Toledo Museum of Art Exhibiting the Work of the Anonymous 5th Century, BC Berlin Painter

Ancient Greek pottery in the Antikensammlung Berlin. Photo courtesy Sailko.

The Toledo Museum of Art will be hosting a touring exhibition of ancient Athenian vase-painting, with a special focus on the work of an anonymous fifth century BC artist known as the Berlin Painter. Organized by the Princeton University Art Museum, the tour includes 84 vessels plus bronze and terracotta statuettes, curated from 15 museums and two private collections.

Dozens of the pieces were created by the Berlin Painter, while the remainder are the handiwork of other artists from the same time period. The range of subject matter of the artworks span from athletics and music to Greek myth and epic.

Museums that contributed to the exhibit with the loan of their works include the British Museum; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Musée du Louvre, and others.

Many organizations and individuals partnered to make this special event a reality. The Leon Levy Foundation and the Starvros Niarchos Foundation provided major support for the exhibition in general. The Toledo Museum show was made possible by the 2017 Program Sponsor ProMedica, Dina and Hicham Aboutaam of Phoenix Ancient Art, and several others.

The Berlin Painter created exquisite paintings on Greek vases from about 490 to 460 BCE. Since vase painters did not sign their work, a system was developed to more easily identify ancient vases by their unique styles. Classical archeologist and art historian Sir John Davidson Beazley, during the mid-20th century, categorized Attic Greek vases, finding the one piece that was most representative of that style, and calling that the artist’s “name-vase.” The painter is then named after some characteristic of that name-vase, such as its location, i.e. Berlin; its motif; where it was found; its former owner; or other criteria. The name-vase of the Berlin Painter is part of one of the most important collections of classical art in the world, known as the Antikensammlung Berlin, now held at the Altes Museum and Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany.

James Cannon

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