Lost Lives of Greek Vases

Prof. Sheramy Bundrick, Dept. of Art History, University of South

Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, 7 PM, School of Business Room 140, Montclair State University

Following the discovery of ancient Greek vases at such Italian sites as Nola, Capua, and especially Vulci in the 1820s, the nineteenth century witnessed an explosion of antiquarian interest in these vessels.  Most were unearthed on private land in Etruscan and other tombs, and given the lack of laws regulating such activities at the time, most were sold on the art market to museums and collectors.  The documentation for these “excavations” tends to be minimal.  As a result, their original context is usually lost, unless the collector or museum who obtained them also happened to obtain information about their discovery.  

As part of her current research on the export of Athenian vases to Etruria and their usage in Etruscan communities, Prof. Bundrick has been able to match four vessels in American museum collections with their original, lost contexts: a krater in the Walters Art Museum which came from Foiano della Chiana in Tuscany, an amphora at Harvard University which was found in Tarquinia, and two amphoras at the University of Pennsylvania, also from Tarquinia.  All four served as urns for Etruscan cremation burials, information that failed to accompany them to their new homes in America.  

In this talk, she will discuss the many lives of these vases: in Athens where they were made, in Etruria where they were exported and attained a funerary function, and on the art market as they made their way across the Atlantic.  The ability to reconstruct their biographies reminds us of the importance of archaeological context at a time when the campaign against looting and the illicit trade in antiquities continues.    


Lost lives of Greek Vases Poster