Scholia Reviews ns 5 (1996) 27.

Nazarena Valenza Mele, Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum: Italia 69, Museo Nazionale di Napoli 5 - Raccolta Cumana. Rome: L'Erma di Bretschneider, 1995. Pp. 56, incl. 17 figures and 80 black and white plates. ISBN 88-7062-899-X. Lit. 450,000.

E.A. Mackay
University of Natal, Durban

Among the integral collections that go to make up the ancient art treasures of the National Museum of Naples is the Cumae Collection (Raccolta Cumana) consisting of material from the excavations of Leopoldo di Borbone at Cumae in 1852 and 1857; this was presented to the Museum in 1861 by Prince Eugenio di Savoia-Carignano. A major part of the collection is the pottery, first catalogued by H. Heydemann.[[1]] Following this E. Gabrici, in his monograph on Cumae,[[2]] included some discussion of the dating significance of the Cumae pottery, which, as he suggested, showed that the necropolis in which it was found was in use in the late archaic period. Otherwise the collection has not been specifically published until now.

The present fascicule of the CVA catalogues and illustrates from the Raccolta Cumana the Attic black-figure pottery (including a number painted on white ground) along with a pair of lekythoi decorated in Six technique and a pair of lekythoi painted in the white-ground technique; a logical additional inclusion is the well-known Ilioupersis lekanis lid attributed to the C Painter (ABV 58,119)[3] which was excavated at Cumae in 1908, though of course produced in Athens much earlier in the archaic period (c. 580-570 BC) than the Raccolta Cumana pottery.

In his preface, P.E. Arias explains that the author of this fascicule, Nazarena Valenza Mele, died before its completion, a fact which must certainly account for some of the minor flaws of presentation noted below; nevertheless, at the risk of seeming carping and insensitive, a reviewer has an obligation to include such criticisms, in this case of the work as published rather than of the author's intentions.

The volume opens with an introduction summarising the history of the Raccolta Cumana, followed by an extensive list of bibliographical references (pp. 9-11) which supports the Harvard system of referencing in the discussions of the individual artefacts. The catalogue (pp. 13-53), the indexes (catalogue number cross-references to the Raccolta Cumana inventory and the Heydemann catalogue: p. 54; subject index: pp. 55-56; index of painters, groups and classes: p. 57) and 80 photographic plates are bound into a volume instead of the folio presentation traditional to CVA fascicules: while clearly this is more practical for libraries (which are, after all, the main purchasers of the CVA), it is an irritating if minor obstacle to scholarly consultation, in that one cannot have the photograph and its description before one's eyes together, and comparisons are less easy to pursue.

The photographic coverage of the vases is generally quite good, although the black-and-white contrast in the plates could have been improved so as better to illustrate the distribution of added red and white; however in this respect the catalogue descriptions do provide the necessary support. In other respects the photographic detail is for the most part clear, especially since for the more significant vases (the column kraters, the amphorae, some pelikae and the larger hydriae) close-up details of the figures at the sides of the scenes are included. One surprising exception is the unattributed dinos (inv. 86375, pl. 17) where the Amazonomachy on the mouth is represented only in one fairly small, greyish picture of the entire circle, in contrast to the excellent coverage of the C Painter's lekanis lid (inv. 132642, pll. 1-3) - admittedly a work of considerably better quality and interest. Despite these criticisms, this volume largely succeeds in one of the CVA aims of making pictures of a wide range of vases accessible to vase-painting researchers. Even the poorer quality pieces are for the most part given a more extensive coverage than has often been the case in earlier publications of collections - a recent trend which it is to be hoped will move scholars away from the tendency to develop theories on the basis of the comparatively small selection of 'received' vase- scenes that have enjoyed something of an academic illustrative monopoly in the past century.

One field of vase research that will not be well served by this most recent fascicule is the analysis of shape and potting. It is a pity that no profiles of even the larger vases were included: in such an otherwise comprehensive publication, if full profiles cannot be provided, then at least the upper profile of lip and neck down to the lower handle root, and the lower profile up to the top of the rays, would allow useful potting comparisons to be made.[4] Even the photographs have not been taken with potting research in mind, for they are uniformly angled from a little above the vase with resulting distortion of proportions. In this respect Hansjorg Bloesch's advice should be followed: 'Usable pictures are obtained if: (a) the lens is on the same level as the greatest diameter of the vase (as is suggested by E. Homann-Wedeking), and (b) the distance measures six times the largest dimension (height or width).'[5]

The descriptions that accompany the plates are brief, and certainly could have provided more detail in the technical information: CVA publications of vases are commonly the only published source of information on vase measurements and other details that do not show up on standard photographs, and so ideally as many data as possible should be provided. This should include measurements of height, mouth, foot and greatest diameter (and given that most vases are asymmetrical to a greater or lesser extent, this should in each case be stated either to be the greatest measurement, or to be a measurement at a given point, such as the diameter at right-angles to the handles). No greatest diameters are included, and although the foot diameter is provided for all other pieces in the catalogue it is omitted for four amphorae: one Type B amphora (inv. 86319, pll. 18- 19), two neck-amphorae (inv. 86320, pll. 21-22 and inv. 86322, pll. 23-24) and a panathenaic prize- amphora (inv. 86333, pll. 39-40). Otherwise the descriptions of the scenes are clear, the discussions sound and well-supported by references to comparanda, although the reviewer would have liked more discussion of attributions; J.D. Beazley, from the acknowledged profundity of his experience, could state an attribution with certainty and without explanation and have it accepted, but since few scholars today can aspire to his insight, a less oracular style of offering attributions is appropriate. Where an attribution has been made previously by someone other than the author, this should be acknowledged in brackets after the attribution; where it is the author's own, it should be motivated with references to characteristics of the painter or group as exemplified on specified vases. It must be allowed, however, that the attributions offered in this fascicule are (to the reviewer's eye at least) well-founded.

A strong feature of this fascicule is its presentation of inscriptions; the scattered lettering characteristic of the Leagros Group, for instance, is faithfully represented diagrammatically on a 1:1 scale (p. 32), and graffiti are similarly represented 1:1, with references where relevant to Johnston's landmark study.[6] Most underfoot graffiti are placed within a circle so as to indicate the position on the foot, but in a few cases this has inexplicably been omitted.

Some confusion may arise from the various systems of catalogue numbers associated with the Raccolta Cumana. In this fascicule, each vase is identified at the beginning of its entry by its inventory number (eg. for the panathenaic prize amphora attributed to the Achilles Painter (pll. 39- 40), this is inv. 86333) followed by a Raccolta Cumana reference in brackets (eg. R.C. 18); this latter number is the original number of the item in the collection, and is different from the catalogue number assigned by Heydemann (eg. 184); however Beazley in ABV (since followed by many other scholars) used the Heydemann catalogue numbers as his identification, preceded by the collection indicator RC; thus for the panathenaic amphora referred to above, Beazley cites it as Naples RC 184 (ABV 409,3), making it clear in his Collections Index (p. 766) that that he is using the Heydemann number. In future, scholars would be well advised to use the inventory numbers along with an ABV reference to avoid perpetuating the confusion.

Although this reviewer did not set out specifically to check the referencing in the bibliographical notes appended to most vase entries, a few of the references were unmistakably wrong. The following list, while in no sense definitive, offers some of the more striking errors. The nature of these errors, which involve the most basic tools of the discipline, does not inspire confidence in the other references.[7] p. 14, in reference to pl. 1 (the C Painter's lekanis lid): Develop. 21-25 should read 24-25. p. 26, in reference to pl. 30 (amphora, inv. 86351) Develop. 190 should read Para 190. p. 30, in reference to pl. 39 (panathenaic amphora, inv. 86333): Add[2] 52 should read 106. p. 36, in reference to pl. 49, 3-4 (white ground oenochoe, inv. 86357): Add[2] 409.3 should be deleted, as this vase is not included in Add[2] . p. 42, in reference to pl. 57, 4-6 (lekythos, inv. 86345): Develop. 230 should read Para 230.

In summary, despite the flaws noted above, this publication of the Raccolta Cumana's black-figure vases and associated pieces must be given due acknowledgement. For scholars seeking photographs of and information on the decoration of individual vases it will no doubt prove adequate, and the presentation of a virtually intact excavation collection of known provenance will certainly support the current trend to investigate patterns of export and subsequent use of Attic vases in addition to the more traditional details of their production.


[[1]] H. Heydemann, Die Vasensammlungen der Museo Nazionale zu Neapel (Berlin 1872).

[[2]] E. Gabrici, Monumenti Antichi dei Lincei. Vol. 22 (1913).

[[3]] J D Beazley, Attic Black-figure Vase- painters (Oxford 1956).

[[4]] A good (if arbitrarily selected) example here is the extremely useful set of amphora profiles appended to the CVA Boston Museum of Fine Arts Fascicule 1, ed. Herbert Hoffmann with Dietrich von Bothmer and Penelope Truitt (Mainz 1973).

[[5]] H. Bloesch, 'Stout and Slender in the Late Archaic Period', Journal of Hellenic Studies 71 (1951) p. 29 n.2.

[[6]] A.W. Johnston, Trademarks on Greek Vases (Warminster 1979).

[[7]] The abbreviations refer as follows: Develop.: J.D. Beazley, The Development of Attic Black-figure (Berkeley 1951). Add[2]: Beazley Addenda. Additional References to ABV, ARV[2] & Paralipomena second edition, compiled by T.H. Carpenter (Oxford 1989). Para: J.D. Beazley, Paralipomena. Additions to Attic Black-figure Vase-painters and Attic Red- figure Vase-painters (Oxford 1971).