CCT Tellenistic pottery has been neglected, and deservedly." So wrote R. M. Cook in 1960 (GreekPainted
1 JL Pottery, p. 203). When viewed in the light of the Classical masterpieces, Hellenistic ceramics may seem to have little to offer. Potting had become a trade often pursued by an indifferent craftsman; the proportion of ill-centered, ungainly, and poorly fired pots is large. But there is still much that Hellenistic pottery can offer, to the archaeologist, certainly, and perhaps even to the art historian.
For the archaeologist Hellenistic pottery can provide what any pottery provides: a chronological framework. Even the meanest fragment may serve to date a significant building or deposit. Fortunately for the archaeologist, Hellenistic pottery is no longer neglected; in recent years there has been increased interest in the Hellenistic ceramics of many sites around the Mediterranean. Several volumes have appeared and more are expected sooa
What can Hellenistic pottery offer to the art historian? The type of pottery presented in this volume represents the first large-scale application of the mold process to the production of Greek tableware. The mold technique had earlier been applied to terracotta figurines and in a few instances was used to produce pots of unusual design. Most pottery, however, continued to be wheelmade and it was not until the introduction of the so-called Megarian bowl that molds were used on a large scale. These bowls therefore stand at the beginning of a long series of moldmade ceramics, which includes such distinguished successors as Arretine and Wedgwood pottery.
These vessels also represent the first Greek experiment in modular art. A limited number of motifs, most of them stamped into the molds with small, re-usable masters, reappear in countless arrangements and combinations. This modular approach to the decoration of the surface of the bowl is a comment, albeit a naive and probably unintentional one, on the relationship of the work of the artist/artisan to the technology of mass production. It reflects, as does contemporary major art, the redefinition of human possibilities that came with the disintegration of political, ideological, and artistic boundaries in the Hellenistic age. It is a comment that has been echoed more self-consciously by many artists in our own century; viewed in the context of the art of the American Sixties, the bowls have a peculiar modernity.
This book grew out of an interest in the Hellenistic world kindled and encouraged by Dorothy Burr Thompson. Her love for Hellenistic minor arts and her ability to reconstruct the fabric of antiquity from the scraps and remnants that are the archaeologist's portion have inspired two generations of students and scholars. The dedication of this volume to her is my inadequate expression of gratitude, respect, and love for her as a teacher, a scholar, and an individual.
The present study is concerned with only a small part of the Hellenistic pottery found in the Ancient Agora of Athens: the moldmade hemispherical bowls which were manufactured from the late 3rd to the early 1st century before Christ. It is intended as the first of two volumes, the second and larger of which will be devoted to the Hellenistic wheelmade pottery from the Agora. I have relied heavily for format on Agora XII, which deals with the Archaic and Classical black and plain pottery. I also owe much to G. Roger Edwards and his fine volume on Corinthian Hellenistic pottery. Edwards devoted years of study to Athe nian Hellenistic pottery as well, and generously turned over to me many photographs and notes accumulated in the course of those researches.
I would like to thank T. Leslie Shear, Jr., Director of the Agora Excavations, and Homer A. Thompson, former Director of the excavations, for permission to study and publish the material; both have read and reread the manuscript in several different drafts, and it has benefited greatly from their many helpful comments and suggestions. My debt to Homer Thompson is especially great, for his publication of the Hellenistic pottery found in the early years of excavation in the Agora paved the way for this volume; his interest, suggestions, and warm encouragement have been a source of comfort and inspiratioa Invaluable help was given by Virginia Grace, who contributed many hours of her time in patient explanation of the chronology of the stamped amphora handles; and by Fred Kleiner, John Kroll, and Alan Walker, who gave freely of their advice on numismatic matters. Thanks are also due Judith Binder, Peter Callaghan, William
A. Childs, C. W. J. Eliot, Christian Habicht, Ulrich Hausmann, H. A. Shapiro, Shelley Stone, John S. Traill, and Malcolm Wallace, all of whom contributed their expertise and assistance on scholarly problems. I am grateful to Charles K Williams, II and Nancy Bookidis for allowing and assisting me to see the Hellenistic pottery at Corinth; to Hugh Sackett for permission to examine moldmade bowls at Knossos; and to James R McCredie for the opportunity to look at Hellenistic material on Samothrace.
Most of the research was conducted in Athens, and I would like to thank Nancy Winter, Librarian of the Blegen Library of the American School of Classical Studies. I am also grateful to Ruth MacDonald of the Ralph Pickard Bell Library at Mount Allison University for her tireless efforts to obtain obscure publications through the interlibrary loan system.
When I began my work on the moldmade bowls, I found in the Agora files many fine drawings which had been done over the years by Iro Athanasiadou and Piet de Jong; these have been supplemented with additional drawings by Helen Besi and Abigail Camp, to whom I am grateful for their painstaking work. They cannot, however, be held responsible for the profiles of molds and drawings of conventional floral motifs and characteristic stamps of various workshops, which are the work of the author. Thanks to William
B. Dinsmoor, Jr., who drew it, Plan A represents the most complete and accurate reconstruction of the Hellenistic Agora published to date. Eugene Vanderpool, Jr. and Alan Walker took new photographs of many of the objects in the Catalogue. Nikos Restakis, with the assistance of Kyriaki Moustaki, developed and printed the photographs.
Special thanks are due Lucy Krystallis, Secretary of the Agora Excavations, for her assistance in amassing the photographs, and to Spyros Spyropoulos, mender, finder of misplaced pottery, and ingenious artificer, whose contribution to this study and to the Agora in general is beyond descriptioa I am indebted to Christine Embree and Lynn A. Grant for typing and editorial assistance, and to A. R Lock and the Canadian Wildlife Service for the loan of Her Majesty's loyal paper cutter. I am especially grateful to Marian H. McAllister, the editor, for the thought and care she has devoted to this volume, and for the many improvements she has suggested.
Research was supported in part by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation; I am grateful for their generosity.
Words are inadequate to express my gratitude to Robert Lamberton, my friend and colleague, for everything from editorial assistance and advice on botanical terminology to meditations on the relevance of the objects presented here to the modern world, and, most of all, for his sustaining and loving support and patience. And finally, I thank my parents, to whom this volume is in part dedicated, and without whom, for reasons beyond number, it would not have been written.
Mount Allison University Sackville, New Brunswick September, 1979
Susan I. Rotroff
Was this article helpful?