National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Danielle Smotherman Bennett

Affiliation: The Menil Collection

Danielle Smotherman Bennett is a Curatorial Associate working with the ancient Mediterranean art in the Menil Collection in Houston, TX, and was previously a Post-Doctoral Fellow with the Department of Classics at San Diego State University.  She holds her degrees from Bryn Mawr (Ph.D.) and the University of Missouri, Columbia, and her areas of specialization include Athenian vase-painting and digital methodologies.  She has extensive museum experience, and has done fieldwork in Greece, Italy, Turkey, and England.  Dr. Bennett’s current publications projects include “Targeted Advertising for Women in Athenian Vase-Painting of the Fifth Century BCE” in Arts, Vol. 8, Issue 2, Article 52 (2019), and Visualizing the Traumatized in Athenian Images of Philomela and Procne,” to be published in Hesperia.


Music features as an important component in a variety of ancient Greek mythological tales, including those portrayed on vases. Athenian vase paintings, however, are a silent medium. This talk demonstrates how images regularly incorporate sound through visual clues inviting viewers to imagine these sensory aspects and how vase painters visually express in different ways music, speech, and other sounds within representations of tales such as Orpheus and Marsyas, among others. Visual markers of sound, such as the inclusion of instruments, figures with an open mouth, and even nonsense inscriptions can entice viewers to relate the depiction with noises an ancient audience would expect. Through engaging the work of scholars and musicians working to recreate ancient Greek music, modern viewers can gain greater insight into the visual representations on ancient ceramics. And can experience how and why ancient Greek artists inspire their audience to fill-in the details of these silent pictures.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Bundrick, Sheramy D. 2005. Music and Image in Classical Athens. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Chiarini, Sara. 2018. The So-Called Nonsense Inscriptions on Ancient Greek Vases: Between Paideia and Paidiá. Brill Studies in Greek and Roman Epigraphy Vol. 10. Leiden: Brill.

Gurd, Sean Alexander. 2016. Dissonance: Auditory Aesthetics in Ancient Greece. New York: Fordham University Press.

Oakley, John H. 2014. “Classical Athenian Female Musicians at Home.” In ΕΓΡΑΦΣΕΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΠΟΙΣΕΝ: ΜΕΛΕΤΕΣΚΕΡΑΜΙΚΗΣ ΚΑΙ ΕΙΚΟΝΟΓΡΑΦΙΑΣ ΠΡΟΣ ΤΙΜΗΝ ΤΟΥ ΚΑΘΗΓΗΤΗ ΜΙΧΑΛΗ ΤΙΒΕΡΙΟΥ, edited by P. Valavanis and E. Manakidou. Thessaloniki: University Studio Press. 271-8.

Ulieriu-Rostás, Theodor E. 2013. “Music and Socio-Cultural Identity in Attic Vase Painting: Prolegomena to Future Research (Pt 1),” in Music in Art, Vol. 38, No. 1-2, Images of Music-Making and Cultural Exchange between the East and West, pp. 9-26.

Ceramics are the most numerous class of material object we have from ancient Greece, but much of this material is fragmentary. Today, fragments of Athenian vases are dispersed across the world in museums and private collections. The pieces, unlike more complete pieces, are often poorly published, infrequently the sole focus of scholarly work, and rarely on display. This talk presents several ways that digital techniques are expanding what we know about Athenian vase painting, including work on my digital humanities project, Athena’s Repository. Digital tools, such as digital databases and computational photography techniques including Reflectance Transformation Imaging and Photogrammetry, can make this class of material culture more accessible to the public and to scholars. As a transformative tool for scholars, Athena’s Repository will greatly enhance our understanding of extant pieces, serve as an archival record in case of their destruction, and facilitate wider access to the materials for educational purposes.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Athena’s Repository,

Altshuler, Ben F.S. and Thomas Mannack. 2014. “Shedding New Light on Ancient Objects,” Arion: A Journal of Humanities and the Classics, Vol. 22, pp. 53-74.

Battiato, Sebastiano, Givanni Gallo, and Filippo Stanco, eds. 2011. Digital Imaging for Cultural Heritage Preservation: Analysis, Restoration, and Reconstruction of Ancient Artworks. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Sapirstein, Philip and Sarah Murray. 2017. “Establishing Best Practices for Photogrammetric Recording During Archaeological Fieldwork,” Journal of Field Archaeology, 42:4, pp. 337-350, DOI: 10.1080/00934690.2017.1338513

Stamatopoulos, Michail and Christos-Nikolaos Anagnostopoulos. 2016. “3D Digital Reassembling of Archaeological Ceramic Pottery Fragments Based on their Thickness Profile,” ResearchGate. Accessed 19 September 2016. <>

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