Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Version at BMCR home site
Klaus Junker, Adrian Stähli (ed.), Original und Kopie: Formen und Konzepte der Nachahmungen in der antiken Kunst. Akten des Kolloquiums in Berlin, 17.-19. Februar 2005. Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 2008. Pp. vi, 272; 67 p. of plates. ISBN 9783895006296. €78.00. Contributors: Klaus Junker, Adrian Stähli, Marcello Barbanera, Sascha Kansteiner, Christian Kunze, Helga Bumke, Frank Rumscheid, Ralf Krumeich, Harald Mielsch, Burkhardt Wesenberg, Helmut Kyrieleis, Susanne Moraw, Ortwin Dally, Wolf-Dieter Heilmeyer.
Reviewed by Catalin Pavel, University of Bucharest

This outstanding book from a traditional bastion of art historical studies comprises fourteen essays presented at a colloquium in Berlin in 2005. From a variety of perspectives, but invariably with enormous erudition and gusto for theoretical speculation (the latter not always to be found in German articles), the authors broach the issue of copying and replication in Greek and Roman art in a series of case studies bound to entice specialists of practically anything related to the ancient world.

Adrian Stähli's opening chapter conducts, from a new position, a trial against the method known to art historians as copy criticism (Kopienkritik). A case study of the Samsun Boy shows how this bronze statue and other replicas inspired by several Polykleitan statues (Diskophoros, Hermes and Herakles and their late Hellenistic hybridizations) cannot be used to reconstruct any of the lost originals unless arbitrary decisions are taken; the same applies for the Croatian Apoxyomenos, the Idolino and so on. This is mainly because "copies" are actually moving in a continuum between replication and invention1 and, on a different level, because we know so little about the polychromy of both originals and copies. The author accepts, with recent research (E. Gazda, P. Stewart) that Roman sculpture is never purely imitative. He states (to translate): "decisive for the conception of a statue was its aesthetical and ethical adequacy to the needs and demands of the client, its goal, subject and future exhibition place, and not the fact that it reproduced, and recognizably so, the work of a famous Greek sculptor" (p. 23); R.M. Kousser, Hellenistic and Roman Ideal Sculpture, Cambridge, 2008, speaks also of "adaptation for context". For Stähli, copying is ultimately a problem of workshop practice--the crux of the matter being how "style quotes" help to differentiate mass produced copies of which many are then re-copied as originals. Like J. Elsner and J. Trimble ("If you need an actual statue", Art History 29.2/2006), he warns that the term "copy" has become utterly insufficient to describe Roman sculpture.

Marcello Barbanera probes into the history of the original/copy dichotomy in the historiography of Greek and Roman art from the 18th century on. He begins by presenting both the credo of Jonathan Richardson, Jr. and P. J. Mariette who had already in the first half of the 18th century argued that the much praised Greek originals were actually Roman copies and their great successor Winckelmann's indifference to these ideas, as well as to those of his own mentor A.R. Mengs. The article then follows the development after 1850 of the Meisterforschung (the quest for the reconstitution of the works and styles of the lost great sculptors, whose relationship with Kant's philosophy of the role of genius in art could have been discussed here) and the attack against it mounted by Kekulé von Stradonitz through the epoch of the promotion of Roman art's originality and up to Croce's influences on Bianchi-Bandinelli. The limits of the concept of a copy are again persuasively demonstrated; some examples (the Japanese temple of Ise, Bacon's portraits of Pope Innocence X after Velázquez) putting the discussion in a wider perspective. Also note his protest against the "ethnic cleansing" (p. 54) of the Roman copies from the more purist manuals of Greek art.

Sascha Kansteiner's point of departure is that some statues that truly were copies of famous originals have been demoted by modern research to the status of classicizing and eclectic works. He moves on to show that, for statues of boys and youths as athletes from Hellenistic and Roman Imperial times, it is actually characteristic for the sculptor to obtain inspiration from two different Greek models at once. Two previously unrecognized instances of this artistic behaviour are also identified. They are a torso in Berlin (Pergamonmuseum Inv. Sk. 1942) copied from the Dresden Boy, with a matching head, after the Doryphoros, in Madrid (MAN, Inv. 2002/114/2); and an athlete statue in Castle Gandolfo combining a Westmacott Ephebe body with an Idolino head. This, for Kansteiner, testifies to the remarkable connoisseurship in elite Roman circles.

Christian Kunze puts forward a very appealing idea: the rococo of late Hellenistic sculpture is neither the symptom of a culture of indulgence nor the expression of some change in mentality, but the consequence of the adoption in the Greek world of the Roman attitude to decorative art. The use in sculpture of Dionysiac and erotic themes, together with mythological subjects, is thus imported from the Roman world and responds to a new social contextualization of sculpture by means of specific commissioning and exhibiting habits. Whereas late Hellenistic Delos and Priene show no trace of the typical rococo (as defined by Klein in 1921), Casa degli Capitelli Figurati and Casa del Fauno in Pompeii (and later the Oplontis villa, Casa di Marco Lucrezio or Casa di Loreio Tiburtino in Pompeii) already organize these objects in coherent decorative programs. This opens up a thoroughly new perspective on how Romans changed Greek art.

Helga Bumke's article argues that Greek cult statues were never directly copied in Roman times so as to not impair their sacredness. The case study focuses on the cult statue of Nemesis from Rhamnous. Bumke corrects Despinis's reconstruction of the statue, enhances the list of identified copies provided by him in 1971, and shows that only the statue's body was copied, and only at a smaller scale.2 Such copies of Greek cult statues' bodies, she hints, might be suspected in many statues of the imperial family, as it happened with the Nemesis from Butrint (lost since 1943), for which a re-examination of the archaeological records shows that it must have borne the head of empress Livia.

Frank Rumscheid shows that classical terracottas generally find little inspiration in major statuary, but that when they do, such copies are more innovative than those in marble. On the other hand, no major marble type has as yet been proven to be a copy of a terracotta original. Rumscheid analyzes the Smyrna terracottas (and dismisses as fake a sleeping Ariadne from Munich, Staatl. Ant. Inv. NI 9388), the Domus Tiberiana group, the Tanagra, and the Myrina group (especially the Aphrodite types Louvre-Naples, Cnidus and Anadyomene). The view of the famous Priene Spinario-type statuette as depicting an African is rejected, while the terracottas from the peristyle-house in the Hanghaus 1 in Ephesus, copying Aphrodite types and Eros-Psyche groups, are reinterpreted as votive.

Ralf Krumeich scrutinizes the way a prestigious past can be visualized to shape the political present and the image of the city. Many of the 33 preserved portraits of Attic kosmetai (administrators of the gymnasion) from the 2nd and 3rd c. AD are inspired by the contemporary portraiture of the Roman urban elite, and ultimately the imperial court; but, more interestingly, eight of them hark back to Classical and early Hellenistic times. They were exposed in key spots of the city: the Agora, the Acropolis, and particularly Dionysus's theatre, which becomes the main stage of programmatic exhibition. The balanced discussion can be bracketed by R.R.R. Smith's analysis (JRS 88, 1998) and, after the Berlin colloquium, E. d'Ambra's (in J. Hurwit, J.M.Barringer, (eds.) Periklean Athens and its Legacy, Austin 2005).

Harald Mielsch's poignant case study illustrates how, after two hundred years, any original can become hard to comprehend for a copyist. Alexander's whiskers in the famous mosaic of the battle of Issus, absent from the sculptural representations, must have been then nothing other than the misunderstanding by the artist in Pompeii of the hatchings typical for the mix of linear and pictural representations at the end of the fourth c. BC, on the face of the painted Alexander. To prove this, Mielsch discusses the hunter to the right in the hunt frieze in Vergina, recently published with excellent photographs by Saatsoglou-Paliadeli in 2004 (which supplements the older work of Andronikos).

Burkhardt Wesenberg and Helmut Kyrieleis tackle the imitative processes that led to the invention of the Doric frieze. Wesenberg reviews the Vitruvius-inspired "petrification" doctrine and adds to it new evidence from the publication (by Petropoulos in 2001) of the stone elements in the temple of Ano Mazaraki (700BC), in an instructive contrast with the wooden heroon at Lefkandi. His dismissal of the most important recent critiques against this doctrine (Barletta in 2001 and M. Wilson Jones in 2002) is, however, undeservedly curt. Kyrieleis, on the other hand, seeks, in the footsteps of M. L. Bowen (BSA 45, 1950), the origin of the trygliph frieze in Mycenaean architecture (the palmette frieze from Knossos and Mycenae, the alabaster frieze from Tiryns). As, for example, the form of the tripod (Archanes publication by Sakellarakis 1997), the capital and, as Kyrieleis shows, the fluting, the frieze too was taken over into the ornamental vocabulary of Greek architecture from Mycenaean times as a recourse to an exalted model from heroic times; and to be sure the oldest and most important Greek sanctuaries are built in places with Bronze Age occupation.

Susanne Moraw's article is an inspiring investigation of the attitude towards the naked body in early Christian literary and iconographic sources, concluding that the vilification of nudity in texts is remote from the more Classical approach to (especially heroic, or suffering) nudity in figurative monuments. Taking as example a silver plate in the Hermitage (inv. Nr. 279, 6th c. AD) with Ajax and Odysseus in the hoplon krisis scene, the author argues that Ajax's nakedness reveals that he is the true hero, the one who should win Achilles' weapons, and not the clothed Ulysses.3

Ortwin Dally proposes that inscriptions with no internal indications for dating can be dated, as sculptures are, by style criteria. However, he does not engage the usual discussion of the evolution of sigma and rho forms; rather, in a more philological approach, he discusses the intentional transfer of archaizing words and syntax from original inscriptions to copies. Case studies are the Croesus inscription on the columns of the temple of Artemis, Attic psephismata, the Acropolis inscription on the victory of Athenians against the Boeotians and Chalkidians, and the inscription of the Messenians in Delphi.

Wolf-Dieter Heilmeyer contributes a short but powerful essay on the impact of technology and of series production on the art object. He sees all ancient art objects--from jewellery to temples--as wholes consisting of limited series put together, and marshals examples ranging from the Geometric workshops in Olympia to the Pantheon and Trajan's forum and from the Hellenistic Megarian bowls and the Pergamon altar to the enormous terra sigillata ovens in La Graufesenque. "Copying", in Roman times, is thus the continuation, in a "collective effort of an almost industrial and sale-oriented craft", of such mass production procedures, already achieved in Athens by the "extensive control of individual achievements of competing technical specializations", but raised to an unprecedented level because of the technical innovations of the last 50 years BC.

Klaus Junker's bold and thought-provoking article unapologetically emphasizes the primitive character of Geometric and early Archaic Greek art. Deploring literature's view of the topic as taboo and of Greek art as unique from the very beginning, the author proceeds to illuminate the affinities between the Apollo Mantiklos and a bronze figure from Nigeria, and between the Berlin Goddess and a wooden figure from Congo. Following Himmelmann's insights from Bemerkungen zur geometrischen Plastik, Berlin 1964, he views the method for designing these objects as a recursive addition of individually characterized parts.4 The similarities are striking, though it would have been best if the two major Greek statues analyzed in the article, the Berlin Goddess and the seated goddess from Tarentum, were above any suspicion of being fakes, which is not the case (although recent literature dismisses the doubts of O. Kurtz). The explicit tenet of Junker's approach is that the more mimetic, or naturalistic, the Greek art has become, the more it has lost its capacity to characterize. This, in turn, must mean that Roman copyists, who privileged the phases of Greek art which best copied nature, produced imitations of imitations of nature. As is always the case when novel ideas are expressed about sensitive issues, the article almost begs for controversy. Was not primitive art actually "invented" at the beginning of the 20th century? (S. Errington, The Death of Authentic Primitive Art, London 1998)? Do not Attic funerary stelae or Hellenistic grotesques portray humankind with just as much complexity as Geometric art? But, in any case, since the article is quite brilliant, one can easily agree to differ.5

The work of the two editors must again be saluted; the book is not only a first-class piece of scholarship, but also arguably the most important recent effort to reconcile Anglo-Saxon and German directions in the study of ancient copies and originals.


1.   Staehli builds on E. Perry, The Aesthetics of Emulation in the Visual Arts of Ancient Rome, Cambridge 2005, but others have spoken of an age of "imitation", M. Beard, J.Henderson, Classical art from Greece and Rome, Oxford 2001, or, very recently, "dialogue", as proposed in the Getty series (2008), M. Marvin, The Language of the Muses: The Dialogue Between Greek and Roman Sculpture.
2.   Interestingly, Despinis was one of the representatives of the Meisterforschung criticized elsewhere in the book; both Nancy Bookidis and Werner Fuchs have reproached his monograph in that what it credits to Agorakritos's style may be just a general Phidian manner. For a more favorable view on Despinis, J. Pollitt in O. Palagia, J. Pollitt eds., Personal Styles in Greek Sculpture, Cambridge 1996.
3.   As had in 2006 Perutelli (Ulisse nella cultura romana, Firenze), Moraw chooses to leave aside the relevant Christian texts; or, the courageous "pilgrim" Ulysses (e.g. Origene, contra Celsum 2, 76), is there always above the pagan war-machine Ajax.
4.   Somewhat intriguingly, he says (p.257, n.10) that no terminology has caught on to describe this type of art, and gives as example Brunner-Traut's "aspektive" (term coined for Egyptian art) and Schäfer's "vorstellige" [Darstellung]; however, Himmelmann has proposed the same for Geometric art in the use of "Wechselansichtigkeit", a term taken over by B. Kaeser, Zur Darstellungsweise der griechischen Flächenkunst, 1981, and H. Bumke, Statuarische gruppen in der frühen griechischen Kunst, Berlin 2004, then further refined by B. Janietz, Untersuchungen an geometrischen Bronzen, Freiburg, 2001 and C. Bol, Frühgriechische Bilder und die Entstehung der Klassik, München 2005. Certainly in English the widespread term "frontality" (quite paradoxically) partly overlaps with this notion.
5.   At p. 259 n.12 Junker writes that the relevance of the description of Achilles' shield in the Iliad for the reception of early art objects has never been analyzed; it has: see M.D. Stansbury-O'Donnell's article in J.B. Carter, S.P. Morris, (eds.) Ages of Homer, Austin 1995.

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately, this volumes lacks any sort of an index, decreasing its usefulness.


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