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Black-Figure vases in the collection of the British School at Athens

  • Tyler Jo Smith (a1)


Although some of the black-figure vases presented here were studied by Beazley and others, many are published for the first time. This article provides a summary of the collection followed by a catalogue of the objects by fabric and shape, and an illustration of each piece. The fabrics include Athenian, Corinthian, Boeotian and Euboean. A wide range of shapes, styles and iconographic themes are represented. An appendix of largely unpublished Athenian black-figure from the site of Kynosarges, excavated by the BSA (1896–7), appears at the end.



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1 Study of this material took place during successive periods at the British School. I am grateful to the late Martin Price for inviting me to study these objects, to the Managing Committee in 1995 for permission to publish them, and to the staffs in Athens and London for their ongoing kindness and assistance. Additional research was conducted at the Beazley Archive, Oxford, and thanks are owed to D. C. Kurtz and her staff. The initial research was funded by the Craven Committee and Merton College, Oxford. Subsequent visits to Greece have been generously funded by the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and the McIntire Department of Art, University of Virginia. At the British School special thanks are owed to Directors Richard Tomlinson and David Blackman; Assistant Directors Guy Sanders, Lesley Beaumont and Rebecca Sweetman; and Archivists M. Cozgell, A. Sackett and A. Kakissis. Dr C. Neeft, University of Amsterdam, kindly agreed to help with the Corinthian vases, and many of the attributions are his. In addition, the following are thanked for providing much needed help at various stages in the preparation of this publication: American School of Classical Studies, J. Boardman, E. French, S. Gajendragadkar, N. Hardwick, S. Lambert, T. McNiven, J. Mikalson, I. Narkiss, J. Oakley, S. Paspalas, V. Sabetai, A. Shapiro, W. Slater, C. Stewart, A. Taylor, W. Walker, D. Wardle, K. Wardle, N. Wardle, R. Wilkins, M. Zachariou, P. Wilson-Zarganis. Ms A. Wilkins (Institute of Archaeology, Oxford) kindly redrew the Panathenaic amphora fragment.

Special Abbreviations:

AAKZ = Oakley, J., et al. , Αθηναίοι Αγγειοπλάστες και ζωγράφοι·Κατάλοψος της Εκθέσης (Athens, 1994 ).

ABL = Haspels, E., Attic Black-Figured Lekythoi (Paris, 1936)

ABV = Beazley, J. D., Attic Black-Figure Vase-Painters (Oxford, 1956).

ACBC = Parlama, L. and Stampolidis, N. Chr. (eds), Athens: the City Beneath the City. Antiquities from the Metropolitan Railway Excavations (Athens, 2000 ).

Add 2 = Carpenter, T. H., Beazley Addenda, 2nd edn. (Oxford, 1989).

Agora, xxiii = Moore, M. B. and Philippides, M. Z. P., Attic Black-Figured Pottery (Princeton, 1986).

Amyx, Corinthian = D. A. Amyx, Corinthian Vase-Painting of the Archaic Period (1988).

APAP = Oakley, J. (ed.), Athenian Potters and Painters, Catalogue of the Exhibit (American School of Classical Studies

Beazley, Dev 2 = Beazley, J. D., The Development of Attic Black-Figure, rev. von Bothmer, D. and Moore, M. B. (eds), (Berkeley and London, 1986).

Boardman, ABFV = Boardman, J., Athenian Black Figure Vases (London, 1974).

Boardman, Early = Boardman, J., Early Greek Vase Painting (London, 1998).

Boardman, ‘Ragusa’ = Boardman, J., ‘The Ragusa Group’, in Capecchi, G. et al. (eds), In Memoria di Enrico Paribeni (Rome, 1998), 5965 .

Heesen, Theodor = Heesen, P., The J. L. Theodor Collection of Attic Black-Figured Vases (Amsterdam, 1996).

Kerameikos, ix = Knigge, U., Der Südhügel (Berlin, 1976).

Kilinski, Boeotian = Kilinski, K., Boeotian Black Figure Vases of the Archaic Period (Mainz am Rhein, 1990).

LIMC = Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae.

Para = Beazley, J. D., Paralipomena (Oxford, 1971 ).

Samos, xxii = Kreuzer, B., Die attische schwarzfigurige Keramik aus dem Heraion von Samos (Bonn, 1998).

Waterhouse = Waterhouse, H., The British School at Athens: The First Hundred Years (London, 1986 ).

2 The manuscript entitled ‘A Catalogue of the Museum of the British School of Archaeology at Athens’, edited by David T.-D. Clarke, with contributions by Daphne Hereward, W?H. [sic] Plummer, M. S. F. Hood, included sections on sculpture, bronzes, inscriptions, pottery and glass, metalware, architectural remains, etc. It included a section on the Kynosarges excavations conducted by the School 1896–7, complete with site plans and finds in the School's possession. The manuscript is dated 1950.

3 A complete catalogue of the black-figure vases has been submitted to the Ephoria of Private Collections, Ministry of Culture; see BSAAR (2000–1), 48. On the BSA collections see Waterhouse, 24, 34, 45, 66 and 70; Lambert, S. D., ‘The Greek inscriptions in stone in the collection of the British School at Athens’, BSA 95 (2000), 485516 ; Tomlinson, R. A., ‘Architectural pieces in stone in the collection of the British School at Athens’, BSA 95 (2000), 473–83; and J. N. Coldstream, in this volume. Other relevant articles include Arnott, R., ‘Early Cycladic objects from Ios formerly in the Finlay Collection’, BSA 85 (1990), 114 ; and Catling, R., ‘Sub-Mycenaean and Protogeometric vases in the Museum of the British School at Athens’, BSA 85 (1990), 3746 . Geometric vases appeared in Droop, J. P., ‘Dipylon vases from the Kynosarges site’, BSA 12 (19051906), 8092 . See also Cook, J. M., ‘Protoattic pottery’, BSA 35 (19341935), 196–8, on the Kynosarges amphora now in the National Museum; and Boardman, J., ‘Painted votive plaques and an early inscription from Aegina’, BSA 49 (1954), 183201 , esp. 184, now in the National Museum.

4 According to the BSA archives, an earlier set of museum photographs was made in 1961, during the Directorship of Sinclair Hood.

5 The exhibition catalogue is referred to here as APAP. The conference accompanying the exhibition was held at the American School, 1–4 Dec. 1994; see Oakley, J. H., Coulson, W. D. E. and Palagia, O. (eds), Athenian Potters and Painters: The Conference Proceedings (Oxbow Monograph 67; Oxford, 1997 ).

6 The conservation records and photographic negatives are now in the possession of the British School.

7 The black-figure vases were studied 1995–9, and the condition recorded here pre-dates the earthquake. R. Sweetman confirms that none of this material was damaged.

8 His official title was Deputy Director from 1939. According to the School's archival records, the Dunbabin vases were in the museum by 18 October 1945, and are listed on a document of that date, signed by him and entitled ‘Vases in Museum, British School of Archaeology, Athens/ property of Lt. Col. T. J. Dunbabin’. Also on the list are terracottas and a bronze phiale. The objects would only have become property of the School upon his death in 1955, and seem to have been the gift of his wife, Doreen; Waterhouse, 70. For his involvement with the School see M. Robertson, ‘Thomas James Dunbabin’, BSAAR 1954–5, 19–20; Waterhouse, 32, 34–5, 37, 42, 62, 85, 110–3, 140–5, 159 and 161; de Grummond, N. T., An Encyclopedia of the History of Classical Archaeology I (Westport, Connecticut, 1996), 376–7; and brief mention of him recently in Annan, Noel, The Dons: Mentors, Eccentrics and Geniuses (Chicago, 1999), 155–6.

9 A letter of 6 Dec. 1955 thanking the Ministry of Education and Religions, General Administration of Antiquities, for the gift of 70 ancient vessels is kept in the BSA archive. However, Waterhouse (70) claims that 80 ‘vases and terracottas’ from the Empedokles Collection were given in 1956 by the Archaeological Council. For red-figure vases formerly belonging to the collection, now in the BSA Museum, see APAP nos. 27–9, 35, 50.

10 On the history of the collection see Hussey, J. M., The Finlay Papers, A Catalogue (BSA Supp. 9; London, 1973), esp. 111–23 on the antiquities; ead., George Finlay in Perspective—A Centenary Reappraisal’, BSA 70 (1975), 135–44; S. D. Lambert (n. 3); R. Arnott (n. 3); and Waterhouse (n. 3). Two white-ground lekythoi formerly of the collection (now BSA A5 and A6) have been published recently by the American School; APAP nos. 38–9.

11 Two Chian black-figure fragments appear in Lemos, A. A., Archaic Pottery of Chios (Oxford, 1993) no. 1560, pl. 199, and no. 1430, pl. 185.

12 V. Sabetai brought this to my attention, and kindly provided copies of Ure's notes and drawings on the vase from the Ure Archive, Reading. Beazley listed both Euboean lekythoi (54–5) as related to the Group of Vatican G. 52: Para 203.

13 A339, formerly Dunbabin Collection; APAP no. 37. The figure decoration is black relief and outline, not black-figure.

14 The pair of hares was given by Professor and Mrs Toynbee.

15 The terminology and function of the shape, sometimes called an exaleiptron or plemochoe, are problematic, on which see APAP 65; and Kilinski, Boeotian, 56–7.

16 The popularity of the iconography on black-figure vases is well-attested. See Carpenter, T. H., Dionysian Imagery in Archaic Greek Art (Oxford, 1986 ); Puig, M.-C. Villanueva, ‘Deux iconographies dionysiaques parallèles: celle du Peintre d'Amasis et celle d' Exékias. Deux personnalités artistiques?’, in Villanueva-Puig, M.-C. et al. (eds), Céramique et peinture grecques: modes d'emploi. Actes du colloque international, École du Louvre 26-27-28 avril 1995 (Paris, 1999), 169–80; and Isler-Kerényi, C., Dionysos nella Grecia arcaica: il contributo delle immagini (Pisa, 2001 ).

17 Cf. n. 15 above.

18 S. Lambert kindly directed me to much significant bibliography on this fragment and commented on its inscription.

19 This is also noted in the review of the book by Oakley, J.; AJA 109 (1999), 152 .

20 Cf. n. 12 above.

21 The identity of the donors is by no means certain. E. B. French agrees that ‘A. J. B.’ may well be her father, Alan John Bayard Wace, though the date of the acquisition is not in the museum records.

22 On the excavations see Waterhouse, 14; Bosanquet, E. S. (ed.), Robert Carr Bosanquet: Letters and Light Verse (Gloucester, 1938), 51 (a letter to his mother, 5th or 6th Mar. 1896, describing the location); Smith, C., 'Archaeology in Greece, 1895–6, BSA 2 (18951896), 50 ; Rodeck, P., ‘The Ionic capital of the gymnasium, of Kynosarges’, BSA 3 (18961897), 89105 ; Droop (n. 3); Cook (n. 3), with previous bibliography; and Coldstream (n. 3). On the site see also Travlos, J., Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Athens (London, 1971), 340–1. The excavation notes are kept in the BSA archive, though it seems many of the finds became property of the owner of the site; Droop (n. 3), 80; and n. 2.

23 On the Clarke catalogue see n. 2 above, and on the finds from Kynosarges n. 22. The BSA archive contains the excavation notebooks, though Clarke claims in his unpublished manuscript: ‘…the notebooks, for which I have diligently sought, have been lost, with the exception of a few sheets’.

24 I thank A. Henry and S. Paspalas for their help in attempting to locate the site.

25 There is a drawing of a black-figure palmette lekythos, and mention of black-figure material in some graves.

26 Other vases from the site were published by the American School in APAP, including Geometric (nos. 2, 6, 7–8) and red-figure (nos. 28–9, 36); and Coldstream (n. 3).

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Black-Figure vases in the collection of the British School at Athens

  • Tyler Jo Smith (a1)


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