25 vessels from the most numerous and significant collection of Greek vases damaged in earthquake

A total of 25 vessels from the most numerous and significant collection of Greek vases, kept at the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb, were damaged in the series of eartquakes of March 22, 2020. Many of the items broke into a significant number of pieces, and will require very complex conservation and restoration procedures. The most damage was established on a volute krater that stands out because of its size, 70 cm in height, and very finely done decorations made in the Red figural style.

Oštećenja nakon potresa na volutnom krateru

The Conservation-restoration laboratory examined the volute krater and established that it sustained significant damage. The artifact, which broke into 26 pieces, had previously been restored, and some of the breakage occurred in places of older restoration works, while some of the damage occurred in completely new places. Based on the preliminary evaluations, the conservation-restoration procedures will last for two months and will be done in five stages: removing the old glue, reassembling and gluing the fragments, fixating the glued fragments with plaster in order to prevent possible breakage that might affect the statics of the vessel, processing the plaster and painting it.

The Archaeological Museum in Zagreb holds the largest and most significant collection of Greek vases in Croatia, with almost 1500 vessels of different shape and style, which can be dated to the time between the 8th and the 3rd century BC.

The largest portion of the collection includes painted Greek vases. Along with some very interesting examples of the Geometrical, Orientalizing and Black figural style, vases made in the Red figural style in southern Italian workshops and examples of the so-called Gnathia style are the most numerous. Data on the origin and place of discovery of specific vases is unavailable, other than the fact that they were mostly purchased at auctions and that they made their way to the Museum from private collections during the 19th and the 20th centuries.

The most representative part of the collection (134 vessels) were, until the earthquake of March 22, 2020, on display in the permanent exhibition of the Greek and Roman collection on the 2nd floor of the Archaeological museum in Zagreb. The items that were on display provided insight into the achievements of pottery making and paining crafts over several centuries, and included items made on Greek soil (Geometrical, Black figural and Red figural styles) and in southern Italian workshops of the 4th and 3rd centuries BC (Red figural and Gnathia styles).

Various forms of Greek vases were presented, which were, apart for daily use (especially for holding liquids), used for religious ceremonies and sepulchral (funeral) purposes. Some forms were also used to hold scents and various cosmetic products. The vases were made in specialist workshops and were the work of potters and painters, some of whom also left their signatures.

Unfortunately, the earthquake of March 22, 2020, damaged 25 vessels. The volute krater that sustained the most damage should be especially highlighted because it stands out due to its size (a height of 70 cm), as well as the very finely made decorations in the Red figural style. Krater is a term that denotes a larger vessel with a wide mouth and two handles that was used to mix wine and water at feasts. Base don the shape of the handles, this krater is also called a “volute” vessel. The entire outer surface of the vessel is decorated: with alternating wide black and white bands on the rim, with motifs of hooks and meanders below the rim, with a myrtle wreath on the neck of the vessel, and with radial motifs on the transition to the foot of the vessel. The handles are decorated with characteristic hooks and meanders, and the volutes have relief depictions of heads of Gorgons. The area below the handles is filled with a bunch of palmettos, flowers, volutes and leaves. One side of the vessels portrays a horse rider with an oval shield in the left hand and a lowered helmet with a large crest, while the other side depicts a warrior with a helmet who is holding a cape, a round shield and two spears in his left hand, and who is throwing a spear with his right arm. The space between them is filled with laurel branches, palm leaves and rosettes. Just like with the other finds from the Collection of Greek vases, the place of discovery of this krater is unknown, but the style and mode of production suggest that it was made in one of the workshops in Lucania (southern Italy) at the end of the 4thcentury BC. Based on  comparisons with similar items from other museums, it wan be assumed that it was painted by a man, whose precise name is unknown, but who is known in publications as the “Naples 1959” painter, who is also connected to several stylistically similar artifacts.




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