A.W. Johnston, C. Souyoudzoglou-Haywood, Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum, Ireland Fascicule 1, University College Dublin, University College Cork. Dublin: University College Dublin, Classical Museum Publications, 2000. Pp. iv+80, pll. 60 b&w, 1 colour. ISBN 1-902277-26-0.
Review by Elizabeth Moignard
University of Glasgow
This is the first Irish CVA fascicle, a welcome addition to the international project which aims to publish the Greek, Italiote and Etruscan vases, often of uncertain or unknown provenance, in museum collections worldwide. Broadly speaking, Corpus Vasorum fascicles may do two things: firstly, they may showcase a particular shape, especially where the size of a collection allows for such a concentration, or concentrate on a particular ancient fabric: Dyfri Williams' British Museum fascicle devoted to red-figure cups is an excellent example. Or and in the case of a university collection this is the most likely outcome they will be a very mixed bag, often, very properly, deliberately assembled as a study collection. As its title suggests, this handsomely produced volume publishes the variegated holdings of the National University of Ireland, housed in Dublin and Cork.
The UCD collection was mainly put together by Professor Henry Browne, the then Professor of Greek at UCD, between 1900 and 1923. He was clearly a knowledgeable and discriminating buyer, who spread his net wide and acquired an impressively broad collection. He was able to bring off an important coup at the sale of the Hope Collection in 1917, where he bought nineteen of the larger vases, alongside a comparable purchase by the National Museum of Ireland. A few of the red-figure pieces can be traced back further, to Sir William Hamilton?s second collection. There is also an extensive collection of sherds, some from the excavations of Petrie and Hogarth at Naucratis, some East Greek and probably from Tel Defenneh, which were given by the British Museum.
The University College, Cork collection is smaller, and much less well-documented, but there is reason to suppose that it goes back to a decision to form ?a special museum of Classical Art and Archaeology? in the 1860s, under the supervision of Professor Lewis, and with the help of J.C. Robinson of the South Kensington Museum. Some of these were almost certainly given by Sir Charles Newton.
Some items in both collections are known and previously published, and Alan Johnston provided a complete list without illustrations in Proceedings of the Royal Academy of Ireland 73 (1973); there have been more recent acquisitions, not least the white ground lekythos by the Thanatos Painter donated by its previous owner in 1999 (pl. 33), which also, rightly, rates a position on the colour plate at the front of the fascicle.
The current fascicle, then, is a mixed one, arranged by fabric, but distinguishing the two collections. These range from Bronze Age stirrup jars, via some handsome geometric pieces, through local archaic fabrics, Attic black and red figure, South Italian red figure of several schools, to bucchero and black glaze. There are some large pieces by named painters: a very fine Campanian bell krater by the Libation Painter showing Achilles lifting Penthesilea?s inert body (pl. 37) draws the attention immediately. There are also some comparative rarities: a fine Cassel cup (pl. 21) which is one of the few with figures, a Protocorinthian oinochoe which may come from Cumae (pl. 49), the strange bowl, possibly Hellenistic Italian, on pl. 48. The sherds reveal an equally rich range of material, of which the East Greek fabrics are a prominent part.
The fascicle itself follows the bound format which is now becoming standard and replacing the original portfolio with loose plates; it has 60 well laid-out plates, with a high standard of photography. The catalogue is in the usual format previous publication, description, date, attribution if any, and comparanda, which tends to play down the quality of background research and expertise which supported it. The entries are neatly put together, with a helpful range of references and comparative material. The authors have in fact done an excellent job on a very complex body of material, and the fascicle is a useful and elegant start to Ireland?s contribution to the CVA project.