Dangerous Perfection – Ancient Funerary Vases from Apulia

Exhibition Overview


Funerary vessel
Attributed to The Phrixos Group, 340-310 BC, Terracotta red-figured volute krater

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.

(Photo: Funerary vessel, Attributed to The Phrixos Group, 340-310 BC, Terracotta red-figured volute krater, © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Antikensammlung. Photo: Johannes Laurentius)

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