Artists and Signatures in Ancient Greece by Jeffrey M. Hurwit

By Jeffrey M. Hurwit

The Greeks inscribed their artworks and craft with labels picking out mythological or ancient figures, bits of poetry, and claims of possession. yet no form of inscription is extra hotly debated or extra fascinating than the artist's signature, which increases questions about the position and standing of the artist and the murals or craft itself. during this ebook, Jeffrey M. Hurwit surveys the phenomenon of artists' signatures around the many genres of Greek artwork from the 8th to the 1st century BCE. even if the nice majority of extant works lack signatures, the Greek artist still signed his items way over the other artist of antiquity. analyzing signatures on gem stones, cash, mosaics, wall-paintings, metalwork, vases, and sculptures, Hurwit argues that signatures aid us examine the location of the Greek artist inside of his society in addition to his notion of his personal ability and originality.

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Mesopotamian art (Sumerian, Akkadian, Neo-Sumerian, Old Babylonian, Assyrian) is, if anything, even more “anonymous and impersonal” than Egyptian. Oppenheim’s summation still holds: “the artists who produced [Mesopotamian] reliefs, stelae, the sculptures, the statues of kings cast in copper and in precious metals, and whatever other 6. Portrait of Gudea of Lagash, holding plan of a sanctuary. works of art which may be lost, c. 2090 BCE. Louvre AO 2. Photo: author. remain completely unknown . .

From J. Quibell, The Ramesseum (London 1896), pl. XXXII. 12 Still, names are not hard to come by elsewhere. 14 And there is Ni-Ankh-Ptah, the “overseer of sculptors” who apparently designed and supervised the execution of the painted reliefs in the Old Kingdom Tomb of Ptah-Hotep at Sakkara [Fig. 4]. But Ni-Ankh-Ptah depicted himself (or had himself depicted) not sculpting or painting in his studio or carving the reliefs of the tomb itself, but drinking beer on a boat during a tournament on the Nile.

42 The apparent leader of a later group of potters appears to have stamped the handles of several askoi (round pouring vessels) with the words RUVFIES [:] ACIL, which appears to mean Ruvfies’ work – a trademark, perhaps. 43 But there are not many of them, and there are none at all on any “major” Etruscan work. With only one possible exception – an Aranth Heracanasa whose name appears on a wall of the Tomb of the Jugglers at Tarquinia – the Etruscans did not sign their tomb-paintings. That, perhaps, is not surprising: though labels and other texts are inscribed on tomb walls, readership was obviously limited.

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