more than 80 color illustrations, urgently important from a scientific point of view, since polychromy was one of the defining elements of ancient Italian buildings.

The existence of materials from such a wide range of sites is indicative of the koine in the architecture of Italy resulting from the fact that every substantial building needs a substantial roof. In Italy much more than in Greece, terracotta was the material of choice over a long period of time for an enormous variety of fittings for buildings. The illustrations in Deliciae make this point, including the ever-popular antefixes, akroteria, and pedimental groups, and also revetments, moldings, gutters, and occasionally the lowly pan tile. Some of the scraps are such that only the excavator could love, but Stopponi provides a case study of what can be done with the most unprepossessing examples (ch. 24). Making trips to Berlin and Philadelphia and sending agents to Toronto with plaster casts, she was able to attach terracottas from Orvieto, some newly excavated, to fragments in museums, thereby shedding light on provenance, function, iconography, and cult at the original sites. The great importance of this kind of work is brought home by the fact that some fragments come from her recent excavation at Campo della Fiera, Orvieto, a site that can almost certainly be identified with the greatest Etruscan sanctuary, the Fanum Voltumnae.

Some of the articles in Deliciae are on general topics rather than particular sites, but the proportion is low. Cuomo di Caprio, who called for more archaeometrical studies in the second volume of Deliciae 2 (45–52), will find few relevant contributions. In this regard, though, the most stimulating article is that of Lulof (ch. 23), who suggests that an entire prefabricated terracotta roof, weighing approximately 40 metric tons, was transported by sea from a workshop in Campania to Satricum to be used in the Temple of Mater Matuta. Her argument is supported by the fact that the terracottas of Satricum, subjected to detailed geological and petrographical studies, reveal a volcanic temper of pyroclastic material originating from the Phlegrean Fields and Ischia. “Not only the idea, the design, the techniques and the moulds come from Campania, but also the primary materials, such as the temper, and paints, and probably also the clays” (237).

Of particular value is the short but wise contribution of Charlotte and Örjan Wikander (ch. 4) recommending directions for future research based on their 30 years of experience with architectural terracottas. They urge caution in combining iconographic study with stylistic analysis to produce historical and political interpretations—a traditional approach—and recommend studying the entire context of any given terracotta. They advocate more concentration on the production process and the nature of the consumers, making an eloquent plea to scholars to widen the methodology for studying architectural terracottas.

Overall, these new studies of “Terracotta Delights” are of the greatest importance for the specialists in the field. This volume is also relevant for scholars in a wide range of pursuits, including ancient myth, religion, history, architecture, topography, trade, and artisans’ practices.

Nancy T. de Grummond
Department of Classics
Florida State University
Tallahassee, Florida 32306-1510

Book Review of Deliciae Fictiles. Vol. 3, edited by Ingrid Edlund-Berry, Giovanna Greco, and John Kenfield

Reviewed by Nancy T. de Grummond

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 112, No. 1 (January 2008)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1121.deGrummond

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