This is an essay that introduces a new perspective to us to decode ancient visual arts. The author reminds us that there are other ways of decoding visual figures alongside the “Beazley method” so we need to undermine stereotypes in our minds in appreciating ancient Greek vases.
Let’s first talk about “Beazley’s method”. The basic principles of this approach are that we can distinguish the artists through their stylistic skills on the vases. The author thinks, as she states in the essay, that although Beazley’s method is a landmark in his time and still of great importance nowadays, it is not the only way we decode Greek vases. On the other hand, Dr. Robertson also noted that we should not throw baby out with the bathwater as some of Beazley’s critics did. So in her argument, the best way to adopt this approach is to absorb the essence and get rid of the dregs.
She also argued that the “visual symbols”—the figures and episodes on the vases in this essay—definitely have different meanings to the various viewers who are from diverse cultures or have unique educational backgrounds. Furthermore, the author pointed out that Greek artists, unlike their later Renaissance companions, are almost anonymous. So, in the author’s opinion, what Beazley had done—assign each potter or painter a nickname—is actually leading us to a different way, a way that uses his own modern culture to decipher the ancient Greek culture. In the middle of the “Questions to ask” part, the author suggests that we can shift our minds from the artist’s perspective to the viewer’s perspective.
It’s a prominent essay because the author puts up a new standpoint rather than adopting the old canon. She first talks about the Parisian example, which is familiar to all of us, to introduce her argument. It’s really an interesting one with which to start. However, her weaknesses are obvious too. First, I think it is maybe a little confusing for undergraduate