Are Attic Vases 'Archaeological'?

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Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Rozeik, Christina; Dawson, Julie; Wrapson, Lucy;


Conservation and the Eastern Mediterranean: Contributions to the 2010 IIC Congress, p.24-29 (2010)


Approaches to the conservation of archaeological material are often guided by ethical ideals of `neutrality', `honesty' and `material integrity'. Many Attic vases in museum collections are now treated as `archaeological' objects because of their age and excavation history. However, as figurative objects with a long history of collection and restoration, they have historically been seen less as archaeological objects than as art objects embodying a Classical aesthetic ideal. Scholarship has identified a language of common iconography and has been concerned with attribution to specific artists in a manner more akin to paintings. The tension between the historic, figurative and aesthetic qualities of Attic vases and their `archaeological' status must be resolved in any conservation treatment, especially when considering loss compensation. This contribution discusses how comparison with easel paintings (also figurative art forms) can suggest different approaches and reviews recent case studies in the in-painting of Attic vases.