The Berlin Painter and His World: Princeton University exhibition

By Alastair Harden, Acting Head of Classics

1On a visit to the British Museum with 6.2 Classical Civilization students in February, after looking at the Parthenon sculptures and the frieze from the Temple of Apollo at Bassae, I brought the class around the Greek Vase galleries. I know these galleries very well, so I confidently strode up to a glass case, ready to wax lyrical on one of the most beautiful pieces on the A-level syllabus: a magnificent volute krater depicting the final duel between Achilles and Hektor. I mentally gathered my notes and got ready to dispense wisdom when – much to my disappointment – the case turned out to be empty. Well, not quite empty: a card read “This vase has been loaned to the Princeton University Art Museum for the exhibition ‘The Berlin Painter and His World’.” This kicked off a very welcome chain of events that led to me trading the Block 3 Parents’ meeting for an aeroplane bound for New Jersey and attending the most important conference and exhibition on Greek Art to be held in a generation.

2I’d heard that Princeton was hosting the first exhibition devoted to a single vase-painter in almost forty years, so I emailed J. Michael Padgett, Princeton’s curator of Classical antiquities, chastising him for ruining my speech about Achilles and Hektor and fondly recalling the afternoon in 2011 when he took me to the store-room under the galleries in the museum at Princeton to examine some fragments for my doctoral dissertation. To my surprise and delight he replied straight away, inviting me to two events: the fizzy ‘gala opening’ of the Berlin Painter exhibition on March 4th, and a star-studded one-day symposium on April 1st. (Well, ‘star-studded’ to Greek Art enthusiasts. Or really to vase-painting enthusiasts. Well, really, to enthusiasts of early Athenian red-figure vase-painting, which thankfully I am.) I expressed my regret that I could go to neither, but after some string-pulling and many apologetic emails to my Block 3 parents I found myself gratefully bound for the symposium.

3‘The Berlin Painter’ is the name given by the Oxford scholar John Davidson Beazley to an otherwise-anonymous painter of the most beautiful painted pottery of the early fifth century B.C.: Beazley grouped together several vases which he judged to have been painted by the same person in a 1911 article entitled ‘The Master of the Berlin Amphora’, and in doing so he effectively initiated the study of Greek vase painting as a major art form. Beazley remained central to the study of Greek vase painting until his death in 1970, and I was working as a researcher at Beazley’s archive in Oxford (www.beazley.ox.ac.uk) when I left academia to come to Bedales.

The Berlin Painter was one of thousands of painters whom Beazley was to identify on stylistic grounds, but to all scholars of Greek art the Berlin Painter has a special place as the first painter to recognize the aesthetic potential of using the shape of the vase and the framing painted floral and geometric patterns to bring the painted scene to life. Before this, painters usually treated the shape of the vase as a blank field to be filled in, and simply divided the vessel into zones or panels, but the Berlin Painter seems to have had a gifted sense of how the complex shapes of the vases can complement the drawing. He (or she, though we presume the painter was male: that’s another discussion…) also observed anatomy in minute detail, and I hope all of my students share my enthusiasm at how the Berlin Painter renders the complex relationship of the serratus anterior muscles to the ribcage in a level of anatomical detail unprecedented in its accuracy, at a time when sculptors were also looking to complex anatomical accuracy to make bronze and stone resemble real living bodies.

4The exhibition in Princeton brings together a representative selection of pieces from museums all over the world, including the ‘name vase’, the ‘Berlin Amphora’ which Beazley discussed in his 1911 article; sadly the exhibition does not include the beautiful fragment which Beazley saw in Winchester College, pictured, but it was awe-inspiring to be in a gallery with so many pieces of such high quality. The symposium featured a brilliantly stimulating group of lectures, including a wonderful talk by Richard Neer about how Beazley’s sexuality and early Brideshead-like days as an Oxford undergraduate in the 1900s influenced his later scholarship, and a typically poetic paper by the renowned French scholar François Lissarrague on the painter’s astonishingly sensitive use of deep black backgrounds for the figural scenes. Mario Iozzo, director of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Florence (home of the famous François Vase), revealed that he found what all archaeologists long for: a secret message, barely detectable beneath the black glaze of one vase. His paper will quite literally have every curator of Athenian vases looking again for these tantalizing hidden words, which will occupy scholars for decades: they can only be seen with the naked eye under certain lighting conditions, preferably when the vase is being held in the hand, a nice reminder of the tactility of these objects in an era which is increasingly devoted to digital images and accessing artefacts primarily through the internet.

At the reception following the conference I re-connected with Prof. Lissarrague, who wrote the single most beautiful book on Greek vases (Greek Vases: The Athenians and Their Images) and, much less illustriously, examined my PhD thesis in 2013 (‘Animal-skin garments in archaic Greek art: style and iconography’). I also caught up with several other academics whom I knew through my five years working at the Beazley Archive: I was reminded of the joys of research, and I’ve already since been consulted by a curator at the Metropolitan Museum in New York about an animal skin on an ancient statuette. It has been very rewarding to spend even a brief time among academics and curators, and I plan to re-enter this world by writing a paper this summer on the Berlin Painter’s use of animal-skin garments: this will be one of hundreds of pieces of research inspired and stimulated by the epoch-making conference and exhibition, with its beautiful catalogue, and it was truly a privilege to have attended this monumental event.

On the day of the exhibition’s opening, Michael Padgett gave an excellent introductory lecture on the Berlin Painter which you can see here.

Author speaks of Nuremberg Trials

On Friday 5 February we welcomed author William Shawcross to Civics at Bedales. He addressed an audience of around sixty students, teachers, and parents and spoke about his father, Hartley Shawcross, the chief British prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials.

During the trials, Hartley Shawcross stated:

“There comes a point when a man must refuse to answer to his leader if he is also to answer to his own conscience.”  

William Shawcross - Justice and The EnemyBringing Hermann Göring to life with an eerie and disturbing character description, our speaker reminded everyone both of the recent nature and reality of the trials. However, he also argued of the impossibility of a similar mass indictment ever happening again, believing that human rights activists would withstand it.

Stressing the symbolic nature of the events, William Shawcross told of the Napoleonic myth that could have formed around the Nazis had the trails not taken place. The trials provided an opportunity for the international world to officially denounce the injustice that had occurred at the hands of the Nazi regime. Nevertheless, he made his belief clear, that further prosecution should not take place as he feels “justice was served” in the 20th century. This perspective provoked multiple debates at the conclusion.

William Shawcross has kindly donated a copy of his book, Justice and the Enemy: Nuremberg, 9/11, and the Trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to the library.

By Sam Harding, 6.1

Bedalians’ tangible links to the Battlefields

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Block 3 students embarked in the comfort of Luckett’s coaches on 10 February, armed with preparation from teachers and Sir Hew Strachan’s lecture, a booklet covering all the sites we were to visit and an anthology of readings connected to World War 1. We arrived in Ypres (where we were staying for three nights) in time to visit the evocative ‘In Flanders Fields Museum’. That evening, after a hot meal, we enjoyed a quiz, won by Chris Bott’s group.

Day 2 saw us travelling down to The Somme, effectively following the line of the Western Front of 1914. We stopped at Notre Dame De Lorette, France’s huge and impressive World War 1 Cemetery and Ossuary. We also stopped at Vimy Ridge, a massive Canadian monument, adorned with mourning sculptured figures and visible for miles around with its preserved trenches and shell holes. We lunched in Arras (where Steep poet Edward Thomas had died, his life sucked out by a passing shell which left no mark on him) and went on to The Somme. Here we visited Beaumont Hammel (the setting for much of Birdsong) and Thiepval memorial to the missing and Lochnagar mine crater at La Boiselle.

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Millie Page is the great great granddaughter of Herbert Asquith, prime minister at the start of the war, and we visited the grave of his son, and Millie’s relative, Raymond Asquith. As we had discovered last year, Raymond lay next to W. Forbes, a Bedalian. That evening we dined at ‘Le Corner Pub’ in Albert before travelling back at night to our hotel in Ypres. Day 3 saw us touring the Ypres (‘Wipers’ to the British Tommy) Salient, starting in the town of Poperinghe (‘Pop’ to soldiers) which lay 5 miles behind the British front line and became a rest place for exhausted troops in the War. We enjoyed a film reconstructing, poignantly, an evening’s entertainment for soldiers in the war and went on to explore Talbot House (base of the worldwide Toc H movement) with its roof top chapel and unusual policy of equal treatment for officers (however high and mighty) and ordinary soldiers – “abandon rank all who enter here.”

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We then visited nearby Lijssenthoek Cemetery where last year our coach came to grief but this year managed to visit the grave of Maisy Redmayne’s great great uncle. We also paid respects to the Earl of Seafield since his great, great grandson, John Ogilvie Grant, had been prevented from seeing it the year before. That evening we took part in The Last Post Ceremony under the Menin Gate where Mila Fernandez (the great, great granddaughter of the French Commander Marshall Foch – something which greatly impressed our guides) and Luca Ashby-Hammond laid a wreath to commemorate the 65 Bedalians who lost their lives in the war. Luca was also able to trace his great great uncle’s name on the walls of the Menin Gate. The final day saw the now traditional visit to Leonidas Chocolate Shop before our smooth and trouble free return to Bedales. The tour gave the most tangible of links, personal, school-based and national, in this, the 100th commemorative year of the First World War.

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By Jonathan Selby, Head of History


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

Sir Hew Strachan visits The Green Ribbon Club

The Green Ribbon Club (Sixth Form History) last week were treated to a visit from Sir Hew Strachan, Chichele Professor of Military History at All Souls, Oxford. He wrote the Channel 4 series on the First World War and sits on the National Defence Advisory Committee, alongside admirals and generals. The Sixth Form were joined by Block 3 as Sir Hew first turned his attention to the younger members to suggest what they should look for on their upcoming visit to the trenches of World War One in Belgium and France. He gave a lucid outline of the importance of Ypres and the significance of The Somme. He covered a huge range of issues in the rest of his lecture and in questions, from the experience of soldiers (not always as miserable as war poets have suggested) to why the war went on so long and whether it was a ‘good’ war and how best to commemorate it. The Press has, over the last 6 months, been filled with speculation and argument as to how the Centenary of the War should be celebrated/commemorated, with Boris Johnson and Michael Gove keen “good war“ protagonists. Sir Hew was the clearest and most balanced of all voices. It is not surprising therefore that he has so far racked up 60 lectures since the commemorations began last year and we were most fortunate to be privileged with his visit for his 61 st.

By Jonathan Selby, Head of History


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

The Green Ribbon Club

On Thursday 25 September, The Green Ribbon Club (Sixth Form Historians) were privileged to hear Dr Anna Keay deliver a lecture on Monmouth, Charles the Second’s favourite but (probably) illegitimate son. It was fitting that she chose Monmouth for he was a key figure in The Green Ribbon Club in the Seventeenth Century. Although Monmouth has had bad press over the years, Dr Keay reassessed him in far more complimentary light and succeeded. Monmouth it transpires was a key figure in history who had major impact on history thereafter, not least, Dr Keay maintained, that there might not have been a Glorious Revolution had Monmouth not been born. He came across as a vivacious and attractive character who battled through difficult circumstances to emerge as a very accomplished soldier. His mother a murderess and no formal education until the age of 8 were significant handicaps. He was not the fool sometimes presented in history. His final gruesome end (another issue clarified here by Dr Keay…it took five strokes to behead him!) came following The Battle of Sedgemoor, the last battle on English soil. Dr Keay kept us thoroughly absorbed and entertained and her case for Monmouth was convincing. We look forward to the publication of her book on Monmouth. As well as historian, Anna Keay is an Old Bedalian and Bedales governor.

By Jonathan Selby, Head of History and Teacher of Government & Politics


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

Historians impressed by Battle of Waterloo diorama

On Monday a select group of 6.1s visited the Royal Green Jackets Museum in Winchester, housed within the spectacular army barracks, to look at the excellent diorama of the Battle of Waterloo. On entering we realised that there was an amazing opportunity to try on the original uniforms of the Green Jackets throughout the ages. Peter chose a 120 year old jacket worn by drummers and Bella decided on a WW2 motorbike greatcoat. After selecting our spectacular outfits we explored the museum, trying our hand at shooting replica rifles in a shooting game, sitting at a war cabinet, and finally arriving at the model room. The diorama itself was gigantic, with an audio tour explaining all the regiments and taking us chronologically through the battle. It was a very interesting experience providing a deeper understanding of the events of that historic day which liberated Europe from Napoleon’s iron grip. On leaving the museum we wandered to a wonderful tea shop to relax and refill after an intense learning experience. The crew returned to school feeling very positive about the visit. Having visited the museum, we felt that it would make an excellent post-AS History visit, as it is was a wonderful mixture of learning and fun, and an excellent treat which everyone should have the privilege of experiencing.

By  Juliette Perry, 6.1

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Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

Busy but rewarding six days in Russia

A punishingly early start after the end of a very long, busy term saw 23 6.2 History students gather at Heathrow for the flight to Moscow. This was the beginning of an exceptionally full but rewarding six days in Russia. The programme of the tour was packed as ever with hardly a moment to rest. It was great to see the enthusiasm of the students to soak up every available historical and cultural aspect of the visit. The students learnt a huge amount in connection with their study of a century of Russian history in the Museum of Revolution and Tretyakov Gallery. A particular highlight as ever was the day in the Kremlin where our group has the privileged access to the Grand Palace where we saw the 15th century Terem Palace and the jaw-droppingly lavish Halls of St Andrew and St George. The visit to the circus, a traditionally Russian entertainment, was met in a more mixed manner but the majority of student saw some truly, excuse the cliché, death-defying acts.

An overnight train journey to St Petersburg and we were embarked on another full programme in Russia’s imperial capital. The highlight of the first day was undoubtedly an evening at the ballet to see Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake at the new Mariinsky Theatre. It was particularly rewarding to hear the delight of students who have never been to the ballet before be amazed by the beauty of not only the dancing but the music. The Hermitage is one of the world’s great art galleries and just two hours does not begin to do this justice but a highlights tour gave a clue into its treasures and has inspired many of the students to say they will return. The visit to the folklore show of traditional Russian music and dancing saw three of the group, Will, Celeste and Eddy join in and obviously upstage the performers. The final day saw a return to Communist history with visit to the Smolniy Institute where the first Soviet government was established and to the Alliluyeva apartment, home of the family of Stalin’s second wife, which was frozen in time from the 1930s when it became a monument to the life of Stalin.

By Nick Meigh, Teacher of History

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Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.