Greece - Some Greek Vases
( Originally Published 1899 )
ONE of them is a bowl with a double handle. It would hold just about enough oatmeal for my morning breakfast portion; but I have never yet desecrated it to any base utility. It is black, the only color being round the base. A little pitcher with a scalloped rim combines portliness with grace, — a thing not easy to accomplish. It is black, Attic in form, but without decoration. "Then there are two little pitchers from Tanagra, the large one about four inches high, the smaller one not more than three. It is doubtful if the smaller one was ever used for what it could hold, or the large one either, for that matter. They may have been used as toys or ornaments, but were de-voted to the dead more likely than to the living. The features are sharply and distinctly cut. It is the face of a woman. The nose is very long, and the countenance has a decidedly Egyptian cast. I suppose it was not a portrait of an individual, but of a type, —a composite picture, so to speak, by the artist's instinct made radical and typical.
I should like to know the history of this little vase, —what eyes looked upon it, who tenderly handled it, or to whom it was dedicated among the grave offerings. For nobody whom we ever heard of; for somebody, it may be, who lived the common round of life, whose heart was warm and whose hand willing, and who smiled and danced and helped to make life as joyous as it seemed to be away back in that Greek town. Tanagra had its tragedies. It was the scene of a bloody battle between the Spartans and the Athenians, 457 B. C., in which the town must have suffered; but the memorials which these people have left have not been of sadness and sorrow, but of the joy and grace and poetry of life. No collection of statuettes in the world is more charming than the Tanagra figurines in the museum at Athens. Though Greece has been robbed of a great many of her treasures, and a great deal of Tanagra art has gone abroad, she has preserved these; and nowhere have such charming, graceful representations of human life been put into clay. If these people did not think life worth living, who did?