Sunday, August 4, 2013


Susan B. Matheson, Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut, Fasc. 1; United States of America, Fasc. 38. Attic red-figure amphorae, pelikai, stamnos, kraters, oinochoai, lekythoi, pyxides, askoi, plates, skyphoi, kylikes, and white-ground lekythoi. Darmstadt; Mainz: Philipp von Zabern, 2011. Pp. xii, 98; 63 pp. of plates. ISBN 9783805343480. € 98.00.

Reviewed by Seth D. Pevnick, Tampa Museum of Art (

Version at BMCR home site

Table of Contents

It may come as a surprise to students of Attic painted pottery that the volume under review is the first CVA fascicule devoted to the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery. Home to numerous important vases, including the name-pieces of three Attic red-figure vase-painters—the Painters of the Yale Oinochoe, Yale Lekythos, and Yale Cup, respectively—this collection is frequently encountered in the academic literature. Susan Matheson, who has previously published many of these vases and also generously granted others access to them over the course of a long and productive career in New Haven, here gives 50 red-figure vases, three red-figure fragments, and three white-ground lekythoi the full academic treatment they have long deserved. Her work in this volume is meticulously done, with detailed descriptions, extensive bibliography, and many insightful comments.

Matheson begins with a History of the Collection, useful even for those already familiar with her earlier publications of selected Yale vases.1 This history covers Attic red-figure and white-ground vases as well as black-figure, the main subject of a second, forthcoming CVA fascicule (also to include red-figure and white-ground pieces acquired from the collection of Martin Robertson in 2008). Thus, we learn that the Kleophrades Painter, an artist best known for red-figure work, is represented at Yale by a pair of black-figure Panathenaic prize amphorae. These were the first two Attic figured vases to join the collection, in 1909. Within a few years, in 1913, the Yale collection grew dramatically, with the acquisition of the Rebecca Darlington Stoddard Collection of Greek and Italian Vases. Named for the donor of funds towards its purchase—who died, sadly, without seeing the vases—the Stoddard Collection ranges from prehistory into Roman times and still comprises the core of Yale's holdings in these areas. Not surprisingly, then, it accounts for the majority of the vases published here (39 of 56), many of which appear with the following provenance: "Ex collection Paul Arndt, Munich; purchased by Yale University with a gift from Rebecca Darlington Stoddard, 1913."

A German scholar, collector, and dealer, Arndt acquired some 500 of the Stoddard vases from a now unknown Paris private collection, apparently assembled many years earlier. Arndt filled multiple gaps with additional purchases prior to 1913, bringing the total number of Stoddard vases to 675. Sixteen of those published here also include an older provenance, mostly given by Yale Professor P.V.C Baur in his two catalogues of the collection. These were both prepared, as their title pages indicate, "with the assistance of Dr. Arndt's 'Inventory of the Collection by Dr. Georg Lippold.'"2 The second, more comprehensive catalogue includes drawings by Karl Reichhold, another indication of the high esteem the collection quickly gained among scholars. It was primarily this collection, then, that J. D. Beazley saw during his American study trip in 1914, shortly before he first named the three abovementioned Yale Painters in print.3 Matheson notes that Beazley returned to Yale in 1949, when he would have seen one Attic red-figure vase new to the collection (viii), a column krater that he had already attributed to the Agrigento Painter (no. 8; 1933.175).4 Still, some 18 Stoddard red-figure vases do not appear in his major publications (ARV1, ARV2, or Para). While most of these vases remain unattributed even in the present volume, Matheson does put forth several new attributions—both her own and those of other scholars—for Stoddard vases as well as many of the later additions to the collection, including many unknown to Beazley. Two kylix fragments and a kylix, transfers from the Yale Classics Department "[p]robably from Greece," are published here for the first time (nos. 52-54; 1981.61.306-307, 1981.61.387).

The legacy of Beazley extends also to the order of entries, arranged according to CVA guidelines—first by shape, then by date, as in Beazley's tomes (and as in the subtitle, excepting white-ground lekythoi, which appear with their red-figure brethren). The resulting chronological leaps between some entries are therefore not unexpected, and certainly not problematic for the specialists in ancient pottery who comprise the intended audience. This arrangement also has the happy result of beginning the volume with a Nolan amphora by the Berlin Painter, among the most celebrated of all red-figure vase-painters (Athena on one side, Hermes on the other [no. 1; 1913.133]), and ending with one of the Yale name-vases (the Yale Cup [no. 56; 1913.165]). In between, the reader gains an appreciation for the quality and variety of the vases first assembled by Arndt, as well as for the careful additions made by Matheson and her colleagues and predecessors to strengthen the assemblage. This is not to say that the Yale collection illustrates every chapter of Attic red-figure vase-painting—or even every important shape, with no red-figure belly amphora, volute krater, hydria, or kantharos, for example. But it does include fine vases from nearly every decade between the late sixth and early fourth centuries BC, and one can well appreciate from this volume its value as a teaching collection.

I mention here just a selection of the catalogued vases, to whet the reader's appetite. To begin with early red-figure, New Haven houses two significant plates (Type B) by Paseas: one the earliest red-figure depiction of the Rape of Kassandra by Locrian Ajax (no. 37; 1913.169), the other showing Dionysos with a dancing satyr (no. 38; 1913.170). Paseas is related to the celebrated bilingual painter Psiax and known also for a small number of white-ground black-figure plaques. His black-figure background may help to explain his fondness for the plate, a shape far more common in the earlier technique.5 Also early are two kylikes—one of Type B (no. 48; 1913.163), alternatively attributed to one lesser-known painter or another (the Gales Painter or near him [Beazley]; a member of the Thorvaldsen Group [D. R. Williams]), and the other of Type C (no. 55; 2000.13.1), "[p]robably by the Delos Painter," who may be "the very earliest phase of the Euergides [Painter]" (Beazley). Matheson provides essential bibliography and comparanda for both cups, but stops short of supporting one particular attribution or identification. Similarly, with the important Aegisthus Painter calyx krater showing Poseidon and Nike (and a Nereid fleeing to Nereus? [no. 9; 1985.4.1]), Matheson lists the attribution (by E. Knauer) before discussing some comparable vases attributed to the Copenhagen and Syriskos Painters, two "brothers" connected to the Aegisthus Painter; as to whether these three painters might actually be just two or one, as some have suggested, Matheson reserves judgment.6

The 1985 acquisition of this mixing bowl, made about 470 BC, enhanced the chronological depth of the Yale collection. Like the late Brygos Painter cup with an aulete before an altar (no. 50; 1913.164), the krater was likely produced between the time of the Late Archaic Berlin Painter amphora (no. 1; 1913.133; ca. 480 BC) and the Early Classical Yale Oinochoe (no. 17; 1913.143; ca. 470-460 BC), where Poseidon greets his heroic son Theseus. Perhaps slightly later comes the Yale Lekythos (no. 23; 1913.146), with a finely dressed, unmarried woman standing beside a chair, holding clothes or a bundle above an open chest. Another solitary woman, more cursorily drawn, occupies a domestic setting within the tondo of the Yale Cup (no. 56; 1913.165), probably the least celebrated of the Yale name vases. Other vases from about this period include lekythoi by the Bowdoin Painter (a sphinx [no. 19; 1913.144]) and the Pan Painter (Hermes before an altar [no. 21; 1988.80.29]), a skyphos by the Orchard Painter (two youths on either side [no. 39; 1913.158]), and—as Matheson convincingly argues on the basis of shape and style —an unattributed chous with a runner or jumper whose formerly exposed genitals were "erased" prior to 1913 (no. 13; 1913.141). From later in the fifth century are a Nolan amphora by the Phiale Painter (erotic pursuit [no. 2; 1913.134]), a Polygnotan stamnos (Dionysian [no. 7; 1913.132]) and calyx krater (Eos pursuing Kephalos or Tithonos [no. 10; 1994.53.1]), and a fragmentary but quite interesting chous "very close to Aison, if not by the painter himself" (Lezzi-Hafter [no. 14; 1913.139]). Here Apollo appears before a man and woman of uncertain identity: either Ion or Xouthos with Kreousa; or Orestes with either Erigone or Hermione.

Each of these figures appears in an index of mythological subjects at the end of the book, following an index of attributions and two concordances (of Yale accession numbers to CVA entry and plate numbers, and of Beazley numbers to Yale accession and CVA entry numbers, respectively). Fifty-three excellent profile drawings—one for each vase (but no fragments), at 1:1 or 1:2—precede the concordances. The inclusion of an index of non-mythological subjects might have been useful, and the addition of Beazley Archive pottery database (BAPD) numbers even more so, in both individual entries and the second concordance. For although the plates are of high quality, often with multiple views and details, all photographs are black and white, a loss when color photography can so aid our appreciation and understanding. Numerous Yale vases now appear in color on the Yale Art Gallery website, and many in color and at higher resolution on Beazley Archive Pottery Database), where they might have been more quickly accessed had this volume included Beazley Archive numbers. Still, this is a minor complaint, and anyone seeking color images should be able to find those available.

Before closing, one minor correction: there is no good parallel in Tampa for the very interesting Type D pyxis with wreathed kantharos painted on its lid (no. 34; 1913.154a-b), although Matheson could hardly have known this. Her citation depends on that of Mary B. Moore, who knew through a photograph from Dietrich von Bothmer of a comparable pyxis once in the collection of Joseph Veach Noble. This vase was not included when the Tampa Museum of Art acquired the Noble Collection in 1986, for reasons unknown to me (or to Moore, who reasonably assumed it would have been). I do not know its present location.7

To conclude, this is an important volume that deserves a place in every major research library. It maintains the high standards that readers have come to expect from Susan Matheson and from the CVA series. We should all look forward to her second fascicule.


1.   S. B. Matheson, Greek Vases: A Guide to the Yale Collection (New Haven, 1988). S. B. Matheson and J. J. Pollitt, Greek Vases at Yale, exhibition catalogue, Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, 1975).
2.   P. V. C. Baur, Preliminary Catalogue of the Rebecca Darlington Stoddard Collection of Greek and Italian Vases: Memorial Hall, Yale University (New Haven, 1914). P. V. C. Baur, Catalogue of the Rebecca Darlington Stoddard Collection of Greek and Italian Vases in Yale University (New Haven, 1922).
3.   Beazley, VA, pp. 61-62, 72-74, 96 (for CVA nos. 17, 23, 56 [1913.143, 1913.146, 1913.165], respectively).
4.   ARV1 379.35 (published 1942).
5.   To Matheson's bibliography should soon be added M. Iozzo, "Plates by Paseas," in Athenian Potters and Painters III, Ed. J. H. Oakley (Oxford: Oxbow, forthcoming).
6.   Two of the calyx kraters referenced here no longer belong to the J. Paul Getty Museum (ex 88.AE.66, 92.AE.6), having been transferred to the Italian state (Objects to be Transferred list). On Beazley's Syriskos Group, see my Ph.D. dissertation, Foreign Creations of the Athenian Kerameikos: Images and Identities in the Work of Pistoxenos-Syriskos (UCLA, 2011), esp. ch. 4.
7.   Agora XXX, p. 279, no. 1057. I thank Mary B. Moore, Suzanne P. Murray, and John H. Oakley for helping me try to locate this pyxis.

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