Corinthian pottery - the Ashmolean collection

The Ashmolean Museum possesses an important and remarkably representative collection of Corinthian pottery, due, in the main part, to the 20th century scholars J.D. Beazley and Humfry Payne, and the 19th century benefactors. The majority of the 20th century acquisitions were made between 1925, when Beazley became professor, and 1936, when Payne died, and the later 20th century acquisitions, although few in number, were carefully selected to make the series as a whole as representative as possible.

Few Corinthian vases had previously been purchased for the museum because 'vases of the finer period' (that is, Athenian red-figure vases, which Beazley and E.P.Warren particularly liked) were considered to be more desirable. In 1924, however, Beazley gave two Corinthian oil vases [1924.16 and 1924.15], and in 1925, a phiale [1925.316], listed in Sir John and Lady Beazley Gifts 1912-1966 (1967).

In 1926 Payne gave a Corinthian head from a vase and in December of the same year Lord Vernon's antiquities were auctioned at Sotheby's in London. Payne quickly realised the importance of this Corinthian collection, which Lord Vernon had bought from the estate of George Grenville, Baron Nugent, formerly High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands from 1832 to 1835, and particularly well placed to acquire antiquities. The museum report for that year read, 'At the Vernon sale were purchased, for a trifling sum, some thirty or forty good small vases, mostly of early fabrics: the chief gain was to the Corinthian, especially Protocorinthian; but other collections also benefited' (Annual Report 1927, 12).

Other benefactors purchased antiquities at the Vernon sale for the museum, among whom were Sir Arthur Evans and Henry Stuart Jones. Payne's detailed study of the Oxford vases appeared in the second fascicule of Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum published in 1931, two years before Necrocorinthia.

Corinthian pottery given by 19th century benefactors had been acquired before the material was well known and sought after by museums. The Balliol connoisseur and collector John Henderson bequeathed some to the museum in............and the Oxford Egyptologist and antiquarian Greville Chester in............ Brymer Belcher…