Spectators at the sides of narrative vase paintings have long been at the margins of scholarship, but a study of their appearance shows that they provide a model for the ancient viewing experience. They also reflect social and gender roles in archaic Athens. This study explores the phemen of spectators through a database built from a census of the Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum, which reveals that the figures flourished in Athenian vase painting during the last two-thirds of the sixth century BCE. Using models developed from psychoanalysis and the theory of the gaze, ritual studies, and gender studies, Stansbury-O'Donnell shows how these 'spectators' emerge as models for social and gender identification in the archaic city, encoding in their gestures and behavior archaic attitudes about gender and status.
Mark D. Stansbury-O'Donnell is Professor of Art History at the University of St Thomas in St Paul, Minnesota. A scholar of Greek art, he is the author of Pictorial Narrative in Ancient Greek Art and has published articles on the painter Plygnotos and issues of narrative and methodology in the American Journal of Archaeology and several edited volumes.