Sir John Beazley

Beazley published the fullest account of his method in 1922, in an article entitled 'Citharoedus'. The name comes from the young man playing a cithara on this vase (below) in the Metropolitan Museum, a vase Beazley assigned to his anonymous 'Master of the Berlin amphora'.

Athenian red-figure vase view 1 Athenian red-figure vase view 2

Athenian red-figure vase; early 5th century BC,
attributed to the Berlin Painter by Beazley.

Throughout the article he speaks of a 'system of forms' - forms in shape, design, patterns, figures and execution of technique. Beazley taught himself to recognise the system by drawing the details he considered important over and over again. If all elements of the 'system' are examined in relation to each other it can be said that the connoisseurship of Athenian vases rests on firmer ground than any other art form.

Drawing by Beazley from vase (1) above Drawing by Beazley from vase (2) above

Drawings by Beazley from the Athenian
red-figure vase above

An essential tool for recognising the painter was to copy his lines. The most elaborate of Beazley's drawings are the ones he traced off the vase and transformed through a very laborious process into finished drawings such as this (left) of the youth singing to the cithara. Turning the vase around Beazley drew the figure on the reverse (right) with equal care. When he had identified the 'system of forms' he followed it through the painter's career, if the evidence was sufficient. Here I use only one example: a single long dark line defines the profile of the near leg but many shorter curving lines define the folds of the drapery over both legs.

Earlier drawing by Beazley Later drawing by Beazley

Drawing by Beazley from an early (left)
and late (right) vase attributed to the Berlin Painter

The system of lines appears here, to the left, on an early and fine vase, in a simpler form at about the same time. Following it through perhaps 100 examples over as much as forty years Beazley could still discern its original form in a very late figure such as this, to the right, where the system has disintegrated - perhaps through old age and poor eyesight. Beazley concluded that the system was the creation of one man, whom he named after the amphora (below) in Berlin.

Athenian red-figure vase - Berlin Painter

Athenian red-figure vase
attributed to the Berlin Painter by Beazley

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