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Pots and Plays: Interactions between Tragedy and Greek Vase-painting of the Fourth Century B.C.

Oliver Taplin

This interdisciplinary study opens up a fascinating interaction between art and theater. It shows how the mythological vase-paintings of fourth-century BCE Greeks, especially those settled in southern Italy, are more meaningful for those who had seen the myths enacted in the popular new medium of tragedy. The pots do not, it is argued, show the plays as such, but gain depth and complexity from recalling the tragic vision of particular stage versions, including those of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and, above all, Euripides. Of some 300 relevant vases, 109 are reproduced and accompanied by a picture-by-picture discussion. Nearly half of these were discovered since 1970, and most have not been thoroughly discussed in relation to tragedy before. The vases are organized by playwright and by the tragedy invoked. Apart from its challenging ideas about the significance of Tragedy for the Greeks, this book supplies a rich and unprecedented resource from a neglected treasury of painting. 

Oliver Taplin is professor of classics at Magdalen College, University of Oxford, and a Fellow of the British Academy. He is a specialist on the interpretation of Greek drama through performance in both ancient and modern times. His books include Greek Tragedy in Action, Homeric Soundings and Comic Angels, a ground-breaking study of Greek comedy and vase-painting.

"This well-illustrated book will now become the starting place for all those interested in the intersection of Greek tragedy and Greek vase-painting."
—John H. Oakley, Andrew W. Mellon Professor at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens

"In this lavish and learned book, Oliver Taplin presents more than a hundred vases that can be associated with the three great Athenian tragedians."
—Alan Shapiro, Dietrich von Bothmer Research Scholar, Greek and Roman Department, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

"Oliver Taplin is not only one of the best readers and interpreters of Greek tragedy but he has also acquired a sharp eye and exciting way of looking at Greek vases."
—Professor François Lissarrague, Centre Louis Gernet, Paris

"Replaces and surpasses all previous illustrated studies of the relationship between dramatic productions and vases portraying scenes from plays."
—David Sider, Professor of Classics, New York University 

320 pages
8 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches
94 color and 85 b/w illustrations
1 map
ISBN 978-0-89236-807-5

Getty Publications
Imprint: J. Paul Getty Museum