Attic Red-Figure Vases

Alan Shapiro
Alan Shapiro is W.H. Collins Vickers Professor of Archaeology and is a classical archaeologist with a particular interest in Greek art, myth, and religion in the Archaic and Classical periods. He has written numerous studies of Greek vase iconography, including Personifications in Greek Art (1993) and Myth into Art: Poet and Painter in Classical Greece (1994). His interest in the interrelationship among art, religion, and politics is best represented in his book Art and Cult under the Tyrants in Athens (1989; Supplement, 1995). He is currently working on a study of hero cults in fifth-century Athens.

Attic red figure kylix attributed to the Kiss Painter, c. 500 BCE. JHUAM B5.

During the spring semester, 2011, three students–Ross Brendle, Laura Garofolo and Jessica Lamont–in the Interdisciplinary PhD program in Classical Art and Archaeology participated in a seminar focusing on the collection’s world-famous collection of Athenian red-figure vases of the period ca. 520 – 450 BCE. Sessions alternated between classroom presentations on the individual vases and close examination of the objects using the Museum’s facilities and equipment, made possible by Curator Sanchita Balachandran. During the classroom sessions, we also “workshopped” short, informative texts on eight of the vases, prepared by the students, with the goal of producing laminated panels that will be available to Museum visitors and supplement the minimal labels in the current display.

Ross Brendle, Jessica Lamont and Laura Garofolo examining the vases with Professor Alan Shapiro.

For this project, eight red-figure drinking cups were selected, all of them on display in Cases 2 and 3 on the east side. Most of these are well known to scholars as outstanding examples of their kind and were acquired by Johns Hopkins in the late 19th century from the German scholar and dealer working in Rome, Paul Hartwig. The seminar was able to examine a copy of Hartwig’s initial publication of our vases in the Rare Book Room of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library and to compare his drawings with the current condition of the vases. The fruits of these efforts will soon be made available to the public.