Academic journal article Journal of Art Historiography

Archaeological, Art-Historical, and Artistic Approaches to Classical Antiquity

Academic journal article Journal of Art Historiography

Archaeological, Art-Historical, and Artistic Approaches to Classical Antiquity

Article excerpt

Archaeological, art-historical, and artistic approaches to classical antiquity Review of: Viccy Coltman (ed.), Making Sense of Greek Art, Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2012, xxii + 250 pp., 4 col. Plates, 65 b. & w. illus., £60.00 hdbk, ISBN 9780859898300.

Despite what its title might suggest, this book is not about Classical Greece. A subtitle on the publisher's website reads Ancient Visual Culture and its Receptions, but that does not appear on the book's title page, nor does the information that this is a Festschrift in memory of John Betts (1940-2008), which is revealed in the introduction (XIII - XXII). Betts taught Latin and Greek and ancient architecture, sculpture, and vase painting at the University of Bristol from 1966 to 2003, he founded Bristol Classical Press in 1977, and he was active in theatre. The ten essays here by his former students and colleagues address those interests, and although they all relate to antiquity in some way, most of them are not specifically concerned with Greek art.

In 'Contextual Iconography: The Horses of Artemis Orthia' (1 - 16), Nicki Waugh considers two types of votive offerings from the Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia: Artemis seated sideways on a horse; and Artemis placed frontally between two horseheads. The sanctuary was founded at the same time as the rise of the polis in the middle of the eighth century and served as 'a place of conspicuous display' within the polis (8). Although Artemis as the mistress of horses (potnia hippon) is seen elsewhere, Waugh argues that the friendly unity between the Spartan Artemis and her horse heads is very unlike the controlling goddess represented in examples from Crete and Corcyra. Artemis as a sideways rider is also a familiar type, but in Spartan examples again she does not dominate her mount. Waugh interprets the tone of these figurines as Spartan self-promotion, an interesting view that is the result of her careful use of available sources and observation of detail.

In 'Reconsidering the Meanings of Athenian Figured Vases' (17 - 38), Zosia Archibald praises the essays in two volumes about the production, distribution, and use of Greek vases: The Complex Past of Pottery, edited by Jan Paul Crielaard, Vladimir Stissi, and Gert Jan van Wijngaarden (Gieben, 1999), and Le vase grec et ses destins, an exhibition catalogue edited by Pierre Rouillard and Annie Verbanck- Piérart (Mariemont, 2003). She disapproves of what she calls art historians' concern with aesthetics, pointing out that 'taphonomy,.. .the human-induced and natural processes that contribute to an artefact's final condition underground', is a difficult approach because so many vases are 'in museum collections worldwide' (23). Archibald asserts that in Britain field archaeologists are more interesting to the general public, as shown by Time Team on television, than 'finds specialists' [curators], except for those who appear on Antiques Roadshow. She also believes that the former are more likely to receive grants from the scientific community, but she does not mention the large-scale financial support given to museum exhibitions. Furthermore, Archibald comments that Greek vases published in the Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum were acquired mainly through the art market and are therefore without context, with the result that archaeologists are not interested in them, though readers might well argue that the CVA is an important tool for archaeologists and art historians alike. Yet she concedes that 'For any archaeologist who has had to start with unidentified sherds and develop ways of recognising patterns, repetition and similarity are starting points', belying John Beazley's 'admittedly dilettantish manner' (27). To conclude her somewhat anti-curatorial survey of the field, she says that production of pottery has not yet been addressed in its own right [in fact, handbooks on the subject usually address production], that handbooks on Greek pottery consider mostly fine wares, and that quantitative estimates of extant Athenian pottery vary widely. …

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