23 - Nikosthenes: Networks of Production and Trade


Jennifer S. Tafe, Boston University; Cole Smith, University of Texas at Austin; and Eleni Hasaki, University of Arizona


The name “Nikosthenes” represents an individual artist and entrepreneur in late archaic Athens, as well as an artist collective and a brand. The Nikosthenes workshop is a vase-making enterprise, active between ca. 545–510 B.C.E. with a strong collaborative basis, a leading innovator in shapes and painting techniques, and a savvy brand maker for its overseas trade to Etruria though strategic use of signatures and trademarks. With a total of 351 signed and attributed vases, 35 collaborators, 13 shapes including its hallmark Nikosthenic amphora, six techniques, 149 signatures, and seven trademark types, the Nikosthenic workshop constitutes one of the most interesting test cases to study communities of practice in the Athenian Kerameikos and communities of traders and consumers in Etruria. The 149 surviving Nikosthenic signatures account for nearly 25 percent of all extant epoiesen signatures in black-figure. A total of 31 trademarked Nikosthenic products, mostly Nikosthenic amphoras (26), exist. Products of the Nikosthenic workshop comprise one of the largest and most focused surviving sets of trademarks known for a particular Attic workshop. These trademarks, when coupled with those of related workshops and individuals, reveal a calculated system for trade. The most prominent marks, ΣΟ and ΕΡ, suggestive of specific traders, provide two of the best examples of dedicated trademarking of a specific style of pots by a specific workshop. Through network visualizations of these related datasets, often studied separately, we can reassess the workshop’s centrality and recapture its importance in the dynamic landscapes, both artistic and economic, of late archaic Athens. With this more comprehensive and integrated approach to the Nikosthenic brand we highlight the potential of the Nikosthenic workshop, often underrecognized in modern scholarship, to inform us about vase artists, innovation, and trade networks more broadly.