Red-figure pottery first achieved prominence in the modern world through antiquarianism and the collection of souvenirs on the Grand Tour. This fundamentally shaped the scholarship of this class of pottery. Vases were valued for their completeness, their iconography—scenes depicting Greek myth and literature being particularly prized—and their aesthetic qualities. Famous private collections were formed, many of which subsequently entered the world's great museums. Less value was placed upon the vessels as archaeological objects. The contexts in which they were found, their associations with other objects and their roles in ancient society were given little consideration. The pursuit of intact vases led to a focus on cemeteries, and many discoveries were, and indeed continue to be, the result of looting. Thus, most museum collections are dominated by vessels without proper provenance. Moreover, collections are skewed towards funerary and, to a lesser extent, sanctuary evidence, and away from material used in domestic contexts. The importance of iconography and aesthetics means that museums tend to display the most varied and beautiful vessels, ignoring much of the output of ancient workshops.
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