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Euphronios Epoiesen: Portrait of the Artist as a Presbyopic Potter

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2009

Extract

The mysterious crise de profession which saw the painter Euphronios switch to potting in the heyday of his career is a worthwhile topic for discussion and one on which scholars have manifestly avoided committing themselves. That the pioneer red-figure artist should up and change professions quite unannounced and apparently without reason is a curious fact indeed and one which perhaps the optician alone can explain.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Classical Association 1974

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References

page 178 note 1 I am grateful to Professor Martin Robertson and Mr. John Boardman for reading the typescript and offering corrections and encouragement, and to Mr. R. Meiggs, Mrs. C. Sourvinou-Inwood, and Dr. R. Graham for their illuminating views on ancient vision.

page 178 note 2 The World Through Blunted Sight (London, 1970), 36–7.Google Scholar

page 178 note 3 Sir John Beazley touches on the issue but remains (as we too must) uncertain: ‘We cannot know what led Euphronios to turn from decorating vases to shaping them. A mishap; change in eyesight—there were no spectacles to correct such changes—; the legitimate desire for a still better living. He may have actually preferred shaping vases to decorating them.’ Potter and Painter in Ancient Athens (London, 1944), 34.Google Scholar

page 179 note 1 Dedications from the Athenian Acropolis (Cambridge, Mass., 1949), 1158Google Scholar. For the necessary archaeological and epigraphical bibliography, cf. 255.

page 179 note 2 Ibid. 255–6

page 180 note 1 Aristides speaks of Ἀθηναίων δὲ οἳ пρεσβύτατοι καί ὑγιείας Ἀθηνᾶς βωμὸν ίδρύσαντο (Dindorf, W., Aristides [Leipzig, 1829], IGoogle Scholar, Or. ii. 22)Google Scholar, and excavations on the Acropolis have revealed the foundations of a marble altar presumably associated with a sixthcentury sanctuary of Athena Hygieia to the east of the Propylaea (cf. Judeich, W., Topographie von Athen [Munich, 1931], 243Google Scholar; Travlos, J., Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Athens [London, 1971], 124Google Scholar; Guide Bleu Grèce [Paris, 1967], 254)Google Scholar. It seems likely that prior to the coming of Asklepios to Athens at the close of the fifth century, Athena's authority extended over the realm of health and healing. Once in town, however, Asklepios appropriated her clientele and enjoyed a flourishing practice. By the fourth century his sanctuary at Athens was a thriving centre specializing in the treatment of eyes. This much is suggested by the nature and quantity of the votive body-parts recovered from the Asklepieion: two-fifths of the total number were eyes. Thus it might well have been that Ploutos sought a cure for his blindness at the Athenian Asklepieion for reasons deeper than its proximity to the Theatre of Dionysos. Moreover it is tempting (but perhaps foolhardy) to wonder if Asklepios' fame as an eye specialist was wholly self-acquired, or if perhaps he inherited some of the reputation he enjoyed from his owl-eyed predecessor on the Acropolis. Athena was not unknown for having removed mist from the eyes of Diomedes at Troy and it is not impossible that the Archaic and Early Classical career of the goddess in treating (among other things) eyes helped to establish Athens as the centre for eye care in the fourth century, and Asklepios as the Athenian optician par excellence.