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Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. Russia 17. Moscow 8: Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. East Greek Pottery

Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. Russia 17. Moscow 8: Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. East Greek Pottery

By Natalia Sidorova. Pp. 75, b&w pls. 38. L’Erma di Bretschneider, Rome 2009. €180. ISBN 978-88-8265-465-8 (cloth).

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In recent years, the Russian museums have produced a steady flow of CVA volumes. Fascicles devoted to the Attic, South Italian, Corinthian, and now East Greek vases from the collections of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg are finally finding their place on library shelves next to the volumes of other world-class museums with long-standing contributions to the series. These long-awaited gems are pricey, variable in quality, impressive in their quantity. But the current volume dedicated to East Greek pottery is uniquely interesting and important. One detects at the onset that this is no ordinary CVA.

The author, who was unable to see the project to completion, is associated with Russian-sponsored archaeological work at such sites as Panticapaeum (ancient Kerch) and Phangoria (Taman peninsula) and with the study of excavation materials in Russian museums. This posthumous publication, appearing nine years after her death, is a testament to her expertise in the field and her respect in the profession. A somewhat unusual feature is the introduction, composed by Sidorova in 2000 and included here, which summarizes the volume’s contents: “A specific feature of this volume, which distinguishes it from the others in the series from our Museum, is that it includes chiefly the material from archaeological excavations, which the Museum has been carrying out over many decades in the ancient cities of the North Pontic region” (9). Her tone is purely archaeological as she proceeds to present this rather fragmentary material as evidence for chronology, trade, workshops, and fabrics. It is a pity that more CVAs do not include this type of in-house analysis. With many recent developments and discoveries relevant to the study of East Greek pottery, it is especially useful to print such background information here. In the process, Sidorova readily admits that a good number of these finds have appeared previously in archaeological reports, a detail some might interpret as double-dipping. A similar situation can be documented with the finds from Berezan now kept in the Hermitage Museum, which have been selectively published in Russian journals and form a large percentage of the current international publication project sponsored by the museum itself (cf. S.L. Solovyov, ed., Borysthenes-Berezan. Vol. 1, The Hermitage Archaeological Collection [St. Petersburg 2005]). They have also been integrated into several CVAs (e.g., A. Petrakova, Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. Russia 15. St. Petersburg 8: The State Hermitage Museum. Attic Black-Figure Drinking-Cups. Pt. 2 ([Rome 2009]).

The pottery selected for publication is at first glance dull and uninspiring. Closer inspection will excite East Greek pottery enthusiasts and those passionate about the archaeology of the Black Sea. The fabric range is diverse, if scrappy, and includes specimens of Rosette bowls and Wild Goat Style, Chian, Fikellura, Clazomenian (and related black-figure), North Ionian, and the less familiar East Ionian wares. The organization is expectedly systematic, and the entries are rife with details of shape, archaeological context, size, condition, decorative details, and iconography. The comparanda are too thin in places and suggest either lack of library access or minimal change to an original, unfinished manuscript. Although the attributions and conception of the material follow closely some standard works (e.g., E. Walter-Karydi, Samische Gefäße des 6. Jahrhunderts v. Chr.: Landschaftsstile ostgriechischer Gefäße [Bonn 1973]; A.A. Lemos, Archaic Pottery of Chios: The Decorated Styles [Oxford 1991]), it is unfortunate that the most recent scientific studies have not been integrated. These are too numerous to list, but Kerschner and Schlotzhauer’s “A New Classification System for East Greek Pottery” (Ancient West and East 4 [2005] 1–56) is a glaring omission, as is Villing and Schlotzhauer’s Naukratis: Greek Diversity in Egypt. Studies on East Greek Pottery and Exchange in the Eastern Mediterranean (London 2006). Some date ranges are fairly broad, such as those for the Wild Goat Style, ignoring more explicit, if debated, classifications. A sentence such as the one beginning “J. Hayes, who recently published the pottery of Tocra ...” (69), in reference to a 1966 excavation report of the site, reveals a need for more careful editing, even with all things being relative.

There are a few special entries and oddities worth mentioning. The well-preserved oinochoe unearthed from the so-called House of the Emporium at Panticapaeum in 1952 (pl. 4.1–3) is considered a product of the North Ionian Vlasto Class, and it is said to be unique because of the decorative depiction of trade amphoras that appears on the shoulder. The fragment of a supposed Chian chalice discovered in another location at the site in 1970 (pl. 5.5), which depicts two male figures rushing to the right, one draped and holding a drinking horn, in no way resembles Komast chalices, and the suggestion seems tenuous at best (cf. pl. 6.3). A group of Chian polychrome phialae from various locations and dig seasons adds significantly to our numbers of this shape and provenance, and one phiale is notable for its patterned decoration on both the interior and exterior (pl. 8.5–6). Much attention is given in both the introduction and the catalogue entry to the fragments of a dinos (or krater) (pl. 17.1–5), which shares stylistic, technical, and iconographical elements with a much better-preserved object from Berezan and is now in the Institute of Archaeology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. If the two vessels can be linked, along with others assembled by Kopeikina (“Archaic Painted Pottery from Ancient Sites in the Lower Bug Region as a Source of Studying Trade and Cultural Connections,” Archaeological Collections of the State Hermitage 27 [1986] 27–47), the dinos “may be a production from a single workshop,” the location of which remains undetermined but is perhaps connected to “the Chian and Clazomenian schools” (12). The figure of a wine maker adorning the fragment of a black-figure amphora (pl. 27.3) is quite rightly compared with the komast figures on an askos in the Khanenko Museum in Kiev, and the two objects have obviously been painted by the same hand. The Pushkin’s amphora fragment is placed “near the Ribbon Painter, and the group of the Campana dinoi,” without adequate citation or explanation (pl. 27.3). The Kiev askos is considered a work of the Enmann Class, of which similarity to the Ribbon Painter has already been recognized yet differentiated. Such are the complexities and difficulties East Greek pottery has to offer, as again demonstrated by another amphora of unusual shape and unparalleled decoration (pl. 29). In this final example, a single nude male, identified as a runner (but more likely a dancer), combines stylistic elements of Clazomenian, Fikellura, and North Ionian workshops, as well as western Greek Campana dinoi. Such an example reveals that, with so much to grapple with, our understanding of East Greek art remains at best a work in progress.

Tyler Jo Smith
McIntire Department of Art
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia 22903

Book Review of Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. Russia 17. Moscow 8: Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. East Greek Pottery, by Natalia Sidorova

Reviewed by Tyler Jo Smith

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 115, No. 1 (January 2011)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1151.Smith

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