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Dangerous Perfection: Ancient Funerary Vases from Southern Italy

  • Edited by Ursula Kästner and David Saunders

    In 2008, the Berlin Antikensammlung initiated a project with the J. Paul Getty Museum to conserve a group of ancient funerary vases from southern Italy. Monumental in scale and richly decorated, these magnificent vessels were discovered in hundreds of fragments in the early nineteenth century at Ceglie, near Bari. Acquired by a Bohemian diplomat, they were reconstructed in the Neapolitan workshop of Raffaele Gargiulo, who was considered one of the leading restorers of antiquities in Europe. His methods exemplify what was referred to as “une perfection dangereuse,” an approach to reassembly and repainting that made it difficult to distinguish what was ancient and what was modern.

    Bringing together archival documentation and technical analyses, this volume provides a comprehensive study of the vases and their treatment from the nineteenth century up to today. In addition to lavish illustrations, two in-depth essays on the history of the vases and on Gargiulo’s work, as well as detailed conservation notes for each object, this publication also features the first English translation of Gargiulo’s original text on his understanding as to how ancient Greek vases were manufactured.

    This is the companion volume to an exhibition on view at the Getty Villa, from November 19, 2014, to May 11, 2015, and then at the Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin from June 17, 2015, to June 18, 2017.

    Ursula Kästner is curator for the vase collection in the Department of Classical Antiquity of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. David Saunders is associate curator of antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

    “In summary, this superb study provides the first full account of the red­figure Apulian vessels in Koller's collection in more than a century. It will prove of great interest to scholars and students of Apulian vase painting, restoration practices, and art history. Lavishly illustrated with high-quality photographs and archival drawings, this book is, undoubtedly, an important contribution for future research and conservation projects.”
    Bryn Mawr Classical Review

    “Sumptuous . . . highly recommended.”

    216 pages
    9 x 11 inches
    160 color and 10 b/w 
ISBN 978-1-60606-476-4

    Getty Publications
    Imprint: J. Paul Getty Museum