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)
|The reverse side (B) of the Berlin Amphora.|
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.
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!).