Professor Anna Boshnakova Presents in Würzburg

From September 25th to 29th, 2023, Dr. Anna Gandossi-Boshnakova participated in the 12th Symposium of the International Study Group on Music Archaeology (ISGMA), “Artifacts – Images –Text: Archaeology and the Historiography of Sound.” The symposium explored the multiple interdependencies between archaeology, philology, and historical musicology, encompassing both thematic and methodological aspects.

During the conference, Dr. A. Gandossi-Boshnakova presented her work Classification of Attic Vases with Implied Melodies (AVIM), marking a significant contribution to this research field. Her presentation featured a collection of fifty-one vases that provided a chronological perspective on the artistic trend in visually representing melodies during the late Archaic and Classical periods.

Her assumption was that just as the professional musicians of that time were pioneers in developing a music language, a system of archiving their music, some of the most accomplished and influential Greek painters were pioneers in developing an image language that reflects the idea of capturing the musical sound, thus immersing viewers in the realm of music. These late Archaic and Classical Greek painters combined music-related visual narratives with inscriptions to symbolize a melody, emphasizing the storyline in a musical context, and developed a trend of representing implied melodies in various ways. Some of the notable artists who contributed to this trend are The Painter of Berlin 1686, Euphronios, the Kleophrades Painter, Douris, the Antiphon Painter, the Brygos Painter, the Foundry Painter, the Pig Painter, the Agrigento Painter, Painter of Oxford 529, a Painter from Pistias Class “M”, the Athena Painter, the Sappho Painter, the Diosphos Painter, the Acheloos Painter from the Leagros Group, the Nikosthenes Painter, Smikros, Epidromous/ or Elpinikos Painter, Onesimos, the Methyse Painter, the Niobid Painter, the Group of Polygnotos, the Meidias Painter, the Eretria Painter, the Cambridge 73 Painter, The Polion Painter, and several other anonymous artists.

Residenz Würzburg, University of Würzburg
Exhibition: Musical Animals and Instruments, the 12th Symposium of the ISGMA, “Artifacts – Images –Text: Archaeology and the Historiography of Sound.”

The artistic intention was to represent songs with lyrics, different sounds associated with specific musical instruments or singing, and even experiment with faux musical notation. Some of these inscriptions contain meaningful words, while others consist of misspelled, repetitive, or nonsensical combinations of letters that lack linguistic meaning. However, their iconic purpose stems from their position within the musical context. By employing these visual cues, painters strived to engage the viewer’s imagination to follow the narrative thread, inviting them to perceive the implied melodies evoking a sense of the performance’s continuous and dynamic nature. This innovative approach allowed them to add additional layers of meaning and create a rich, engaging, and immersive narrative that brings ancient musical scenes back to life.


The collection of Attic Vases with Implied Melodies represents a small percentage of the extensive corpus of ancient Greek vases. Nevertheless, they provide indirect evidence that even if we do not have surviving music documents from the late Archaic and Classical periods, the practice of recording music existed in the musicians’ guild and was reflected by the vase painters as implied melodies in their art. This artistic trend reflects the multidimensional nature of ancient Greek music culture, where both oral transmission and musical literacy played crucial roles in the preservation and dissemination of musical knowledge long before the middle of the 3rd century BCE.