IV. The Adolescence of Black-Figure Vase-Painting
Corinth's transition to real Black Figure.
|Paris, Louvre. An olpe and a trefoil-mouthed oinochoe|
of the Transitional Period, which Humfry Payne dated about
635-625 BCE. Even if it's as much as ten years later, we cannot be sure.
The olpe is one of those from the Campana collection that are the
work of the Painter of Vatican 73 (see refs. in Album)
This is ordinary good animal-frieze work, nothing like the Chigi Olpe! But developmentally, it is taller and slenderer as an olpe shape, and this same workshop before long will start using incised blobs instead of clusters of dots, or rings with a dot in the center as on the oinochoe in the background. Also, we see on these vases a standardized design syntax, shape by shape, which will last a good half century, of which the tongues (derived I suppose from petals) incised on the shoulder of the oinochoe are typical. In fact, this artist, The Painter of Vatican 73, turned out fine olpai so alike that you have to count the animals and notice the cracks where they are mended to tell some of them apart. This is the corner turned that makes this stylistic phase Transitional—not only its rosettes.
Milesian Middle Wild Goat Style in its most splendid example.
The varieties of East Greek animal frieze vase-painting are finally being sorted out and dated, so far as possible parallel to Corinthian animal frieze vases, in most cases trefoil-mouthed narrow footed oinochoai. But all of the "wild-goat" genus opted out of black-figure with incised details. Instead, as if they wanted to 'respect' the integrity of the smoothed surface (and in some cases perhaps considering that their brown clay would show through the pale, almost white, engobe coating, especially in the incised lines), they more or less painstakingly 'reserve' the lines showing internal muscles and features and often leave the faces of animals as well as sphinxes in outline. One of the largest and finest of all these vases is the Marseilles oincochoe, Louvre CA 350, now classed as Milesian (quite appropriately for such a rich and ancient polis
) on archeological grounds. If I were studying from Boardman's book, I'd make an enlarged copy of his chronological chart on p. 271 and pin it up on my bulletin board (or put its File handy to be clicked open on my computer's Desktop). Milesian Middle Wild-Goat is now dated comparably with Transitional and Early Corinthian (black-figure), and, as for the Marseilles oinochoe (Boardman, op. cit., fig. 287 with discussion on pp. 142-143), the proportions of its neck and trefoil mouth as well as those of its animals leave me in no doubt of its contemporaneity with the Painter of Vatican 73. It is extremely elegant, cosmopolitan. There is nothing "backward" about the wild-goat-style's choosing not to use black figure.
|Detail of Louvre CA 350, the Marseilles oinochoe|
I chose not to photograph the whole, knowing that it is in Boardman and also confronted with lots of glancing light except where I could shield its freestanding case with my body! Note that it 39cm tall and almost as wide. Painting on the pale engobe coating here, they have a problem similar to that at Corinth, that the glaze-paint does not stick so well as on Attic (or Rhodian), so a closer photo of the splendid sphinx was called for.
To Compare large Early Attic B-F with small Corinthian (Transitional B-F)
Despite my resolve to wring instructive essays from images immediately at my disposal on my own computers, I do need at least one small Transitional Corinthian painter of alabastra, and not only because he is one of my favorites. So I took a snapshot of Humfry Payne's tracing of Palermo 489, a drawing even older than I am, showing a very different approach to animals from that of the Painter of Vatican 73, above. He illustrates the favorite scheme for alabastra, confronted animals with another creature or motif in the center; his lions are of the rich-maned Assyrian type (and with that nub on the bridge of their nose that we see on early coins, on lions, which numismatists have been tempted to over-interpret—e.g., as a sun symbol!) but the alabastra are still very small, about five inches tall, and the filling rosettes are still of the type made out of dots.
Palermo 489, from Selinus. NC 76. Tracing by Humfry Payne
Payne's gray shading is for added red. I deliberately used my smallest pocket camera, handheld, lest the Clarendon Press (late, lamented) object to my putting it here. For I need it to compare with the very large Attic chimaeras, one from Aegina, the other from the Athens Kerameikos cemetery, which must illustrate, I think, the same phase though at a dramatically larger scale and in the Attic tradition:
|Athens, Kerameikos Museum. Fragmentary, but it is Bellerophon on Pegasos confronting|
an Athenian serpent-tailed chimaera; this bold type takes the tradition that chimaeras
have the forepart of a lion, a goat in the middle, and a snaky tail to the limit.
I'd be very surprised if these two vases were as much as five years apart in date, even making all allowance for that old argument about "advanced" and "conservative" artists, left over from the critical vocabulary (and its assumptions) of the early to mid- twentieth century.
About the painter of the Attic chimaeras, I wrote in the files for my students:
Athens, Kerameikos Museum. Earliest Attic Black-Figure. Skyphos-krater
by the Attic Chimaera Painter (there is also a Corinthian one). I do
not agree with the revision that equates this style with that of the
Nettos Painter. In any case, this work is contemporary with Transitional
Corinthian work, dated ca. 625, so should not be much later; the head
of a terracotta figurine, at right, also is still 7th century.
I believe that most emphatically. That said, we now switch to Boardman's Attic Black Figure Vases (1974), for Athenian work. That was the first of the World of Art vase-painting books and probably covering the full scope of Greek vase-painting was not yet envisioned. Sir John Beazley, in ABV (1956) lists The Chimaera Painter on pp. 3-4, and the above vase is no. 3—nowadays, more of us use the Greek spelling, rather than the Latinized, Ceramicus, that good Oxonians of Beazley's generation were taught (he was born in 1885). By the date of the first Paralipomena pp. 2–5 (1971), pp. 1–5, where this vase is no. 9 (and the Aegina one is no. 1), Beazley's friends and disciples had convinced him that this artist was the same hand as the Nettos Painter. Despite his authority and his own well considered convictions, Beazley was deferential to other scholars whose work he respected; it wasn't just that he was getting old. The question arose from the publication of the three great Vari kraters, huge grave markers made in three parts, lid, bowl, and stand, and it is clear (to me) that at least two vase-painters worked on them. The one illustrated in fig. 6 in Boardman's Black Figure book is 1.10 meters tall, from knob to foot; it is no. 13 in Paralipomena (1971), itself several years earlier than Boardman's Black Figure—and that is why I have to spell out so much here!
In the Eleusis Museum there is a very early neck-amphora, Paralipomena (1971), no. 3, which George Mylonas, the discoverer of the big Middle Protoattic Polyphemos amphora, attributed to the Chimaera hand (earlier publication than ABV, 1956) whose conjoined panthers, on the neck, you would agree is the same artist as did the same on one of the Vari kraters (Anagyrous, by the way, is the same place as Vari):
Eleusis Museum, from Eleusis. Early Attic black-figure
amphora by the same artist as the Kerameikos and Aegina chimaeras and
at least one of the Anagyrous kraters, A; whether this is the same hand
as the Nessos Painter is the very difficult question.
Eleusis Museum, from Eleusis. Early Attic black-figure
amphora by the
same artist as the Kerameikos and Aegina chimaeras and
at least one
of the Anagyrous (Vari )kraters, A; whether this is the same hand
as the Nessos Painter is the very difficult question.
But here is a detail which, when you compare it with the Nettos (=Nessos) on the namepiece of the Nettos Painter in Gisela Richter's Handbook of Greek Art
, on facing pages 288 and 289 in the 1959 edition, is obviously by the Nettos Painter (and the bigger the picture, as Boardman Black Figure,
fig. 5, the better). Judge for yourselves: isn't it obvious that these are two artists, even if they may have been benchmates? Every trait is drawn differently. "Style is the man himself" (though Buffon had in mind only literary style, since, being a Word man, he thought that drawing and painting were just imitation!).
|Detail of Athens, Agora P 1247. Paralipomena (1971), p. 2, no. 4. Note that this is NOT|
a neck amphora.
But I must not get into introducing elements of teaching that belong in the introductory sessions of a seminar.
Back to the animal-frieze olpai.
Meantime, here is one of Medousa's sisters in pursuit on the Nettos Amphora. Magnificent Gorgons, both terrible and entertaining:
|Athens, NAM. One of the gorgons, not childlike masks now, on the body|
of the name piece of the Nettos Painter. The floral festoon of lotus flowers
and palmettes are also in real black figure, but they still look quite early.
Early Corinthian Vase-Painting, and the Sphinx Painter
The Sphinx Painter was a little younger than the Painter of Vatican 73 and also quite happy to paint the same kind of animal frieze vases in his long career—the whole duration of EC vase-painting—but he also occasionally painted small vases. Evidently he was respected in the Corinth potteries, since his influence is widely observable. His style was straightforward but fluent and very consistent.
Here is an olpe of his in the Louvre and one in the Villa Giulia (Houston has another):
|Paris, Louvre. Shape evolved beyond that used by|
the Painter of Vatican 73; the pendant lotus as a
center motif and his highly characteristic siren are
The Villa Giulia one simply rearranges his repertory:
|Rome, Villa Giulia. The pendant lotus may be a bit|
more evolved, so too the filling ornament; the lion is
very perfect Sphinx Painter.
The Syracuse Museum has wonderful vases, and from one of the graves at Megara Hyblaea we see the Sphinx Painter on the EC form of aryballos, round, still quite small, 0.107m tall, so that the figurework is about the same size as the corresponding group on the Louvre olpe, above:
|Syracuse, Museo Paolo Orsi. Sphinx Painter. EC round aryballos from|
A much more interesting vase, an EC alabastron in the same museum, is the namepiece of the EC Gorgon Bird Painter. Again, Humfry Payne's drawing used stippling for the added red:
|Syracuse, Museo Paolo Orsi, inv. 10701. Payne, Necrocorinthia, no. 440.|
|Syracuse 10701, The face of the Gorgon Bird|
On the back of this vase, under the handle, there is a lion's protome. Let no one suppose that some mythical or mystical creature is intended by the artist. He is just being playful in the best sense of the word: the bearded gorgon mask not only echoes the curves in the wings but masks the awkwardness (if this were a natural animal) of the conjoined avian-felines! I posted Payne's drawing to show where the added red was.
Another glorious Gorgon, this one a whole Gorgon, is on a larger round aryballos from the Delos excavations, and this publication, 1910, is early enough that I make bold to use its photograph. In Payne's catalogue it is no. 600, and in Amyx's it has five views on pl. 38. Its inventory no. is Delos 330, and it is the namepiece of the Painter of Delos 330. I have made some further study of this artist, but this is not the place for it. Sufficient here to post this Gorgon, drawn with such panache. The filling ornament is idiosyncratic (those dot-and-rings), and the vase's size (becoming a little large for a perfume bottle, except as a grave gift) as well as the style of the lion on the back of the vase show that it is near the end of Early Corinthian.
In the second part for this period, I shall begin with the large vases with pictorial scenes.
|Delos X, no. 330, fig. a on pl. XXVI, row A.|