Art from Teano
Highlighted Works of Art - 2007 Autumn
Highlighted Works of Art - 2007 Autumn
Located on the northern border of modern Campania, the settlement of Teano - ancient Teanum Sidicinum - lies on the southern slope of the volcanic Rocca Monfina, and today has about thirteen thousand inhabitants. It is generally known only for a single scene which entered the political mythology of modern Italy: the "Handshake of Teano". It was here that in October, 1860 Garibaldi, marching north after having overthrown the Kingdom of Naples, met Victor Emanuel II, and abandoning his republican dreams, hailed the latter as king of a new, unified Italy. Ancient written sources and archaeological records, however, have more to say.
The city lay near the junction of roads connecting the northern and southern part of the peninsula, and close to Capua (today S. Maria Capua Vetere), the largest town in inner Campania. It is no wonder, then, that Etruscan, south Italian, and above all, Capuan production exercised a decisive influence over Teanese art from the very beginning, and that objects imported from these places - especially from Capua - were also unearthed among the finds. The nearest town, Cales (today Calvi), which was separated from Teanum only by two sanctuaries of Fortuna-Tyche which remain unexplored to this day, was in artistic terms its twin city. In all probability several local workshops produced goods for both markets, which makes it rather difficult to determine their real location. These different influences, however, do not obscure the independent characteristics of the art of Teanum, which are conspicuous from the very beginning, manifesting themselves both in genre and style without ever losing their more generally Italic character.
The Collection of Classical Antiquities preserves representative examples of three typical genres from Teanum, two of which are recent acquisitions. The head of a youth in a pointed cap with elaborately detailed locks of hair comes from the sanctuary of Loreto; the series of which it is an important piece belonged to the period of the sanctuary before the foundation of the city, and the Budapest piece was created as early as the 5th century BC. These heads cannot be associated with the worship of any single deity, but as they come exclusively from the sanctuary of Loreto, they were certainly made in a local workshop, together with a number of other large-scale terracotta statues.
The same is only probably true of one of the cups on display. The middle of the black-glazed "Arethusa cup" has the head of a young girl in relief: it is this which accounts for its name. The group now numbers about sixty pieces. The head was created from an impression of a Syracusan coin made a hundred years earlier by Euainetos, one of the greatest ancient engravers, or from an impression of the Greek version thereof. As tradition had it, the nymph Arethusa, fleeing the amorous intentions of the river-god Alpheios (a river in Southern Greece), dived beneath the sea and emerged on the Syracusan island of Ortygia, where she became the pure spring which bears her name to the present day. We do not know why this - and only this - image appears on the cups from Teanum. She might have been identified with one of the deities worshiped in the local sanctuaries. The fact that a coin from Syracuse was used is hardly surprising, for a cup found in a grave in Teanum bears the signature of a master who claims to be of Sicilian origin.
Still, besides a few mediocre craftsmen, even the last period of South Italian red-figure vase painting at the turn of the 4th and 3rd centuries had its outstanding master in Teanum. He is called the Vitulazio-painter, after a nearby findspot of one of his works. Lacking an original, we can only illustrate here the work of this artist with photographs. He is easily recognised by his unique artistic outlook and the technique of his drawing. His vase paintings - as is so often the case with the last representatives of a disappearing genre - have something touching and new to say to the artists and viewers of our time as well.
János György Szilágyi