Thursday, October 27, 2011

Vase Painting. III. Early Archaic Glory in the 7th c. BCE

(a) An Introduction to Proto-Attic work
I shall present the Attic vases first.  They are just as good, and at least as exciting, as the Protocorinthian of the same period, but the latter is already professional and export ware, and it was in closer touch with the sources, direct and indirect (Crete, in some cases), in east Mediterranean luxury art—at any rate, more obviously affected by familiarity with it.  Different Greek sites have yielded different styles from different sources; Olympia is especially interesting, with some imports evidently from Van (yes, where they just had an earthquake), where the Kingdom of Urartu reigned at this time, or else through North Syrian trading centers on the coast, but for the time being Athens seems rather independent, though at Aegina the excavators found painted ceramic wares from both Corinth and Athens.

The Louvre's amphora by the Analatos Painter, usually dated c. 680.
This is Early Protoattic.  Together with the name-piece, the hydria from Analatos, in the Athens NAM, and the krater in Munich, which seems a little more advanced, it is illustrated in Boardman, Early Greek VP, pp. 98-99, and a lid in the British Museum, p. 100, also seems to be his.
Though, indeed, it cannot be much later than that krater in Argos, it is well over any line you want to draw between Late Geometric and Early Orientalizing.  Personally, since different potteries pick up, and make up, their styles from extremely varied East Mediterranean sources, I would not speak of 'the Orientalizaing style', because the important thing to see and grasp is that we are dealing here with a bewildering variety of manners and styles, with motifs and ideas being picked up almost faster than they can be assimilated, let alone shared with all the other Greeks: I would think of 'styles', just as we have 'techniques' (silhouette, outline, incised details, added color or none), yet all are caught up in orientalizing, just as all the Greeks begin to regard major sanctuaries and certainly the main lines of their mythology and epic as well as the still evolving alphabet for their closely related dialects as belonging to them all.
I was just thinking: it is as exciting as being in on the rapidly developing wonders of the internet in the last half century!
The Analatos Painter is a little wild.  What look like cactus come from palmettes, but secondhand.  His horses have proportions similar to those of the Argos krater that we saw last time, but along with outline for his wonderful bugeyed faces and the blousing of his women's peploi and the feathering of his sphinxes' wings, he uses incision wherever that suits his purpose best—not Argive white lines, not carefully reserved lines as on Rhodian.  He keeps as much leftover Geometric junk as he needs but adds rosettes, double-outlined as if from metalwork, and guilloches.  Notice, too, that his sphinxes are obviously not inspired directly by Egyptian ones; next time you go to the Louvre, study all the Egyptianizing stuff there, from the 15th down through the 6th century BCE (that's why I said, simply, eastern Mediterranean).  Look at the Analatos Painter.  Imagine yourself doing his drawing.  Thus you will know him forever.
By the way, those pierced handles on that tall neck are the mark of these grave amphoras; this one is 80 cm. tall, almost a yard.

For Middle Proto-Attic, we may use the great Eleusis Amphora (in the Eleusis Museum), which was made as a grave marker but, when damaged, reused as a baby's (or toddler's) sarcophagus—and thus was preserved without further damage.

The Eleusis Amphora with the Blinding of Polyphemos on the neck and the story,
in full, of Perseus and the Gorgons on the body.  A view of the whole vase in
front view is given by Boardman on p. 105.  It is 1.42m. (56 inches) tall.
The Polyphemos Vase (with Perseus and the Gorgons on the Body)
In the first half or so of the 20th century, this was called the Black-and-White style.  The added white paint is not so permanent; it is not glaze-paint.  The treatment of the guilloches, with one strand white and the other incised, and the 'rays' at the base (slenderer now than at the beginning of the 7th century) alternately black and white, justify that nickname, but the gorgon sisters have a glorious mixture of white paint and plain outline, too.  You can compare the animal combat, the usual carnivore and herbivore, on the shoulder with the animals on the Munich amphora (Boardman, p. 99) and see that they are a generation later: almost fully incised.
If you want to see something being drawn for the first time, this will serve even better than a picture of a gorgon based on a story read aloud by a gifted child in an elementary school.  Actually, I had the privilege of publishing an earlier, yet more canonical, gorgon face found at Corinth—almost surely slightly earlier, from its archaeological context, but these surviving sisters of Medousa, pursuing Perseus, are independent imaginings: scaly-reptilian, snake-haired, toothy.  These are childlike in the best sense of the word.
In the two side views of the amphora, we see, directly to the left of her sisters, the dead Medousa lying in what must be a field of asphodel.  Under the other handle we see a vulture coming to clean the bones.  Never mind questions of botany for the asphodel or ornithology for the vulture!  You also can see in the pictures (scanned from long-suffering Agfachrome slides) the carefully cut-out clay handles, alluding to grave amphoras of metal, I suppose, though no one ever has found a piece of one such, and (proof that it was intended to stand in front of a wall or a bush) the perfunctory decoration of the back of the vase. 
Perseus and the Gorgons and the Blinding of Polyphemos are two of the favorite subjects of Early Archaic vase-painting.

Berlin, St. Museen, no. A9 from Aegina.  Middle Proto-Attic Neck Amphora (one
handle missing) attributed to the Ram Jug Painter.  For the Ram Jug, see Boardman, p. 104, no. 206.

The Ram Jug Painter also worked in the middle decades of the 7th century, but he used fewer filling patterns in the field and was a sweeter tempered artist in his style.  Sir John Beazley, in the first chapter of his delightful The Development of Attic Black-Figure, pp. 9-11 in the Revised Edition of 1986 (and pp. 10-11 in the original of 1951, verbatim I think), regarding this also as the Ram Jug Painter's masterpiece, in one of his greatest essays (and these were lectures) shows how intimately this vase corresponds to our written sources of the story, when Peleus brings his son, the infant Achilles, here clad in an infant's chiton, to that tutor of heroes the wise centaur Cheiron, who holds out his arms to receive him.  Cheiron has been hunting and, as the poets say, return with a fox, a boar, and a wolf (as they seem to me) tied to a pine branch.  The poets say pine.  As for that thing on the neck of the amphroa, it is a palm, surely, drawn by a man who has never seen one growing!
Alas, the vase is very fragmentary and so, like many another masterpiece, it is not in the textbooks, not even Boardman's, so (please observe academic fair use) here is a link to the plate from the 1951 edition of Beazley.

Finally, two more, for which I do not have exact references at hand (I'll add them in the captions or comments in the Picasa Album  if I find them).
The first, also in Berlin and from Aegina, is very like the Ram Jug Painter, and the second, at right, is for you to study to see why one would date it a couple of decades, perhaps, later; it is from the Athenian Agora and is in the Stoa of Attalos Museum there.
Berlin, St. Museen.  In front of the man's head is one of the flat legs of a geometric
type of tripod, I think.  Though he lacks the tip of his nose, his alert expression and his neatly
elaborate voluteed ear are delightful to me.  Athens, Stoa of Attalos Museum.  Confronted sphinxes  (see the feathered wings?) flanking a delicately drawn double palmette.