Greek Vase Painting and the Origins of Visual humour, Cambridge / New York: Cambridge University Press 2009 (2012 paperback, 2013 ebook)

This book is a comprehensive study of visual humour in ancient Greece, with special emphasis on works created in Athens and Boeotia. Alexandre Mitchell brings an interdisciplinary approach to this topic, combining theories and methods of art history, archaeology, and classics with the anthropology of humour, and thereby establishing new ways of looking at art and visual humour in particular. Understanding what visual humour was to the ancients and how it functioned as a tool of social cohesion is only one facet of this study. Mitchell also focuses on the social truths that his study of humour unveils: democracy and freedom of expression, politics and religion, Greek vases and trends in fashion, market-driven production, proper and improper behaviour, popular versus elite culture, carnival in situ, and the place of women, foreigners, workers, and labourers within the Greek city. Richly illustrated with more than 140 drawings and photographs, as well as with analytical tables of comic representations according to different themes, painters, and techniques, this study amply documents the comic representations that formed an important part of ancient Greek visual language from the 6th through 4th centuries BC.

Citation index: 228+

Reviews of Greek vase painting and the origins of visual humour

Bryn Mawr Classical Review. (2011.02.14)
“The author is thorough and I can think of no genre of Greek humour which he has overlooked, and he has been as thorough with the relevant literary evidence as with the representational.” full review

Prof. Em. J. Boardman, Oxford University

American Journal of Archaeology 115.1 (2011)

“[…] this broad survey of scenes of visual humor will serve as a valuable starting point for further research. The extensive lists and citations will make the book an aid for further work on humor and should encourage more synthesis and refinement of theoretical approaches to visual humor.” full review

Prof. M. D. Stansbury-O’Donnell, University of St.Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota

Choice Review
“[…] Caricature, parody, overt sexual imagery, drunkenness, gender stereotyping, and the deconstruction of myths are investigated, categorized, and interpreted with exemplary thoroughness and
psychological subtlety […]” full reviewProf. Em. R. Brilliant, Columbia University

Arctos 46 (2009)

“Until recently, the study of ancient humour has been based on literary evidence[…] Mitchell’s book is the first comprehensive study of visual humour in ancient Greece […]” full review

Dr. M. Carucci, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies

Revue archéologique 51 (2011)

“[…] un contributo chiaro e prezioso, in alcuni casi nuovo, in altri di conferma, sugli elementi che provocavano il riso negli antichi Greci […]” full review

Prof. M. Iozzo, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Florence

Classical World 104.2 (2011)

“[…] the book is an important standard work Classical World and will be a basis for all further study of this fascinating aspect of Ancient Greek culture.” full review

Prof. J. M. Hemelrijk, Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam

Journal of Hellenic Studies 131 (2011): 251-2

“[…] His generous division of the material makes for an effortless read, free from the burden of excessive secondary sources and citations…” full review

Ass. Prof. T. J. Smith, University of Virginia