Dangerous Perfection – Ancient Funerary Vases from Apulia

Exhibition Overview


Apulischer Volumenkrater, Medea empfängt die Argonauten (Hals) und Kampf gegen die Chimaira (Bauch)Ton, 4. Jh. Chr., Unterwelt-MalerAntikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu  Berlin, Inv. F 3258© Staatliche Museen zu Be (Dangerous Perfection – Ancient Funerary Vases from Apulia)
Apulischer Volutenkrater, Medea empfängt die Argonauten (Hals) und Kampf gegen die Chimaira (Bauch)Ton, 4. Jh. Chr., Unterwelt-MalerAntikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Inv. F 3258
The focal point of the exhibition is a group of 13 large, elaborately decorated vases from Ceglie del Campo, near Bari in Apulia (southern Italy). As grave goods, they provide insight into the funerary customs of the indigenous population's upper classes 2,500 years ago. The vessels are painted with a variety of scenes from Greek mythology, from sudden death in battle and war to a life of ease in Dionysian pastures.

The vases are held in the Collection of Antiquities of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Damaged during the war and postwar period, they are now being exhibited again thanks to a six-year collaboration with the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The project included careful conservation of the vessels – some in Los Angeles, others in Berlin – as well as research into the modern history of the group, which joined the holdings of the Berlin museums in 1828.

In addition to offering exciting archaeological insights, the exhibition also sheds light on the first restoration treatment of the vases in the workshop of Raffaele Gargiulo, a Neapolitan restorer who added missing scenes with such mastery that contemporaries spoke of a “dangerous perfection" in his style: Gargiulo's additions could no longer be distinguished from the ancient originals.

The exhibition was shown at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles from November 19, 2014 to May 11, 2015.
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