Union Académique Internationale

Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum (CVA)

Back to projects

Project n°1, adopted in 1920.

First project adopted by the Union Académique Internationale, the Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum was initiated by Edmond Pottier, curator at the Louvre Museum, who defined the main principles of the Corpus and published the first volume of the series in 1922. As the collections of the museums around the world greatly increased in the course of the nineteenth century due to the large programs of authorized or illegal excavations, and by the acquisition of private collections, Pottier developed the idea of ​​producing a catalogue containing all the ancient vases kept in public museums, excluding pottery from regular excavations that had to be published as part of excavation reports. If such catalogues already existed, embellished with detailed descriptions, drawings, or even photographs when the progress of the latter technique was sufficiently advanced, these catalogues often covered only the collections, or even a part of the collections of each museum, following different layouts for each publication. This was the contribution of Pottier to set up a corpus which was intended to gather the ancient vases of the world in a joint publication which followed an identical layout.

Since the first volumes, the fundamental principles proposed by Pottier have been remarkably respected. The presentation of the catalogue, the notes and the illustrations thus follow an identical format, which has of course evolved over time, and the volumes are ideally written in one of the four official languages ​​of the CVA: French, English, Italian and German. The first volumes, however, had a universalist aim since Pottier planned to catalog not only the painted pottery of ancient Greece, but also Eastern, Etruscan, Italian, Spanish, Gallic, Germanic vases... However, during the meetings that took place regularly under the UAI patronage, several changes have slightly altered the classification and system put in place by Pottier. Thus, the members of the national committees of the CVA meeting in Lyon in 1956 decided to eliminate certain categories of material from the original project and only Greek pottery or vases produced by peripheral cultures have since been published in the volumes of the CVA (Etruscan pottery, Italian, Iberian, Thracian, Phrygian, ...). In addition, the number and size of published photographs for the same vase has increased over time. Profile drawings of the vases have also appeared with the development of morphological studies.

In a century and with more than 400 published volumes, the CVA has become an essential reference for Greek and related ceramic specialists. Through time, the project has also adapted to new technologies. CVA volumes, with the exception of the most recent ones, have been available online since 2004 on a dedicated website thanks to the work of the Beazley Archive researchers at Oxford University. Initially, the goal was to make available to researchers the first 250 volumes, most of which were out of print, before gradually integrating the next volumes. New sub-series were also inaugurated and different member countries such as Germany, Austria and France organized thematic colloquia – on shapes, techniques, decorative patterns, economic issues such as the distribution of vases, ... – whose papers were published in supplementary volumes to the CVA, thus ensuring the future of the project beyond the cataloging work.


The capacity calculation website (CReA-Patrimoine, ULB) provides an online tool that would enable the calculation of the capacity of vases on the basis of scaled drawings. Conceived as a simple and user-friendly tool, on which pottery specialists could readily upload their own drawings, the applet was made freely accessible to the public in 2005 and ever since it has been broadly used by the scientific community (for a selected bibliography, cf. the Information tab). Link: https://capacity.ulb.be/index.php/en/research-center-in-archeology-and-heritage/

List of Committees

International Committee
BALTY Jean-CharlesMemberAcadémie royale des Sciences, des Lettres et des Beaux-Arts de Belgique
BOARDMAN JohnMemberBritish Academy