Figure 1 – Obverse View of the Terracotta Loutrophoros
Terracotta Loutrophoros (fig. 1) epitomizes the distinctive style of funerary vases created in Apulia, a region located in South Italy. The vase is attributed to the Metope Painter and was created around the third quarter of fourth century B.C. South Italian vase painting has been the subject of “neglect [and] general disparagement” due to the “emphasis placed upon the study of Archaic and Classical Greek art.” South Italian art has been looked upon as “provincial and colonial, imply[ing] that it is somehow inferior to the art of the motherland.” Although South Italian vase painting may be a “direct descendant of the tradition of vase-painting in Attic,” it developed a completely different artistic style with new aesthetic concepts and intentions. In this essay, I demonstrate the distinctive style, iconography, and motifs of South Italian vase painting of both this Terracotta Loutrophoros and Apulian vase painting as a whole, as well as how South Italian vase painting is a significant contribution to the study of Ancient Greek vase-painting.
South Italian Vase Painting
The Greeks started to colonize South Italy in the second half of the eighth century B.C. South Italy is often referred to as Magna Graecia, or “Great Greece,” a term coined in antiquity that “reflects the economics and intellectual vitality of the western Greeks, as well as the large geographical area of their settlement.” South Italians appear to have always had great appreciation for Attic vases. This high demand allowed an import trade of ceramics to flourish between Athens and South Italy. During the third quarter of fifth century B.C., South Italians began to supplement the imports with locally-produced vases “closely modeled upon Attic prototypes in both shape and design.” The close resemblance perhaps implies that vase painters had “either received training in Athens or that they [may] have been immigrants from that city.” The outbreak of the Great Plague in 430 B.C. may have encouraged skilled Athenian potters and vase painters to immigrate to Magna Graecia, a place where they knew their skills were highly demanded. This immigration may have contributed to the gradual decline of Attic pottery trade, which becomes more noticeable with the Peloponnesian War. From 400 B.C. onward, imports of Attic vases virtually came to an end as an aftermath of the defeat of Athens from the Peloponnesian War in 404 B.C.
The term South Italian refers to the red-figured vases created between 440 B.C. and the end of the fourth century B.C. Although there was still considerable Greek influence, vases created during this period starts to differ greatly from Attic vases. One of the main reasons for this diversion is due to the influence of local taste, creating vases to become more florid and baroque. Another, perhaps more important, reason for such distinction may be due to the “break away from the long-established traditions of mainland Greece.” The notion of vase painting in South Italy was an art form adopted from Attic vase painting. Therefore, with the cessation of Attic vase imports around 400 B.C., and lack of longstanding traditions, South Italian vase painters had “greater freedom to indulge in their personal mannerisms.” It is also at this time that South Italian vase painters began to develop their own practices and conventions, some of which were unique from region to region.
Figure 2 - Map of South Italy and Sicily to show principal find-spots
South Italian vase painting can be classified into five categories according to its finding spots – Lucanian, Apulian, Campanian, Paestan, and Sicilian (fig. 2). Vase painting first began in Lucania with the Metapontine School around the late fifth century B.C. The second school of vase-painters was established in Taranto, the chief city and only Greek colony of Apulia, around 420 B.C.
Funerary motifs of the Terracotta...
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