Bukina, Anastasia - Petrakova, Anna - Phillips, Catherine: Greek Vases in the Imperial Hermitage Museum: The History of the Collection 1816–69. xvi+317 pages, Index, b/w and colour, ISBN 9781407311326. £48.00
(Archaeopress, Oxford 2013)
 
Compte rendu par Ilona Skupinska-Lovset
(gorgona@uni.lodz.pl)

 
Nombre de mots : 1035 mots
Publié en ligne le 2013-11-27
Citation: Histara les comptes rendus (ISSN 2100-0700).
Lien: http://histara.sorbonne.fr/cr.php?cr=1990
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          The new volume of the Oxford  publications  presented in the series  Studies in the History of Collections IV (BAR International Series 2514, year 2013) is devoted to The Imperial Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.  The title emphasizes that the collection of the Greek vases should be the main concern of the authors, but the reader will find in the text rich general information about the growth of the collection as such, about the private collectors and collections, about people engaged in the museum activities. The book is richly illustrated, divided into preface, three parts, indices, appendices, bibliography and chosen illustrations in large format. Illustrations are also incorporated in the text. The book is written by three women-researchers:  Anastasia Bukina, Anna Petrakova , Catherine Phillips. It counts 333 pages in A4 format.

 

          The book is the outcome of a stream in archeology and more general sciences concentrating on provenience studies. The book presents an important collection of a well-known museum situated in an East European country, which during several centuries has played a dominant role in politics and culture. It is full of interesting details with potential interest for specialists as well as general public.

 

          The preface (pages XIII –XIV) presents in short collecting activities, private and not, from the year 1719 till the year 1920.

 

          Part one (pages 1 -36) gives the overlook over collecting activities in Europe in  the  XVIIIth and XIXth centuries and places Imperial Hermitage Museum in such a European context.

 

          Part two (pages 39 – 154 and 159) deals with the professional activities of the first curator of the Imperial  Collection of Vases, Ludolf Stefani. On pages 155 - 156 the activities in the period after his death are described in short, on pages 157 – 159 sum-up biographies of the people connected with the Museum in the time of Stefani’s curatorship are given.

 

          In part three (pages 163 – 246), the addenda and corrigenda to Stefani’s catalogue of the pottery exhibited in the rooms one to four of the Hermitage are given. It is stated by the authors that the provenience of vases exhibited in the fifth room, the result of the excavation activities, was given correctly in Stefani’s book.

 

          Fifteen appendices discussing cases of special interest are presented from page 247 to page 279. The book is easy to read despite an uneasy subject.

 

          Antiquities have been collected in Russia since the reign of Peter the Great; however, it took time  before an interest in Greek and Roman vases became more common. First under the reign of Catherine II, Russia saw growing collecting activities, the Hermitage was first open to the public in the year 1764. Part one of the publication deals with the collecting of antiquities in Europe, private and institutional respectively. This subject has been considered for some time now and the authors supply short summaries with bibliography and reference to each singular case discussed. The collecting of Greek decorated pottery (Greek vases) is given a prominent place as promised in the title of the publication. To begin with, Russia does not play any prominent role in collecting activities, it follows European trends though. European, especially German trends are followed in the exposition of the acquired Greek vases, which were placed on the shelves, the largest higher up;  the newly constructed museum building also followed in the outlook the west European trends. 

 

          Vases originated from the ”Black Sea area”, coming from excavations, constitute an important part of the Hermitage collection. In the museum catalogue, it is mentioned that they were given 542 numbers, embracing 565 items (Bosporan vases). The  vases acquired from private collections were more numerous;  the collection of Cavaliere Antonio Giuseppe Pizzati, acquired by the Hermitage, counted ca. 1000 items. The provenience of such purchases was not always known or testified. The provenience of the large  Khitrovo-Laval collection, purchased in 1852, is still very difficult to establish (see chapter 6). The Campana collection, discussed in chapter 7, is presented in large (pp.105 – 154) as it was the last important acquisition of the Hermitage (purchased in 1861). These collections were bought during the Stefani’s curatorship at the Hermitage.

 

          The so-called “Post Stefani” acquisitions are discussed in chapter 8. This short chapter gives also some references to the sales from the Hermitage collections.

 

          The Hall of Greco-Etruscan vases in New Imperial Museum in St. Petersburg was opened in 1852, after the destruction by fire of the Winter Palace in 1837. The European idea of the time of Enlightenment was thus realized in the opening of  ”The Hall of Painted Vases”, housing Greco-Etruscan vases, to the general public.

 

          Part 2 of the publication is entitled:  “Ludolf Stephani’s  Die Vasen-Samlung and Vases for the Hermitage, 1816-62”. Stephani, born near Leipzig, was the first keeper of Greek and Roman Antiquities in the Hermitage first Department, from the year  1851, until his death in 1887. He was then 71 years old. In 1869 he published a monumental work entitled “Die Vasen-Sammlung der Kaiserlichen Ermitage”; the date of publication of this volume constitutes the time limit for the reviewed publication.

 

          Addenda and corrigenda to the Stephani’s publication are presented on pages 163 – 246. It applies to the vases exhibited in “the first four rooms” of the Hermitage original display. The provenience of all vases acquired by purchase is checked and corrected when it was possible by the present authors. Vases from “room five” are left untouched, because their provenience was assured by their coming from controlled circumstances (the excavations).

 

          At the end of the book, 15 appendices are published displaying documentation connected with the subject “vases”; texts are provided in original language while texts originally written in Russian are presented  in the Latin alphabet and in English translation. Bibliography is presented chronologically for each year and alphabetically within one year. The book is richly illustrated; it may be read both by the general public and specialists, as sections of varying difficulty are clearly separated from each other. I heartily recommend it.