« PreviousContinue »
herald's staff (or caduceus), and sometimes with his later attributes of the purse and the cock.
Case 26. Heracles (Hercules), young, beardless or bearded.
Cases 27–28. Dionysos (Bacchus) and his train of Silenus, the Satyrs and the Maenads.
Case 29. The Egyptian deities Isis and Harpocrates.
INTRODUCTION TO THE VASE
A collection of Greek vases is apt to be somewhat unattractive at the first sight. In vases of the earlier periods the grotesque details and methods are more readily perceived than the interest which attaches to all primitive and archaic work in which the craftsman, by slow degrees, becomes master of his art. The meaning of the subjects is often unfamiliar ; moreover, the language employed by the vase painters is so terse, the economy of subordinate details, independent of the figures, is so strict, that some acquaintance with vases is necessary to enable us to accept the conventions employed
such as a column for a building, a branch for an outdoor scene, a line of dots for broken ground.
The points of interest, however, in connexion with a collection of vases are many. They show the progress of art at times and places for which other records are scanty or non-existent. At the best period they have an unequalled purity and simplicity of drawing, combined with extraordinary grace of form. The mythological scenes and the scenes from life are equally interesting, especially when studied in connexion with ancient literature. Sometimes they serve to illustrate and supplement the written
story, while at other times they show curious discrepancies between the literary and artistic traditions. Not infrequently the vases give representations of myths which in literary form are only preserved to us by the allusions of late writers.
The collection of ancient vases is derived from all parts of the ancient Greek world, from Italy, and to a certain extent from more outlying provinces of the Roman Empire. Thus, in the First Room, we have groups of vases representing the early civilization of Crete, and other branches of a primitive Mediterranean culture. Adjoining these are examples of the fully developed Mycenaean pottery and of the great group of geometric wares of Greece and Cyprus. In the Second and following Vase Rooms most of the vases exhibited have been found either in the course of excavations in Athens and other sites in Greece proper, or else in those islands and shores of the Mediterranean which had been taken possession of by Greek colonists in or before the sixth century B.C., and for several centuries formed the Greek-speaking world. Thus we have groups of vases from
Rhodes, Cyprus, Cyrenè, and Naucratis. In addition, a very large number of vases were imported from Greece, or from Greek colonies, by the Etruscans-a people whose art was deeply influenced by that of Greece in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. From the circumstance that Etruria was the first country in which vases of this kind were discovered in striking abundance, the name Etruscan vases came to be wrongly attached to the whole class. The true name for them is Greek vases. The few that can be called strictly Etruscan have been placed together in the Italic Room (p. 174).
In later periods there was also an active manufacture of painted and decorated vases in the Greek communities of Southern Italy and Sicily.
The Greek vases have been for the most part found in tombs. According to the primitive conception they doubtless held food and drink for the spirit of the deceased. Later they were employed for ceremonial libations and offerings at the tomb, but in a great measure they must have been regarded as part of the furniture of the tomb, without any special thought of their original significance.
Vases were also used for dedications in temples, and in some cases large deposits of fragments of pottery from such dedications have been discovered by excavators. Thus Naucratis, a Greek
Fig. 79.-Forms of Crater.
city established in the Delta of Egypt, apparently in the seventh century B.C., has furnished a large number of fragments of pottery which were found in heaps close to the ruins of the Temples of Apollo and Aphroditè. Many of these fragments bear incised inscriptions recording the dedication of the vases of which they formed a part to those deities (see p. 208). So also excavations on
the Acropolis of Athens and beside the great altar at Delphi have brought to light many remains of painted vases.
There is also evidence that painted vases were used in daily life, for the banquet, and other purposes, and no doubt many vases that have been preserved to us in the tombs were originally so used. Of one group of vases, we know that they were given as prizes to the victors in the Panathenaic games (see below, p. 224).
The shapes of the vases vary considerably in the different periods of the art. Certain shapes that are familiar in the earliest stage disappear altogether, and are superseded by others of a more elegant form. On the whole, as the art progresses there is a
tendency towards vases of a larger size, and more fanciful handles. The accompanying illustrations will serve to show the principal types and their technical names. The use of the technical names is convenient, since they give a more precise idea than the cor
responding English words. There is considerable doubt as to how an ancient Greek would have used some of the more unusual names, but a fair uniformity of practice has been established among archaeologists.
The Amphora (fig. 77) is a two-handled vase for storing liquids. (a) Earlier type. (6) Late Campanian Amphora.
The Hydria (fig. 78) is a pitcher for carrying water (cf. p. 220), and has three handles. (a) Earlier form. (b) Later form.
The Crater (fig. 79) is a wide-mouthed vessel in which wine and
Fig. 86.- Forms of Lekythos.
water were mixed for immediate use. (a) The Crater with medallion handles (late Italian). (b) Bell-crater.
The Lebes (figs. 80, 81) is a bowl, often but not necessarily supported by a stand. The Stamnos (fig. 82) is a rather squat jar with two handles.
The Psycter* or wine-cooler (fig. 83) is a peculiar and rather rare form.
Among the smaller vases the most frequent shapes are :