Saturday, November 26, 2011

Homage to the Berlin Painter

The Berlin Painter
When we turn from fine but ordinary trade pottery to the masterpieces of the best Athenian vase painters, whom many scholars and critics already have studied closely, we feel that we need to take them one at a time, even one vase at a time, rather than in a survey.  Of no artist is this truer than of the Berlin Painter.

• The best place to begin is again, Sir John Boardman, Athenian Red Figure Vases: The Archaic Period, World of Art, 1975, reprinted several times with the publisher varying in successive decades and different languages.  The illustrations are from no. 143 to no. 161, and his discussion, pp 94–111 (including the unnumbered pages of images) is excellent.  The additional notes on p. 238 summarize almost all those given by Beazley in ARV2 and Paralipomena.

• The largest selection of pictures is in Perseus (many pages to scroll through):

• Sir John Beazley's articles on the Berlin Painter are listed at the heading for this artist in his Attic Red-Figure Vase-Painters, 2nd ed., Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1962, Ch. 15, pp. 196–214, updated (pp. 341–345) in his Paralipomena, 1971, for Ch. 15.  I do not have the second volume, by Carpenter, of Paralipomena, but for this well studied artist its references can wait.  When Beazley wrote on his best loved artists it was with great care and discernment.  The writing is not flowery or excessive in any other way, but it is worth reading for its own sake and many times over.  Repeatedly, as new vases appeared to be discussed, over three quarters of a century he wrote on the Berlin Painter, and all of it will repay close and thoughtful reading.
* * * * *
In 2002 with my first digital camera I was in Berlin.  I could not photograph the whole vase properly (and I knew that publications existed that do so), but I saw that I could capture some aspects of the name vase, the Berlin Amphora itself, that the books did not reveal: the texture of the clay and glaze-paint, the difference between the brushed lines (either really black or diluted to honey color) and the relief lines, and the effect of light on them.  The photos are far from professional, having been taken to supplement professional ones.  Glass cases and incident light also limited what I could do, but they were taken with available light and so convey something of the reality of the drawing and the pottery.
The main side of the Berlin Amphora (Boardman, no. 144,
Beazley ARV2, no. 1 (Berlin, St.Mus. 2160)
This is elegance of the highest order.  Other artists have not superimposed and contrasted the rustic satyr and the divine young Hermes in this way, with the fawn's scumbled coat (done with diluted glaze-paint) separating them.  The elongation of the bodies also is of a new kind.
The reverse side (B) of the Berlin Amphora.
On the back of the vase (and large vases usually do have a major and a minor side), the satyr looks a little inebriated.  The Berlin Painter as much as any artist at this date (the first decade of the fifth century, as carefully calculated from a great deal of cross-referencing), is just mastering the foreshortened shoulder of a body in profile.
In both photos, though, you can see how glaze-paint was applied more thickly around the contours to set off the figures clearly and how a relief line, using thick glaze-paint, is used for the main outlines and enables showing the strings of the lyre, black on black!  The plectrum in the satyr's left hand is done in that added purplish red.  Notice that, as every writer has observed, these satyrs are not hugely phallic.  Evidently, though Greek art seems never to have been ashamed of sex, urbanity is preferred.
You can study for yourselves and marvel at all the means used by the Berlin Painter to distinguish the overlapping figures on (A) from each other.
Leaving aside the question of whether the very early works that subsequent to the main list were added as juvenilia of the Berlin Painter are, or are not, really his, work like his namepiece are themselves Early.  This is worth noting because he continued to work down to about 460 BCE.
LouvreG192-ARV2 160 :DSCN2192.JPG
Herakles and Iphikles and the snakes
A stamnos (whether or not we use the name exactly as the ancients did) is in effect a wide-mouthed amphora (i.e., a wine vessel) with sturdy horizontal handles for lifting.  This one by the Berlin Painter shows Athena attending the diverse reactions of the infant Herakles and his fraternal twin to the snakes that had crawled into their bed (a couch, though children's mythologies usually say 'cradle').  The drawing is noticeably broader than on the Berlin Amphora, a decade or more earlier, but the reason that Athena looks more Archaic than the other women is that just at this time, when the generic style in Greek art turned more natural and sober, they began to deliberately retain Archaic or somewhat Archaic types for their deities—even while art generically Archaic was still quite alive and Early Classical (or "Severe") art was only developing.  With hindsight, we recall that in Christian art in the course of the 15th century the Virgin Mary continued to wear a European (more Netherlandish in the North) kind of Byzantine clothing, while, in the Gupta period in India, the physical appearance of the historical Buddha also had become fixed.
The Louvre is the greatest place for taking pictures, and this one exhibits particularly well the same technical traits, in the use of thick paint, relief lines, normal brush-drawn lines, and dilute glaze (N.B., Herakles was blond as a baby!).
Louvre G 371  Stamnos  Triptolemos  Evid. ARV2 158  "Late"  The Addenda on p. 1633 add another illus. in Recueil
Dugas, pl. 30, 2.  It is at about this stage that the Achilles  Painter learns from the Berlin Painter.

Yet another stamnos in the Louvre has one of the favorite subjects in Attic red figure of the first half of the 5th century: Demeter and Persephone with their torches, pouring a libation for Triptolemos as he sets out in his winged chariot (its team of snakes to pull it is not shown here).  This is still the Berlin Painter; we have, as you can see in the lists and read in Boardman, hundreds of works of his, enabling endless comparing and cross-referencing.  This is his late work, probably not earlier than c. 470 BC (I'd say, in the 460s).  He does not radically change his habits of rendering drapery and the figure, but we should note that younger artists, his disciples, such as the Providence Painter, Hermonax, and, most important of all, the Achilles Painter are already working at the same time.  As for the Achilles Painter, he will be the teacher of the Phiale Painter who worked in the 430s.
They are a continuum, but another artist, trained in a different workshop, that of Myson from which a whole group of Mannerists issued (Beazley, ARV2, pp. 237–238), was, as Beazley said, a Mannerist "but far above them: an exquisite artist".  No doubt about his training with Myson, but the Pan Painter  obviously admired and emulated the Berlin Painter, and by preference the Early Berlin Painter.  This is interesting because it shows that these artists took themselves and their colleagues seriously, as artists, not merely as competitors.
By the way, you will have noticed that among those mentioned above, only Hermonax and Myson are known by their signing their names.  Can the great Berlin Painter have been illiterate?  Could have been.  Or so refined that he didn't like labels all over the place.  Quite possibly.  The same answers might apply to the Pan Painter (Boardman, nos. 335–349), but not to hacks.  Yes, there were hacks.  So also in the Renaissance, in Cubism, you name it; there always are.  
Also, remember that, by the time the Pan Painter decorated the great bell krater in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (Boardman, no. 335) habitually Archaic art was a thing of the past; the Pan Painter had to re-create it for himself.  Also, even a mannerist isn't always a mannerist: the Busiris pelike in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens (Boardman, no. 336), as vigorous, as hilarious, as it is masterly, isn't manneristic at all.  And, if you want to know what Greeks thought of circumcision, just study it: as neat a piece of racial/ethnic profiling as exists anywhere.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Archaic Lion from Miletos

What makes Miletos special?

Berlin StMus 1790 Length 1.76m.  Dated mid-6th century
In one of his earlier World of Art volumes, on Greek Sculpture: The Archaic Period (1978), John Boardman put Architectural Sculpture, then Reliefs, and last of all Animals and Monsters at the end of the book.  The lions, separately rendered, are usually guardians, whether of tombs or of sanctuaries.   Boardman says, "apparently one of a pair", because exhibited right beside this one is the more battered rear one-third of another just like this one.
The Archaic lion from Miletos is very large for a grave, perhaps, and unique in all respects, I think.  When my old cat comes in muddy to the skin and half exhausted from ill advised fighting, he settles on his rug after only a bite or two and a sip of water and rests for hours, mostly asleep.  That is what big cats, males, do in the savannahs, on all those nature shows of television.
Face of Lion from Miletos
Why are all the lions from Egypt, beautiful as they are, so much less like real cats than this one?
Consider Tutankhamen's in the British Museum.  Consider the Corinthian lions in Boston and Copenhagen, figs. 207 and 208, in Boardman's GrSc: Archaic, a little earlier than the Miletos one and (for the reclining one) only one meter long, which Humfry Payne dated in Necorcorinthia (1931),  studying comparatively large sculpture together with metalwork and, of course, Corinthian black figure vases.  They are very Greek themselves, but almost as hieratic as Egyptian ones.  It is not that the Miletos lion is very realistic (but neither is the Late Classical one, which merely incorporates what Greek art had learned about nature in a couple of centuries and then stylizes the anger, as Pergamene sculpture will, and uses the formula for a lion's mane that is standard, too.
Berlin St Mus Late Classical lion from Attica, dated c. 330 BCE
This Late Classical lion surely, I think, guarded a tomb, though I can't say in the Kerameikos, because Athens is not the only town with a cemetery or, for that matter, the only city or town in Attica.  But there are many guardian lions in Greek art, from this time onwards, of basically this lion type, not least the Macedonian ones but also those from Magnesia in the Louvre.  I only found this image first.  They are no longer like the Egyptian lions that inspired the Greek use of lions as guardians, but Greek art had settled on a stereotype, which this fine one, tensed to strike with his right paw, exemplifies.

The Miletos lion is wonderfully abstracted in the planes of his flesh and skin over his skeleton.  His face is both still and watchful, very cat-like in this respect.  Everything about him bespeaks a great sculptor doing something new and unique, feline and human.  You can tell: I really love the Miletos lion.  So I give him to you here.

The Egyptian museum at Turin in northern Italy has a lion that I'd like to ask you all about, especially if you know that museum.  It had no label, but I knew nothing just like it.  I don't know where it was found in Egypt (but the museum is old, so it is not a recent find).  I am sure that it is post-Saitic, but whether it is Ptolemaic in date (as I doubt), or Roman Empire, or Late Roman Empire (as I suspect), I do not know.  Perhaps a reader of this blog can tell me.  I didn't have time in Turin to buy a book about the collection.
Turin, Egyptian Museum.  Lion, waiting for a date and other data.
Now, is that cute, or what?  Not stereotyped, either, though in exactly one of the poses and perfectly four-sided form that are age-old in Egypt.  It is not a masterpiece, not utterly unique like the Miletos lion, but it certainly isn't despicable.  I wish Turin would make greeting cards of him!

As for Ionian art, Berlin is one place to go for that.  They have one of the maidens dedicated to Hera by Cheramyes (the Louvre has the one known the longest, about which unutterably silly characterizations used to be written).  It is worth learning German well if only to read the publications on the kouroi discovered in the last several decades.  Great kouroi, and quite different from the Athenian ones, though the Athens Kerameikos cemetery is also a German Archaeological Institute excavation.  I can't put up images saved only for study of any of that material, but I do urge everyone to go to Berlin and Samos and to the Athens Kerameikos Museum (if only austerity doesn't mean closing museums that don't have any gold masks and the like).  A whole Greek world, complementary to what you probably have been taught from textbooks, awaits you there.
I can give you, though, a little kouros head hollow cast in bronze, about 2/3 life size as I recall, which I photographed through glass a decade ago.  You see how lovely and how unlike the more rugged art even of Athens and Corinth it is, yet it also is already unlike both Anatolian art and Egyptian art and the art of the places that will become Lebanon in our own time.
Berlin, StMus.  Bronze head of a kouros from the Samos excavations

P.S. I meant also to cross reference to the Marseilles pitcher in the Louvre, now itself assigned to Miletos.  See second image, with its discussion, in

Friday, August 26, 2011

Peace and Wealth: Eirene and Ploutos

The Munich Eirene and Ploutos

The First of the Great Statues of a Goddess with an Infant

Kephisodotos, who was an Athenian and came from the circle of the pupils of Pheidias, created for Athens in AD 370 a statue that stood for Peace achieved after wearying intermittent wars (see any standard history for those; this is about the statue type).  There had been personifications in Greek art before; a red-figure vase-painter named Makron, for example,  had labeled a female figure on a skyphos Eleusis, meaning the city of the Eleusinian Mysteries, and of course there had been hundreds of Nikai (Victories).
But this statue, which is named in written sources, stood in Athens, and Kephisodotos was the father of the most famous of the Late Classical Athenian sculptors, Praxiteles: it is no accident that the Praxitelean statue of Hermes holding the infant Dionysos in the old temple at Olympia does recall the tender but dignified pose of this statue (of which we have only copies).  It represented Eirene (Peace) proudly holding Wealth (Ploutos).  Not that she was in any literal way his mother, but that peace engenders wealth by fostering trade and, of course, good relations generally.  No wonder that the two Greek princesses of the 20th century, Sophia (now queen of Spain) and her younger sister, Eirene—Irene in modern spelling—had been named Wisdom and Peace.
Once the Eirene and Ploutos of Kephisodotos became well known, and that was quickly, the adjunct infant became a popular motif, whenever appropriate, throughout later Greek and Greco-Roman art.  It might be Aphrodite with Eros sitting on her shoulder.  It might be a regional goddess associated in cult with a divine infant (in which case we might not know their names).  It might be a special aspect of Tyche (Fortuna), Euposia,  holding an infant just like Ploutos.
Made to stand outdoors, the statue by Kephisodotos was of bronze, but the copies that we have, mostly fragmentary but careful pointed copies, are of marble.  Sometimes you see the Munich copy in photos of the 19th century with modern arms, but the only time we actually have arms is in a tiny sketch of the statue on one of those Panathenaic amphoras, not only prize trophies but containing a goodly amount of fine Athenian olive oil.   Luckily, the Munich copy is one of the finest copies of the Empire period that we possess.  I am sorry that I don't have new digital images of her.
Though the Munich statue is very well preserved, it has been smoothed, perhaps even before the museum obtained it, but we have of Ploutos alone an exquisite and never abusively cleaned copy in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.  I particularly like my grayscale photos taken for teaching (so I provide the data given for my students) nearly 30 years ago:
Athens, NAM  #175  Ploutos, from a copy of Kephisodotos's Eirene and Ploutos (q.v.), found in the harbor of Piraeus in 1881.  The black-and-white photos show the delicate (also unretouched) character of the Ploutos and the genuinely infantile structure of his body and posture.  The side view also shows the stump of the cornucopiae supported by Eirene's hand (only stumps remain of the fingers) under Ploutos's buttocks.
I also have some details in color:
I have always liked to stand in the museum, as the light changed (for this museum has windows), and try to envisage the whole statue standing in Athenian sunlight, in bronze.
Now, I promised this posting to someone who commented on my using La Vierge de Paris alongside the Artemis from Gabii, at the head of my last blog here in Opera Nobilia.  I only meant that the graceful, swaying pose goes all the way back to the graceful, slender late Praxitelean pose of the Artemis, and that French Gothic was especially fond of it.  But my correspondent felt that somehow it meant that the Virgin replaced a Greek goddess.  In a sense she did—but not Artemis!
As we have seen here (and it is plain in all of Greek art), when an artist devised a new and useful and lovely composition, such as an adult deity (or an old satyr, for that matter) holding up a baby, every successive generation would endeavor to do its predecessors one better in exploiting the pose.  Of course, it had to be a story in which it made sense.
When Virgil in his Fourth Eclogue, proclaimed a messianic prince, he was flattering Augustus, but from early Christianity onwards the Church interpreted it as they did Types in the Hebrew Bible: that is why Dante has Virgil as his guide in the Divine Comedy!  And that is why, in the Louvre, we have a fine statue of a Julio-Claudian empress, usually thought to be Messalina holding the infant Britannicus; never mind how Robert Graves depicts Messalina in I, Claudius.  

And it is such use of the ancient Greek beneficent Eirene holding an infant that boded well-being, all to flatter the Imperial family and keep encouraging the association of the empress with goddesses (as the Ptolemaic queens already had done, too) that links the Eirene and Ploutos to the many Gothic statues of Mary holding up the Baby Jesus, such as the Vierge de Paris.  
My correspondent was a Protestant, and I, too, in a Presbyterian family was brought up to regard Mary as suspect, somehow, yet I can assure him that the sculptors, who traveled quite a bit, knew a good pose when they saw it, to convey the messianic idea.  But they didn't think Mary was Aphrodite or Demeter or Hera!  The sculptor working for Claudius may have had the empress as Juno (Hera) in mind, but the sculptors working for the 13th-century bishops and abbots certainly didn't!  Even Bernard of Clairvaux would never have thought such a blasphemy.  Not even John Calvin, I think.
I just located one of the early 3rd c. AD coins that show a Tyche (Fortuna) holding an infant like Ploutos and with her hand supporting the cornucopiae (horn of plenty), which the infant in turn rests his left hand on, so that the motif is very surely based on the Eirene and Ploutos of Kephisodotos.  This coin was issued for Diadumenian, the son of Macrinus, at Nicopolis ad Istrum in present-day Bulgaria, but it is not the only one with Tyche Euposia shown as here.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Diane de Gabies, La DéesseVierge du Grand Louvre

It has long seemed right, almost inevitable to me, that the statue of Artemis adjusting her himation, draped diagonally over a very full chiton double-girt to hang only to the knees of the maiden huntress, resides in Paris and in the Louvre; it has been there since 1820.  On the other hand, the Artemis of Versailles, perhaps from an original of about the same date, needed to run in the gardens; she is almost a tomboy in comparison with the Gabii statue.  It is because the Louvre statue is absorbed in dressing herself that she is thought to belong to the Brauronian cult; in Athens, in fact, Brauronian Artemis received new robes periodically.  Though such a statue might stand in the park of a sanctuary, and coins of Ephesos show one standing there, with trees (but not adjusting her clothes), this one is so gracious that she is most at home where she is.
This is the unique copy.  The original was probably bronze, though the modern commercial copies in bronze, in varying grades, do not do it justice.  It is taking molds to make casts, which requires a separating compound, that leaves marble statues brownish.  Since I took the grayscale images in the 1980s the statue has been cleaned carefully and now stands in a different place.  In 2002 the statue was so clean that I was afraid that the richness of the drapery patterns would be lost in photography (but I was only learning to think digitally), and I took only several details in color.  The museum itself, however, had provided for the Louvre station of the Métro a fine, new cast, well mounted and behind glass, to announce visitors' arrival there.  The choice confirmed me in my conviction that this is France's Greek statue par excellence.  If the visitors had just come from the Cathedral of Notre Dame and seen the Vierge de Paris of about 1310, they would see why.
Saying that the original was "probably" bronze (considering the complexities of her drapery) I have in mind that by the late fourth century BCE mixed media is a real possibility, on an armature with ivory for skin, or marble delicately tinted, and clothing carved of wood, gessoed and painted in encaustic; the use of some gold, for patterns or borders would be normal, too.  If the real new robes for Artemis were patterned, there might be small motifs, as if woven or embroidered, on the statue, too.  Such a statue, of course, would have to be sheltered.  The point is that mixed media might account for the lack of multiple copies.  Of course, a bronze with discrete gilding and some inlays remains more likely.
The between-the-wars generation (especially Süsserott, in his close study of chronological indices) placed the original work in the generation of Praxiteles' followers, c. 320–c. 280 BC.  Recently, Jean-Luc Martinez, including her in his chapter, Praxitèle après Praxitèle, entitles the entry Statue of draped woman, called "Diane de Gabies".  Considering the Ephesos coins (and an ugly specimen of one for Gallienus is perfectly good evidence, since photographs do not abound), I see no reason not to call her Artemis (or Diana, if you wish).  A Julio-Claudian family was delighted to show their daughter in that Ephesos pose.
Ephesos, reign of Gallienus.  Artemis in a grove.

Museo Nazionale Romano, portrait of Julio-Claudian girl, as Diana
In the case of the Gabii statue I would point out that the existence of the venerable Artemis of Ephesos cult statue did not preclude the existence of the girl Artemis standing in the woods (just as the Archaic cult statue of Apollo Smintheus has no bearing on the pose or manner of the Late Classical one, and both are shown on coins of Alexandria Troas), so Prof. Despinis' identification of the magnificent colossal head of Artemis on the Athens Acropolis as that of the cult statue of Artemis Brauronia has no bearing on our consideration of the Gabii type as a copy of an agalma dedicated there, or near by in Athens, representing the Athenian Brauronia donning her new garments.  And if that colossal, original head is Praxiteles, why not an agalma of the next generation by one of his closest followers?
But that is just a sidebar to this essay: I am concerned with its appropriateness to Paris.  This is meant as a somewhat playful essay.  Praxitelean studies are for a lifetime.  Here I provide an album with a selection of images meant for study.  I heartily recommend the scholarly catalogue Praxitèle, by Alain Pasquier and Jean-Luc Martinez, that the Louvre prepared for the great exhibition of 2007, where the Gabii statue is no. 73 (with two fine, new photographs, which also show that this work can suggest unlimited points of view and interpretations to different photographers).
For the Artemis of Gabii is several works of art, only one of which is the direct front view shown above side-by-side with the Vierge de Paris of c. 1310.  And its use of drapery to determine its meaning from most vantage points proves that it was exhibited in its original situation in Greece (and, one hopes, in this copy at Gabii) to be relished from every angle—not as nudes are said to have been relished in vulgar anecdotes but for the pleasure of connoisseurs of the artistic possibilities as one moves around it and as incident and reflected light changes around it.  That is to say that, in the most evolved concept of three-dimensional art, it is a sculpture in the fullest sense.  It has no sides, only aspects.  It lives as you move in its vicinity and your eyes follow it.  (I admit to being daft about drapery, but only when it is obedient to a body).
The statue with an enlivening S-curve was fully realized by Praxiteles.  Whether it is, even remotely, related to the Indian tribangha, I do not know.  It was not quite lost in late Roman and early medieval art, though without real contrapposto, and in the Île de France in the 13th century a sculptor of genius, the one who did the Joseph and Hannah in the Presentation in the Temple at Reims Cathedral, as well as its Angel of the Annunciation and the great "Smiling Angel", without any direct knowledge of Praxitelean S-curves, created for French Gothic (which even Giovanni Pisano could not quite grasp) what William
Deonna called le miracle chrétien.  He meant that once again western art had found formal 'solutions' based on study of living reality, surpassing both imitation and pattern-making.  Ernst Robert Curtius, in the same generation as Deonna, emphasized the re-creation of a poetry based on living perceptions expressed in the living, evolving languages.  As we all know, French Gothic spread like wildfire.
Those are large, overarching questions that I can only allude to here.  The point here is that first in the area around Paris an art was created which, like that of Athenian Praxiteles, dealt with courtly and humane ideals in terms of slender gracefulness.
Now, can anyone think of another Praxitelean statue, besides the Artemis of Gabii, so perfectly consonant with the High Gothic of the Joseph Master, as we call him?
The sculptors who created the Artemis of Gabii and the "Smiling Angel" even turn their heads to bring us back to the gesture of the raised hand, and in emphasizing how much fuller the folds of cloth are than the girl goddess's young body the Praxitelean sculptor (and, naturally, I sometimes wonder whether it is not the old master himself, since it certainly was an artist great in his own right) he expresses her delicacy.
The bare left shoulder (not, however, immodest) has been thought to be a characteristic of an Artemis, but for our sculptor it was an opportunity to make the light cloth of her chiton form more expressive folds in light and shadow, falling out over the half-folded himation that is pulled taut to be pinned at her right shoulder, and though this is not like the trick of showing folds underneath a thin silk overgarment, he exploited sculpturally his awareness of several thicknesses of cloth across her back.  I can't recall any other ancient statue that handles drapery in this way.
One thing that I love about the great galleries of the Louvre is their reliance (though there is electricity throughout now) on natural light: I ought to have come back at different times of the day to do the Gabii statue.  On the other hand, notice how the soft light here on her left side imparts something like reticence to the remarkably intricate pattern of folds.
Back in the bright, natural light of the 1980s, here we have the Artemis at her most Parisian.  Why do I say that?  Partly because the statue is so often shown this way, with her face in pure profile and with the cascading edges of the drawn drapery massed in line with her supporting leg.  Probably it is this view of the head that made Jean-Luc Martinez think of Artemis Soteira.
Syracuse.  Agathokles.  Artemis Soteira.

Be that as it may (and on Agathokles' bronze she has her huntress's quiver, while the young girl's hairdo is what Artemis usually has, and she has no reference to her garment here), this view of the Artemis of Gabii has always reminded me of fashion models, particularly those of the early 20th century, often those in French Vogue, especially by Paul Poiret early in his career (but even in young Chanel).  I wanted to post some, but they are most horribly under copyright, and even if they weren't they represent an aspect of Edward Steichen's work that historians of photography seem not to like to dwell on.
But the Gabii statue is the one Greek statue that reminds me of a fashion plate, a French one, where the model, in a photo or a drawing, is likely to be wearing a cloche, etc.  Of all the ancient statues in all the museums of the world she is the one who looks like she actually belongs to the Île de France, to Paris, and now they have put her cast in the Métro as a gracious hostess to all the Louvre's visitors.  I hope she is still there; I haven't been for nine years.
Séduisante?  I heard Elaine Sciolino, who has just published a book of essays on the French use of this epithet, interviewed on television last week.  If I understood her properly, that quality, too, makes this statue very French.  I mean, other languages have special adjectives; Italian can call a tender young girl morbida, and mean nothing like English morbid!

It is great fun for anyone who has spent a lifetime reading term papers on works of art to indulge in one of her own.  CLICK ON ANY IMAGE TO ENLARGE IT.
Here is a link to a good photo of the Presentation in the Temple at Reims.  Notice the different style, more conservative, of the Mary and Simeon, compared with the Joseph and the Hannah.
Also, a fine close profile of the Artemis.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The "Barberini Suppliant" in the Louvre

An ‘Opus Nobile’ not in Pliny: the Barberini Suppliant
Louvre.  "The Barberini Suppliant".  Copy or Original of last third of 5c BC.  Subject much debated.  Next to the Boston MFA statue from Vasciano it looks original, but the flat eyeball suggests that it is not.

When I was last at the Louvre, one of the prettiest enigmas was missing from her pedestal.  She used to reside just between the gallery with Parthenon sculpture and that with good copies of fifth-century sculpture.  Perhaps she was just being cleaned, but I suspected that she also was being reconsidered.
Be that as it may, I’d like to know if someone among my readers has been to the Louvre in the last decade and has seen this work exhibited in a different place, perhaps not nearly so close to Parthenonian work.
I have gathered a limited number of images in a Picasa STUDY Album.  With the exception of two, more than 80 years old, from the album made by Chevejon for Jean Charbonneaux (1930), they are all my own and, for what they’re worth, may be used freely.

 “Suppliant” is the label given her because of her expressive character, but whom she is beseeching or why is unknown.  She wears a single sandal, and her chiton bares one shoulder, but her free hand is missing.  It is tempting to chase down all the ingenious interpretations of this work, but I won’t do so here, regarding them as distractions from the real questions.
When was the statue made?  Which sculptural school does it represent?
Besides its emotional character, it is pictorial.  That is, it is not statuesque.  It is not clear that her seat is the remains of an altar, where a victim or suppliant would have asylum.  Sculptural representations of stories are not confined to pediments, but the question has repeatedly arisen, whether even the fleeing and dying Niobid children, found in Rome, were originally meant for a pediment, even if they eventually were used for one in Rome.  The Early Hellenistic Niobids are usually restored (in drawings or in casts) as a freestanding narrative group.  It is very hard to imagine the Barberini Suppliant as Classical architectural sculpture, and we do not really know much about what kind of narrative, pictorial sculpture may have been dedicated in sanctuaries, especially outside of Athens, in the Classical period.  And, by the way, Pausanias did not notice this work, but neither did he cover all of Greece.

The proportions of the girl’s face are a little surprising, with her small, sharp chin.  The somewhat cursory treatment of her hair, however, is not too surprising in a work in marble.  It is the execution of her eyes that is extremely troubling, since it is a means of creating a shaded eye that seems to be suggested by the execution of shaded eyes in painting; Classical work has rounded (convex) eyeballs, naturally; they would insert eyelashes or add color in paint if they needed to shade them.  It is in the Empire period  that tilted, flat eyes, made to be painted and (most extreme) concave, hollowed out eyes are commonly seen (until such time as the abandonment of optical effects altogether leads to incised and inlaid irises and drilled pupils take their place).  This has been pointed out to me by the experts that I most respect, and with good reason respect.  When I was young I greatly admired the Barberini Suppliant, for its delicacy, for its genuine sentiment.  I had to be taught its problems.  In sum, it just doesn’t add up.

London, BM.  Xanthus in Lydia.  Nereid with "ribbon" treatment of linen chiton
The “ribbon” drapery of the chiton (easily done in real life by pleating hand-woven linen between the fingernails) is seen on one of the Nereids from the Nereid tomb at Xanthos, but not on a figure like this one.  The solidity of the supporting arm does not find corresponding solidity in the rest of the body.  And even when I most admired it, when I first visited the Louvre in the 1960s, I could see that there was nothing I could think of that was quite like it.  Closest for relative dating are the Louvre’s pair (though not exactly alike) of very nice copies of the Leaning Aphrodite, also a little less than lifesize.  If these pertain to the Aphrodite in the Gardens, for which Alkamenes was named as the sculptor, they show that small work in marble might differ very noticeably from major bronzes (and the pointed copies of the latter) attributed to the same artist.  For the present purpose, however, it certainly is fair to compare the drapery on the Leaning Aprodite copies with that of the Suppliant, especially the folds of the woolen himation on the back, such as are proper to the 420s BCE.  And the delicacy of the Suppliant goes well with these copies (though one is coarser than the other) of the Leaning Aphrodite.
For full-length photos of the Leaning Aphrodites, see Album linked to
Detail of a copy of a statue base (birth of Erichthonios) by Alkamenes, to compare with the Leaning Aphrodite
(see more photos in the Album, linked above)

The facts remain: the Suppliant does not quite look like an original of the 420s, or so, BCE; she does not quite have the formal integrity that we expect from Post-Pheidian Athenian work.
On the other hand, eyes apart, she does not look like the copies, even those two Leaning Aphrodites.  Could she be Island work, at some time partly re-worked?  Such re-working would itself have to be ancient—and one sees no physical trace of it.  Island sculptors seem to have liked puddled drapery, too.
No, I do not have an answer.
What then have we learned?  If this is Augustan work like the seated woman from Vasciano in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, it is, I think, finer than the latter, and one cannot, so far as I can see, prove that it is a special, sensitive kind of Augustan pictorial carving, quite profoundly neo-Attic and not much like the chilly formalism that we think of as Augustan.
So I leave it to you all as an exercise in analysis by connoisseurship, one of the most difficult of the many disciplines needed for art and archaeology.  Rules of thumb just don’t work.  The ancients knew their techniques and ideals and traditions better than we do!  Nor should we go to the other extreme of supposing that everything surprising is not genuine.  On the contrary, imitative styles of all sorts, from all regions of Greek civilization, of all periods, tend to be meticulous in obeying the rules, which they understood at least as well as we do.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Herculaneum and Pompeii in London

Earlier today, in the List  called Classics-L, Ralph Hancock posted something really interesting to me.  I am not one of those who merely search for things that I am already aware of; I read this List daily.  He said:

An interesting feature of the Ara Pacis site is pictures of an attempt
to show the structure's original colours by projecting a digital image
on to it:

Curiously, the effect resembles the Art Nouveau polychrome tiling that
was fashionable, especially in Britain, in the early 1900s. I don't
think that its creators had any intention at all of recalling a
classical original; such classical forms as it has are routine
Edwardian stuff.

See, for example, the Warrington Hotel, in the Maida Vale area of London

The most famous example of this style is the Harrods Meat and Fish Hall (1906):

Seeing that the wonderful image of the Warrington Hotel porch is Mr. Hancock's own, I renew his own link here (together with his message), since the old Classics-L does not accept any images.
For Warrington Hotel image, try this link, too.

But the message needs some help.
The creators of the wonderful work in London had EVERY intention and excellent knowledge of how to revive ancient decorative polychromy, especially in the floral and geometric elements, though nothing here (despite the dates in the first decade of our twentieth century) is Art Nouveau.  It is much too pure for that, and there is plenty of evidence for the coloring of the architectural elements of the Ara Pacis itself, not to assert, of course, that every hue can be vouched for.
I shall have to use some of my oldest teaching materials, made 20 years ago from 35mm slides that already were about 30 years old and those taken from old books or else taken with a pre-digital camera in very ill-lit spaces.  In those years, just to show students that such things existed, I'd take a slide several stops underexposed, for example.
First consider the vermilion and relief in gold leaf represented in this famous painting from Boscoreale, which is Augustan:
Detail from the Boscoreale cubiculum now in the Metropolitan Museum 
But actual columns of Augustan date exist, too.  One was exhibited in the Michelangelo cloister added to the Terme when the Terme (of Diocletian) was the Museo Nazionale Romano:

Rome, MNR (Terme, cloister).  Stuccoed, decorated column.  Knowing the painted columns in the cubiculum at Boscoreale, and the Casa Farnesina, and the Ara Pacis Augustae itself, one can hardly doubt that this column is Augustan, or that it was colored and, perhaps, gilded (like the columns in the Boscoreale cubiculum).

The Fourth Style, just before the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79, especially in mosaic fountains but also in columns very unclassically decorated in color, shows us Julio-Claudian taste.  All this kind of work was being published in folios, besides being visible to artists and architects on a Grand Tour, by the end of the nineteenth century.

The blatantly theatrical (complete with curtain) painting once in the Basilica of Herculaneum is extreme and probably would have been too over the top for Harrods.  The fountain mosaic (a new one, well done, is in the Getty Villa) is, of course, open-air and only the brighter for being made to be wet, but the colum exhibited alone (and unlabeled when I saw it) up in the palatial but dark Naples Museum is an example of taste that would be quite liberating to a Late Victorian English designer (for, of course, 1900 and 1906 are not quite Edwardian); its colors, when you actually see it, are nearly as bright as the mosaic fountain niche.
In sum, the Warrington's porch and the Harrods Meat and Fish Hall are the essence of well informed archaeological inspiration, and their creators knew exactly what they were doing and doubtless felt themselves liberated from all White Grecian Urn stuff of their fathers' generation.
Unless Rome and Herculaneum had lots more that is forever lost, I am inclined to admire the English work more highly than the ancient.  Wonderful stuff.  The designer of the Warrington Hotel porch seems in fact to have used the very column in Naples that my sad snapshot records.  The Harrods, only six years later, is much freer but not nearly so wild as the theatrical picture from Herculaneum.

Note: the painted stucco used as a headpiece on this post is early Flavian (i.e., 69-79, when Vesuvius erupted) at Pompeii, but I have not ascertained whether it is from the Stabian or the Forum Baths.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Notes on Comparable Small Brass and Copper coins

VI. Notes on some of the smaller unsigned brass and on smaller copper coins comparable with Gentianus and Tertullus signed reverses.  EMPEROR IN ARMOR
17 08 01 AE16 3.01g 6:30h. Nicopolis ad Istrum.  Septimius Severus, laureate, head to r.  AV KAI SE  |  SEVEROS (reading this sharp example a little differently from Pick).  Rev., Himself in armor, with reversed spear and orb, bareheaded.  A vivid tiny masterpiece.  NIKOPOLI  |  PROS ISTR.  Pick, AMNG I, 1, no. 1400 (there AE15); he knew only one example: "Market" (ca. 1898).
Although to me the little Septimius copper looks perhaps even earlier than Tertullus, I have chosen to discuss only a selection of unsigned small coins:
(a) coins showing Caracalla as Caesar, such coins linked with Domna unsigned coins, and coins for Septimius similarly.  These should still be from the governorship of Gentianus.
(b) coins showing Caracalla still childish but as Augustus and showing Septimius (once linked) with portraits that not only look very early as portraits but have lettering comparable with that on the Caracalla Sauroktonos of Tertullus.
(c) coins showing Geta still childish and with the anomalous praenomen, linked with Septimius, himself  still looking quite early.
All of these are in the Picasa Albums for small coppers and for Apollo Sauroktonos. 
Most of them are not only numbered there for identification but carefully described and even discussed there.  Here I want only to select good specimens of the most arguable ones that are necessary to rounding out the discussion of the larger signed coins.
Those that are approximately AE 20 and weigh about 7g and usually preserve the 'dimple' from die preparation, and are triassaria (cf. those for Diadumenian marked with a gamma) are all of brass.
These are not isolated in AMNG or in Varbanov I (Engl. edition) but listed with other anonymous coins for each ruler. 
Before Septimius's empress and sons (and Plautilla, but of course only under Gallus) were honored at Nicopolis with full-size AE 26-28 tetrassaria, neither Domna, as we have seen, nor Caracalla before he was Augustus, had issues larger than the triassaria, and Domna had only the one lovely large die issued by Tertullus (but that was spectacular, giving her a Haimos and a Nike driving a Quadriga).  Though I would not preclude Caracalla's having had a Haimos, neither have I seen or heard of one for him (he gets his quadriga issued by Gallus).  Under Auspex, in fact, neither had Domna or Caracalla as Caesar in Moesia Inferior.
That is why the smaller coins need to be mentioned, even if not all the dating can be proven,  as still significant at this date.
(a) Although it is no longer easy to get the obverse as well as the reverse of Caracalla's Pick 1489, M AVR KAI AN TÔNEINOS, Pick emphasizes that it is knabenhaft as well as a bareheaded Caesar.  It is a medium-size coin, AE 22, like his mother's, Pick 1468, from the same reverse die.

This is the justly famous issue, which, if Nicopolis used value marking, would be a gamma.  Here our Eros has been playing, evidently, with Herakles' cudgel and has fallen asleep on his Nemean lion's skin.  The motif of the sleeping Eros, of course, is well known from statuary.  The portrait die of Julia Domna on hers is the one with the long, spelled out legend, IOVLIA DOMNA SEBASTÊ, which we also see with Aphrodite in the 'Capitoline' pose on its reverse.

The Aphrodite coin, Pick 1467, AE 21, both reveals the brass metal and preserves the 'dimples' left from preparing the flan for striking, which appear only on the brass coins.  Since it is linked with the Sleeping Eros, it should date from 196-198 (the Aphrodite figure herself appeared with Septimius under the preceding governor, Auspex, but this triassarion is evidently Domna's earliest portrait, linked to her son, at Nicopolis ad Istrum).  To illustrate what Pick meant by knabenhaft, here is one of the Crescent and Star small coppers—and not even all the coppers for Caracalla as Caesar are as childlike as these.
Caracalla Caesar
Wt: 3.09g  Diam: 16mm x 17mm
Bare head right
Star in crescent moon
Ref: Varbanov  I (English) ---; Hristova/Jekov  8.18.48.---
BW ref: 048 039 133

Recently we have seen a number of the coins of this module with Nemesis for Septimius Severus himself, also brass and with 'dimples', and a very fine portrait, more like those of Gentianus than any of Tertullus, which faces left (the most similar one in Pick's catalogue is no. 1345, but with differences in the legend and the head to r.).

Whether we follow Pick in calling these zweier or follow its metal and  the indication of the one of Diadumenian at Marcianopolis, which is marked gamma, is not so important as noticing their distinctiveness, for Pick lists no other AE 22 for Septimius, and we cannot generalize, but only wonder whether the head facing left was meant itself to mark their value as currency.  
Pick does list nos. 1465–1473 as AE 21–23, of which we have just posted the Eros, 1468, and the Aphrodite.  I can add, in poor condition, no. 1465, which Pick illustrates, Taf. XV, 18, the Athena:

There is also a Nemesis for Domna (HrJ, the second one in the middle column), but neither the legend (it seems to spell out SEBASTÊ) nor the style of the head matches any of the foregoing, and Nemesis has no wheel:

A recent entirely new addition, with another Domna portrait, perhaps more like the Tertullus one than the above, is contributed by 'helcaraxe', an unexpected Artemis Huntress for Julia Domna:

Brass (with 'dimples') and AE 21, 7.43g.  These drive home the old observation that, in general, the triassaria were for empresses and Caesars.

And, speaking of Caesars, here is a Nemesis for Caracalla as Caesar, a little copper, but Nemesis was not common for Severus's family under Tertullus, so far as we  know, and this one also has the childish head:

NEMESIS  Caracalla, Caesar 23 10 01 AE16 Nicopolis ad Istrum.  Caracalla as Caesar, bareheaded, head to r.  M AVR KAI.  |  ANTONIN[O.  Rev. Dikaiosyne/Nemesis, holding goad in her l., scales in her r. (barely discernible), wheel to the right of her feet (quite exceptional).  NIKOPOLITONP[ROS ISTRON presumably].  Not in Pick.  No Nemesis or Dikaiosyne/Aequitas is listed in Pick for Caracalla or Elagabalus, and this very young charmer must be, in fact, Caracalla (sold as Geta!).  For the reverse, cf. Septimius Pick no. 1392, the variant ex. 2, though the position of the wheel is not mentioned.

CRESCENT, STAR Caracalla, Caesar.  This also is 8.18.48.--, like BW's green one.  Not only is it probably a double die-match, Pick's catalogue and even HrJ, have fewer examples than we have die pairs.
Like the prettier, green star and crescent posted above, this one seems to be a pre-Tertullian Caracalla Caesar, but star-and-crescent reverses for the whole family persist, though I should doubt that any are later than Gallus.  KRATER Caracalla, Caesar Probable identification.  A second specimen, then. The dark area at the top might be expected to be a kantharos sitting on the perforated (strainer) lid of the krater, but it is only a dark, rough corrosion. The seller, besides giving it to Geta, said "Conclusion might be brought that this vessel could have been the "chamber pot" that was used by the king in which the king hid as Hercules brought him the boar."  The last word lays bare the babelfish enormity: Eurystheus hid in a PITHOS (there are hundreds of pictures of him cowering in it) when Herakles, expected to be killed, instead returned with the Erymanthian Boar". For something like a pithos, see the tale of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves.
The coins as shown here are not to scale, and those with objects rather than animals or deities are as small as the anonymous ones for Nicopolis, but even so, and despite its condition, this Caracalla is not quite so babyish as the last. HELIOS-SOL RADIANT BUST.  Caracalla Caesar, bare bust to r., is OS of his name belong the cut-off of the bust.  Pick 1492, pl. XIV, 24.  Septimius has the type on no. 1358.  This is no crown but attempts to show overall radiance HERAKLES CLUB APPLE.  Carcacalla Caesar, draped bust to r.  Pick 1498.  NIKOPOL  |  PROS IST (as on Pick's Berlin specimen)  EAGLE, FLEDGLING  Caracalla Caesar.  Thanks to pscipio

DIONYSOS  Caracalla Caesar  HrJ
AE17  3.43g  axis 12h
Pick 1497 (since naked), but that one has a different ending on the legend, and 1496 has the ISTR.  I cannot tell whether the obv. has the NN that Pick saw.
(b) The first of these two has the manner and attitude of some Tertullus dies, but it is the second one, the Eros proffering his torch, that has the narrow, problematic rib cage that so tellingly resembles the Tertullus Sauroktonos, Pick 1518, and very Tertullian letter forms.

13 06 01 AE17  2.55g  Nicopolis ad Istrum.  Septimius Severus.  AV KAI SE  |  SEVEROS.  Rev. Apollo Sauroktonos (with arrow tip on his dart).  NIKOP OL  |  I. (dot)  PROS IS.  This is (by the legend) the obverse die of Pick 1354, but it has the Apollo with legs "correct", unlike the Berlin example (the only one published) of 1354.  I have other examples of both: to be considered.
EROS, CHILD Caracalla, boy Augustus 17 10 03 AE 18 2.92g axis 8:00 Nicopolis ad Istrum.  Caracalla, laureate, draped bust to r.  [A]V K M AV  |  ANTONIN; Pick, p. 414, wondered whether there was a rho after AV, but there isn't one.  Rev., Eros stg. l., his l. foot drawn back, his torch in his extended r. hand, his wings spread behind him (held in place by crisscrossed bands!), his l. hand behind his haunch (like Herakles).  NIKOPOLI  |  PR[OS ISTR]; completed from Pick's example, in Bucharest, less off center than this one.  Pick, AMNG I, 1, p. 414, no. 1591, Taf. XVI, 5.  Which head is curlier, the boy's or the deity's?
The next two, with these portrait dies, and the same sort of wreath, plainly go with the EYTYXÔS issue  WREATH, void.  Caracalla, Aug.
NIKOPOLI[TÔN PROS I]--this first 3 letters vague
AMNG I, 1, no. 1618
14/17mm  2.41g  axis 3h WREATH, VOID.  Geta, draped bust to r.  NIKOPOLITïN PROS IST.  The type of wreath and the letter forms suggest that these go with the Tertullus tetrassaria with inhabited wreaths and acclamations.
16mm  2.54g  axis 1h

(c) Coins for Geta, with the anomalous praenomen and die-linked to an early-looking Septimius.

20 12 10 (Christmas 2010, from jpw).  AE 16  2.56g  axis ~6h.  Nicopolis ad Istrum.  Geta, draped bust to r. L AVR KAI     GETAS  Rev., Apollo Sauroktonos (true to type).  NIKOPOLIT  Ô  N  PROS IS.  Pick AMNG I, 1, 1629.  PL 13b.  HrJ  ExRighetti, M&M 16 (19.05.2005) lot 371.  Teil V
From the same die-pair as the others that I have posted, including that for Septimius, both in my Sauroktonos page in Forum Ancient Coins, and collected in the Picasa Album, this is the coin that led me to study coins, and Provincials in particular, when (bidden to identify some coins belonging to an alumnus of my university) I discovered  Doug Smith's wonderful web pages .  In fact, at the head of that site, in the composite, row three, second from left, you can click on an earlier image of this coin (he took this one just for my studies) and find what I found.  But the one above it here also preserves some details better than any of my others.  So these two have pride of place here.
Why is this Tertullian?  The anomalous praenomen.  The letter forms.  The similarity (if it isn't indeed the same obverse die) to the portrait on the one with the void wreath, above.

Note: the relevance of Julia's Wreath, Pick 1473, using the SEBASTÊ obverse die of the Aphrodite and Sleeping Eros brasses, HrJ, should have been emphasized.  HrJ does illustrate Domna's SEBASTÊ obverse with the sleeping Eros, and also shows on the slightly larger module theknabehhaft Caesar portrait so obviously like that used on the coppers