Thursday, November 11, 2010


Version at BMCR home site

Vera Slehoferova, Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. Schweiz, Faszikel 8: Basel, Antikenmuseum und Sammlung Ludwig, Faszikel 4 . Basel: Schwabe Verlag, 2009. Pp. 78; 56 p. of plates. ISBN 9783796526367. €94.50.

Reviewed by Mary B. Moore, Hunter College, CUNY

This new Basel CVA contains all the figured Attic vases acquired since the last fascicule was published by Slehoferova in 1988. Some of these were purchases; others were gifts. Each vase is meticulously described: dimensions, condition, weight, capacity, and accessory color; ornaments and figural compositions are easily visualized and comparanda are as full as one could wish for. The profile drawings by Anne Wurz are printed 1:1, as are the inscriptions and graffiti except for two. The crisp black and white photographs by Claire Niggli illustrate each vase fully; the digital processing and layout by Andreas Voegelin are of the highest quality. Since the chronological span of these recent acquisitions is considerable (from the second quarter of the sixth century to the second quarter of the fourth), it might have been preferable to present the vases in their order of creation instead of beginning with the red-figured pots.

The fascicule begins with an amphora Type C attributed to the Syriskos Painter (BS 1415: pl. 1). This is the rarest of the one-piece amphorae and depicts on one side an athlete holding a fillet in one hand and in the other a victory crown (a φυλλοβολία) with leaves in added red and white; on the other side is a man, perhaps a judge. Next come three stamnoi. The Dokimasia Painter shows six Thracian women attacking Orpheus with a variety of lethal objects, including pestles, stones, spits and an axe (BS 1411: pls. 2-4). One plunges a spit into his thigh, another thrusts her sword into his neck. The Deepdene Painter opted for pursuits: Poseidon and a woman, perhaps Amymone; Eos and Kephalos (BS 1414: pls. 5-6). The Niobid Painter drew a rather standard scene of Triptolemos departing in his winged chariot in the presence of Demeter and Kore (BS 1412: pls. 7-8).

The large column-krater by the Pan Painter is the most important vase in this fascicule (BS 1453: pls. 9-12). It depicts an Amazonomachy in a very crowded composition, which is unusual for him, but compare his column-krater in London (E 473): two centaurs pound Kaineus into the ground and a Greek flees. On both vases, the frames overlap some of the figures. In the Amazonomachy, a fallen and dying Greek still grasping his sword is seen from the back, a boldly innovative figure. On the obverse, a dead Amazon lies on the ground in front view, mouth open slightly, her helmet next to her. A fierce Amazon in exotic dress thrusts her sword into the throat of a Greek who looks out imploringly; two Greeks, overlapped by the frame, rush in from the left in poses that recall the Tyrannicides which stood in the Agora and would have been well known to the painter. The ambitious poses, the intensity of the battle and the interaction of the figures suggest that the Pan Painter was also familiar with the paintings of Amazonomachies on the walls in the Theseion and the Stoa Poikile, both in the Agora.

Polygnotos decorated a bell-krater with Medea holding her box of magic herbs, sprinkling some of them into a cauldron of boiling water; a ram standing nearby will be cut up, boiled, then rejuvenated to demonstrate the powers of the sorceress (BS 1450: pls. 14-16). Pelias, a stooped old man aided by one of his daughters, stands at the far left waiting his turn, but he will not be so fortunate.1 The Pothos Painter depicted a sacrifice at an altar that has blood splattered on its side (BS 1445: pls. 17-18). An unidentified man pours liquid from a phiale, an oxtail burns on the altar signaling an omen, a youth holds a spit with meat on it and another carries an oinochoe, while an aulete provides music. The comparanda for this entry are particularly full and useful.

Smaller shapes include an oinochoe and a lekythos The oinochoe (BS 1416: pl. 21) is a fine example of the rather rare Shape 2 and depicts a Muse seated on a rock reading from a scroll, the severed head of Orpheus at her feet; facing her is a thoughtful-looking Muse with her raised right foot resting on a rather high rock. Behind her are a lyre and two trees, one in added red, both almost invisible today. Letters on the scroll were incised after firing. The lekythos by the Alkimachos Painter (ca. 460) is one of the finest and depicts a very rare subject (BS 1442: pl. 22): Ajax kneeling on the ground, invoking the gods just before he hurls himself on his sword, recalling the passage in Sophokles' play probably performed a little later (ll. 823ff). Behind the hero, his shield leans against a pillar and the sheath for the sword hangs above. This scene and the one by Exekias in Boulogne, which shows a slightly earlier moment, are the two most memorable representations of Ajax in vase painting.

The Attic red-figured material closes with several good cups, both Type B and Type C. Important among these is one by a painter from the Group of Agora Chairias Cups and bears the kalos inscription that gives the group its name (BS 1423: pls. 23, 2, 6; 24, 2). In the tondo, a man in oriental dress sleeps on a narrow kline, a bow and quiver hanging above. It is not certain if he is a Persian or a Skythian. Slehoferova notes that thus far this subject is unknown in the group and might favor a different attribution, but does not suggest one. One cup was attributed by Beazley to the Tarquinia Painter, but reattributed to Hermonax by Isler-Kere/nyi, an attribution accepted by Slehoferova (BS 1417: pls. 24, 3; 25-26). It features a symposion of youths and men with an aulete and below them is a frieze of objects in silhouette (vessels, sandals, and a pair of boots: pl. 29, 4); for this unusual conceit Slehoferova helpfully refers the reader to the useful list complied by Carina Weiss in CVA, Karlsruhe 3 (1990), pp. 71-72. Dionysos with Ariadne and a maenad appear in the tondo of a handsome cup attributed to Aristophanes and on the outside is an amusing group of satyrs and maenads (BS 1427: pls. 29, 6-7; 30-31).

Two lekythoi represent the additions to the collection in white-ground (BS 1439 and BS 1435: pls. 32-33). The Bowdoin Painter depicted a winged man with a very long beard flying over a simple altar, holding a large thymiaterion. It is unclear who he is, perhaps a seer. The lekythos by a painter from the Tymbos Workshop presents a standard subject: a woman at a tomb holding a funerary basket containing two lekythoi and an alabastron.

Next is a group of plastic vases, mainly in the shape of human heads (pls. 34-37). One shows the face of Herakles backed by that of a woman (BS 21.393: pl. 34, 1-4). Two from the fourth century have figures in relief (BS 1443 and AME 19: pl. 36): a youthful Dionysos in a grotto and Aphrodite and Eros. The last of the group is a handsome rhyton in the shape of a stag's head with a woman standing between the antlers (BS 06.277: pl. 37)

The final section of the fascicule presents the Attic black figure, all cups (pls. 38-56). The earliest are two Komast cups (Bo 14 and BS 1420: pls. 38, 1-4; 46-47), named for the cheerful-looking padded dancers that appear on many of them.2 The Heidelberg Painter decorated the Siana cup (Bo 88: pls. 38, 5-6; 44, 4-5 and 48). The tondo shows Herakles strangling the lion; the outside a file of men accompanied by an aulete (pl. 44, 5). There is a small group of Little-Master cups, both the lip and the band varieties. Two included in this section appear to this reviewer to be hybrids (BS 1430 and Bo 83: pls. 39, 1-4; 44, 7; 49; 50, 1-4): they have deep, heavy bowls like the Siana cup, not the shallow ones of the Little Master series; one cup has a short thick stem, the other a wide spreading foot; the figures on one (BS 1430) are set in a band between the handles; the other (Bo 883) has a bust of Athena in the handle zone on one side and the bust of a warrior in the other. Of interest is the lip cup signed by Xenokles as potter which figures Kastor (inscribed, retrograde) in the tondo (BS 1452: pls. 40, 1-2; 44, 6). The cup is said to come from Etruria where the Dioskouroi were especially worshipped, hence the figure has particular relevance.3 A charming lip cup by the Centaur Painter depicts a running man holding a rock in one hand and a rope tied to a rock in the other; he pursues a galloping bull painted on the other side that has no intention of being caught (Bo 17: pls. 40, 3-4; 51, 1-2). A colorful Cassel cup (Bo 99: pls. 40, 5-6; 45, 3-6) is sandwiched between the lip cups and the two band cups, neither of which is attributed. One band cup has animal friezes (Kuhn 53: pls. 41,1-2; 51, 3-6); the other is more interesting (BS 1424: pls. 41, 3-4; 52; 53, 1-2): on Side A it shows Achilles murdering Troilos before the altar of Apollo and on Side B wrestlers and other athletes, perhaps the Games for Patroklos. There is a fine cup by the Wraith Painter depicting the departure of warriors with chariots; below each handle is a siren with head turned back (Bo 142: pls. 42, 1-2; 54). The fascicule closes with two late sixth-century unattributed Type A eye-cups. Satyrs appear on the first and the satyr between each pair of eyes abducts a maenad (Hess 32: pls. 42, 3-4; 45, 1; 55). On each side of the other cup, a satyr rides an ithyphallic donkey preceded by a satyr who looks back (Bo 51: pls. 42, 5-6; 56). A palmette-lotus cross decorates the tondo, a rare ornament in this area of a cup (pl. 45, 2).

This is an exemplary CVA and I have only one gripe. I wish some of the vases had been illustrated in color, especially the column-krater by the Pan Painter and the lekythos by the Alkimachos Painter, but also others, especially the red figure and the white-ground material. As good as the photographs are, one cannot make out the added color or the nuances of the glaze and drawing. In this time of excellent digital photography in color, there is really no excuse not to include at least some of this important material in color.


1.   On pp. 24 and 31, in the bibliography, Mitschell should be Mitchell.
2.   To the bibliography for komasts on p. 49, add the new monograph: Tyler Jo Smith, Komast dancers in Archaic Greek Art [Oxford Monographs in Classical Archaeology], Oxford, 2010.
3.   To the LIMC III entry cited by Slehoferova, perhaps add the previous one by Richard dePuma, pp. 597-608, s.v. Tinias Cliniar, the Etruscan representations of the Dioskouroi and discussion of them.

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