Amphora (reproduction)

Museum number:
Accession number:
Object count:
Large black figured amphora; Apotheosis of Herakles—Apollo and goddesses.
Phoebe Apperson Hearst
Collection place:
Caere (ancient Cerveteri), Lazio, Central Italy
Production place:
Naples, Campania, Southern Italy
Culture or time period:
Etruscan and Greek Archaic Period (700–480 BC)
Maker or artist:
Antonio Scappini
Alfred Emerson
Ceramic (material)
Object type:
Accession date:
November 12, 1902
Classical Mediterranean
Excerpt from Too Good To Be True Exhibition Handlist (1992): ANTONIO SCAPPINI: MASTER COPIER OF ANCIENT POTTERY Scappini was regarded as one of the finer imitators of ancient pottery. Initially, he worked in Cometo, Tarquinia, and Naples. During the late 1800s and shortly after the tum of the century, he produced excellent reproductions of Etruscan bucchero ware and Attic black-figure and red-figure vases that faithfully follow the originals. He always signed his works, but unscrupulous dealers broke them to pieces, buried them, and after eliminating the pieces bearing his signature, sold them as genuine antiquities. At the beginning of this century Dr. Alfred Emerson, agent for Mrs. Phoebe A. Hearst, ordered some facsimile work from Scappini. In all, Scappini made eight specimens for the Hearst collection. In a letter to Mrs. Hearst, Emerson described Scappini as "one of the pitifully impecunious Italian artisans who scarcely have the means to keep their plants, tools and product out of the hands of usurers of whom they borrow money." He worked for about 10 francs a day and barely managed to finish one piece a month. In 1903, Emerson reported that Scappini had left Naples to escape creditors even though Emerson was prepared to pay him 600 lire for finished works. All traces of this genius are lost thereafter. Scappini's copies are of a high artistic and technical quality, works of art to be appreciated on their own merits. Even during Scappini's productive period, the value of his works was recognized. According to Emerson, one of Scappini's pieces was appraised at 75,000 francs by the Italian Department of Fine Arts. The Secret of Ancient Attic Black Glaze Imitations of red-figure and black-figure Attic pottery are difficult to make because of the special techniques involved in the creation of the so called black glaze. In reality, the ancient black paint was not a glaze at all but a refined clay, which achieved its color by a three-stage firing process rather than by the addition of coloring agents. The areas that were to appear black were painted with a slip made from a refined clay--mixed with water--of the same type used for the body of the vessel. First the pottery was fired in the kiln under oxidizing conditions (air was allowed in) that turned both vessel and slip reddish-orange. Then the oxidizing atmosphere was changed to a reducing one by introducing green or damp wood and by cutting off the oxygen supply. The incomplete combustion of the wood produced carbon monoxide, which reacted chemically with the clay and turned all surfaces black, but at the same time "set" the surface of the areas painted with the liquid clay. Finally, oxygen was again let in and the reserved areas turned reddish-orange again, while the painted areas, now sealed, remained black. This ancient Greek technique of vase-painting was subsequently forgotten. Through careful research, trial and error, the technique was rediscovered during the 1940s. Consequently, experts on ancient Greek ceramics concluded that the black glaze of all imitations of Greek pottery produced before World War II would necessarily have been colored by an added mineral never used in the production of Classical ceramics. Spectrographic analysis of the glaze in Scappini's copies have shown that he employed cobalt, lead, and manganese as coloring agents. 19. Scappini copy of a black-figure amphora. Scappini made this amphora in 1902 and sold it to Dr. Emerson for 500 lire. He copied the scene on the front from a hydria (water jug) from Yulci, Etruria, which is now in the Martin von Wagner Museum, Wiirzburg, and dates to circa 510-490 B.C. Apollo stands in the middle playing the kithara. The women around him have been identified as Muses, but they are most likely Nymphs. On the original hydria, the woman behind Apollo is supposed to be holding a spear and not a torch, an element which Scappini must have misunderstood. Notice also the area between the comer of the garment held by one of the women to the left and the comer of the garment falling over the shoulder of the other accidentally painted black by Scappini. 8-4092.
S1962-1963 #24: unknown borrower (November 8, 1962–November 10, 1962), S1973-1974 #96: unknown borrower (May 27, 1974–May 28, 1974), and S2008-2009 #12: SFO Museum (June 2009–June 28, 2010)
Legacy documentation: