At CASVA, I revisited Beazley’s connoisseurship studies in the context of attribution research in both Athenian and Renaissance art with three main goals in mind: to probe deeper into the long-standing practice of evaluating newly discovered Athenian vases or painters in relation to Renaissance art; to employ social network analysis (SNA) to convert Beazley’s connoisseurship ties into a more comprehensive, dynamic set of relationships; and to bring the complicated connections of apprenticeship, collaboration, or imitation into greater relief.
Beazley’s connoisseurship studies in Athenian vase painting served
as a model for detecting “hands” in a variety of cases, from Corinthian
Beazley would sometimes use Renaissance regional affinities to differentiate the style of an Athenian painter: one painter was more Sienese, another more Florentine. Comparing Greek vases to Renaissance art can
Beazley’s connoisseurship ties for the Athenian vase painters, despite the criticism they have received, provide a good test case employing SNA. As part of a collaborative project, I combed through ABV to pair any type of connection (for example, collaboration, imitation, or apprenticeship), in a two-column format (called “edge list” in SNA terminology) and to render them through social networks software (NodeXL) in order to visualize the connections among more than 400 artists working in the black-figure technique in Athens from 600 to 400 BCE. Visualizing these ties from listings in a linear book format, with related entries often hundreds of pages apart, as Beazley himself lamented, is challenging. In addition, the current limitations of an otherwise valuable digital resource (Beazley Archive Pottery Database) for searching connections among artists corroborated the importance of undertaking a panoramic project of associations in which both central and peripheral actors would be readily noticeable.
Our analysis also highlighted how Beazley had closely associated artists with certain shapes. Half of the ABV chapters are constructed around vase shapes (such as amphorae,
Ultimately, the connoisseurship-based SNA for the Athenian potters’ quarters can serve as a model for employing this method for mapping apprenticeship and collaboration ties as recounted in ancient encyclopedias, such as Pliny’s lists of sculptors and their pupils, or in artists’ lives, such as Vasari’s accounts of Renaissance apprenticeships and collaborations. With this last example, Greek vases could now serve as a model for Renaissance arts, reversing a time-honored hierarchy.