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"Greek Vase Painting" by Dietrich Von Bothmer.
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DESCRIPTION: Softcover. Publisher: New York Metropolitan Museum of Art (1987). (2000). Pages: 71. Size: 10¾ x 8¼ inches; ¾ pounds. Summary:
CONDITION: VERY GOOD. Lightly read oversized softcover. New York Metropolitan Museum of Art (1987) 71 pages. Looks as if it was perhaps read once or twice, unmarked, evidencing only mild shelfwear. The book does show some mild age-tanning to the spine-side edge of the first and last pages in the book (including the underside of the front and back covers facing). Likewise the surfaces of the closed page edges also show mild age-tanning (no spotting, just slightly tanned surfaces); with the exception of the first and last pages of the book (as described above), otherwise not visible to individual pages, visible of course only when book is closed, only to the mass of closed page edges, sometimes referred to as the "page block". We should also mention that there's a couple of small, thin ink marks to the underside of the front cover. I'd guess that there was a sheet of paper with penned notes on it tucked in behind the front cover, and some of the ink "rubbed off" onto the underside of the front cover. It's not obnoxious or prominent, just a couple of stray ink marks. The inside of the book is otherwise almost pristine. Except for these faint, fine ink marks and the age-tanning described above to the first and last pages within the book, the pages are clean, crisp, unmarked, unmutilated, tightly bound, evidencing only very light reading wear. From the outside the covers evidence mild edge and corner shelfwear, principally in the form of mild abrasive rubbing to the spine head and heel. There are of course no corner creases or tears. Given the fact that book has clearly been read (albeit lightly), and there is some modest age-tanning evidenced, the book might lack the "sex appeal" of a "shelf trophy". Nonetheless for those not concerned with whether the book will or will not enhance their social status or intellectual reputation, it is an otherwise clean and only lightly read copy with "lots of miles left under the hood". Satisfaction unconditionally guaranteed. In stock, ready to ship. No disappointments, no excuses. PROMPT SHIPPING! HEAVILY PADDED, DAMAGE-FREE PACKAGING! #8778b.
PLEASE SEE DESCRIPTIONS AND IMAGES BELOW FOR DETAILED REVIEWS AND FOR PAGES OF PICTURES FROM INSIDE OF BOOK.
PLEASE SEE PUBLISHER, PROFESSIONAL, AND READER REVIEWS BELOW.
REVIEW: Dietrich von Bothmer is chairman of the Department of Greek and Roman Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Alan L. Boegehold is professor of classics at Brown University.
REVIEW: Classicist art historian and vase expert, Metropolitan Museum of Art Curator of Greek and Roman Art. Born to an aristocratic Hanover family, Bothmer worked as a youth for the German-Expressionist artist and sculptor Erich Heckel. His older brother, Bernard von Bothmer joined the Berliner museums in 1932 as an Egyptologist and the younger Bothmer decided on a museum career himself. He studied one year at the Friedrich Wilhelms Universität in Berlin before receiving a Cecil Rhodes Foundation grant to study in Oxford in 1938.
In Oxford he met J. D. Beazley with whom he would study. Bothmer received his diploma in 1939 in Classical Studies. He then made an extended visit to the United States, visiting museums and sending information on classical vases to Beazley, who later incorporated it into his subsequent monographs ("Attic Black-Figure Vase Painters", 1956, and "Attic Red-Figure Vase Painters", second edition, 1963). He studied at the University of California, Berkeley, 1940-1942, under the classicist and vase scholar H. R. W. Smith. Bothmer was a fellow at the University of Chicago for a year in 1942 before returning to Berkeley to complete his Ph.D. in 1944.
Anti-German sentiment running strong, Bothmer joined the U. S. army though not a citizen, and was assigned to the south Pacific theatre. There he was wounded in action--carrying a fellow soldier several miles through enemy lines--and awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for heroic achievement and U. S. citizenship. He was demobilized in 1945. Bothmer's brother, who had also come to the United States as curator in Brooklyn, introduced the young Bothmer to curators, among them Gisela Marie Augusta Richter, curator of Greek and Roman objects, who steered him into a postion in her department as a curatorial assistant.
Bothmer remained at the Metropolitan the rest of his career. He established himself in the social New York world, joining the soirées of art benefactor Josephine Porter Boardman Crane (1873-1972) among others. He eventually fell into disagreement with the notoriously anti-archaeologist Met director Francis Henry Taylor. In 1959 Bothmer advanced to Curator. The same year he was elected President of the American committee for the Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum, which he held until 1983. In this capacity, he author two fascicules in the CVA, one for the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and another for the Metropolitan.
In 1965 he was appointed adjunct professor at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University and awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship the following year. He married the oil heiress (and widow of Marquis Jacques de la Bégassière) Joyce Blaffer (b. 1926), who began making significant donations to the Met. In 1990 Bothmer was awarded the Distinguished Research Curator position at the Metropolitan. The Met named the two principal galleries of Classical pottery the "Bothmer Gallery I" and "Bothmer Gallery II" (financed by his wife) in his honor in 1999.
Over the course of his life, he was awarded honorary doctorates from the universities at Oxford, Trier and Emory, named a Chavalier de la Legion d'Honneur and a member of both the Académie française and the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut (DAI). Bothmer's brother, Bernard, was an Egyptologist/art historian at New York University. Bothmer's career at the Metropolitan was often controversial. In 1967, the museum's financial director, Joseph V. Noble and Bothmer announced that a famous bronze horse acquired in 1923 by the museum was a forgery based upon stylistic grounds and gamma ray testing.
The pair made a public announcement and removed the horse from view. However, Carl Bluemel doubted their stylistic findings as did the curator of Greek and Roman Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Cornelius Vermeule. When more sophisticated technical tests were later performed, the work was proven to be authentic. Bothmer was also accused that his eagerness to secure excellent pieces for the Museum resulted in rewarding unscrupulous dealers and thieves. In one celebrated case, Bothmer persuaded the museum in 1972 to purchase a single vase, a Greek krater decorated by Euphronios, for the (then) unheard of price of $1 million.
The Met sold much of its coin collection to pay for the acquisition, outraging museum professionals and archaeologists alike. The murky provenance of the vase led many archaeologists to believe it had recently been illegally excavated from an Italian archaeological site, likely Cerveteri. Though Bothmer and Metropolitan Director Thomas Hoving insisted the pot had lain in pieces in a family collection in Beirut, Hoving later admitted in 1993 that the evidence sited for the Beirut collection was never part of the Met's Euphronios krater. The krater was repatriated in 2006.
REVIEW: Dietrich Felix von Bothmer (1918–2009) was a German-born American art historian, who spent six decades as a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he developed into the world's leading specialist in the field of ancient Greek vases. Von Bothmer was born in Eisenach, Germany on October 26, 1918. An ardent opponent of the Nazi dictatorship, von Bothmer attended Berlin's Friedrich Wilhelms University and then went to Wadham College, Oxford in 1938 on the final Rhodes Scholarship awarded in Germany. There he worked with Sir John Beazley on his books Attic Red-Figure Vase-Painters and Attic Black-Figure Vase-Painters, working collaboratively to group works by identifying the individual craftsmen and workshops that had created each of hundreds of Greek vases. He graduated in 1939 with a major in classical archaeology.
A tour of museums in the United States in 1939 left von Bothmer stuck there with the start of World War II. Due to his strong anti-Nazi sentiments, he refused to return to Germany, and narrowly escaped being sent back to Germany against his will. He earned his doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley in 1944. Though not yet a citizen, in 1943 he volunteered for the United States Army. After 90 days in the U.S. Army, he was sworn in as a U.S. citizen in March, 1944. He served in the Pacific theater of operations, earning a Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart for a conspicuous act of bravery on August 11, 1944, while serving in the South Pacific, where, despite being wounded himself in the thigh, foot, and arm, he recovered a wounded comrade and carried him back three miles through enemy lines.
Following the completion of his military service, he was hired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1946, and was named as a curator in 1959. By 1973, he was department chairman and he was named in 1990 as distinguished research curator. In 1972, together with the Director, Thomas Hoving, von Bothmer argued in favor of the purchase of the Euphronios krater, a vase used to mix wine with water that dated from the sixth century B.C. They convinced the museum's board to purchase the artifact for $1 million, which the museum funded through the sale of its coin collection. The Government of Italy demanded the object's return, citing claims that the vase had been taken illegally from an ancient Etruscan site near Rome. The krater was one of 20 pieces that the museum sent back to Italy in 2008 in exchange for multi-year loans of ancient artifacts that were put on display at the Met, as part of an agreement reached in 2006.
Von Bothmer's 1977 exhibit "Thracian Treasures from Bulgaria" covered twenty centuries of Thracian culture, with more than 500 art works dating back to the Copper Age. The 1979 show "Greek Art of the Aegean Islands" included 191 pieces, of which 46 came from the Met and a similar number from the Louvre. The remainder came from several different museums in Greece, including the largest known Cycladic sculpture, dating to 2700 to 2300 B.C., on loan from the National Archaeological Museum, Athens. A 1985 exhibition based on his research, "The Amasis Painter and his World: Vase Painting in Sixth Century B.C. Athens," included 65 works of a single artist who created his pottery 2,500 years before, the first to document the history of the work of a single craftsman from that ancient period as a one-man show.
Von Bothmer's numerous published works in the field include the 1957 "Amazons in Greek Art", "Ancient Art From New York Private Collections" and "An Inquiry Into the Forgery of the Etruscan Terracotta Warriors in the Metropolitan Museum of Art" (with Joseph V. Noble), both published in 1961, "Greek Vase Painting: an Introduction" in 1972, his 1985 book "The Amasis Painter and His World: Vase-Painting in Sixth-Century B.C. Athens", his 1991 book "Glories of the Past: Ancient Art from the Shelby White and Leon Levy Collection", and in 1992,"Euphronios, peintre: Actes de la journee d'etude organisee par l'Ecole du Louvre et le Departement des antiquites grecques, etrusques de l'Ecole du Louvre". He also contributed in 1983 to "Wealth of the Ancient World (Hunt Art Collections", to "Development of the Attic Black-Figure" Revised edition (Sather Classical Lectures)" in 1986, and a wide variety of other publications. He took a faculty position in 1965 at the Institute of Fine Arts, the nation’s top-ranked graduate program in art history, according to the National Research Council's 1994 study.
Von Bothmer was the recipient of numerous awards and citations, including a Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur; a member of the Académie française (one of only two Americans to have this honor); an honorary fellow of Wadham College; and several honorary doctorates. Complementing his career as a curator and an academic, he served on the Art Advisory Council of the International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR). A resident of both the Manhattan district of New York City and Oyster Bay, New York, von Bothmer died at age 90 on October 19, 2009, in Manhattan. His brother was the renowned Egyptologist Bernard V. Bothmer, who died in 1993.
TABLE OF CONTENTS: Achilles Painter (Meletos Painter) (Greek, active circa approximately 470–425 B.C.).
Amasis Painter (Greek, active circa approximately 560–515 B.C.).
Andokides Painter (Greek, active circa approximately 530–515/10 B.C.).
Asteas (Greek, active circa approximately 350-320 B.C.).
Berlin Painter (Greek, active circa approximately 500–475 B.C.).
Briseis Painter (Attic vase painter, active circa approximately 480 B.C.).
Brygos Painter (Greek, active circa approximately 490–470 B.C.).
Douris (Greek, active 500–475 B.C.).
Eretria Painter (Attic vase painter, active circa approximately 420 B.C.).
Ergotimos | Euphiletos Painter (Greek, active circa approximately 530–520 B.C.).
Euphronios (Greek, circa approximately 520–470 B.C.).
Euxitheos (Greek, 6th century B.C.).
Exekias (Greek, active 540–520 B.C.).
Group of Boston: Kleitias, Kleophrades Painter (Greek, active circa approximately 505–475 B.C.).
Konnakis Group (Greek, active in Apulia, circa approximately 375–350 B.C.).
Oltos (Greek, active circa approximately 525–500 B.C.).
Painter of the Woolly Satyrs.
Psiax (Greek, active circa approximately 530–500 B.C.).
Villa Giulia Painter (Greek, active circa approximately 475–450 B.C.).
REVIEW: This publication appeared originally as "The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin" for Fall 1972. It has been revised and expanded by the author. Introduction; Greek Vase Painting; Index. Beautiful images with detailed descriptions to each. [Ceramic Arts Library].
REVIEW: Excellent reference book. Lots of illustrations. A great start for the collector and amateur.
REVIEW: A fabulous overview of the subject with stunning photography. Vintage but surely relevant.
REVIEW: I loved it! A beautiful book. You’ll enjoy it.
REVIEW: Pottery is virtually indestructible. Though it may break into smaller pieces (called sherds), these would have to be manually ground into dust in order to be removed from the archaeological record. As such, there is an abundance of material for study, and this is exceptionally useful for modern scholars. In addition to being an excellent tool for dating, pottery enables researchers to locate ancient sites, reconstruct the nature of a site, and point to evidence of trade between groups of people. Moreover, individual pots and their painted decoration can be studied in detail to answer questions about religion, daily life, and society.
Made of terracotta (fired clay), ancient Greek pots and cups, or “vases” as they are normally called, were fashioned into a variety of shapes and sizes, and very often a vessel’s form correlates with its intended function. For example, the krater was used to mix water and wine during a Greek symposion (an all-male drinking party). It allows an individual to pour liquids into its wide opening, stir the contents in its deep bowl, and easily access the mixture with a separate ladle or small jug. Or, the vase known as a hydria was used for collecting, carrying, and pouring water. It features a bulbous body, a pinched spout, and three handles (two at the sides for holding and one stretched along the back for tilting and pouring).
In order to discuss the different zones of vessels, specialists have adopted terms that relate to the parts of the body. The opening of the pot is called the mouth; the stem is referred to as the neck; the slope from the neck to the body is called the shoulder; and the base is known as the foot). On the exterior, Greek vases exhibit painted compositions that often reflect the style of a certain period. For example, the vessels created during the Geometric Period (circa 900-700 B.C.) feature geometric patterns, as seen on the famous Dipylon amphora (below), while those decorated in the Orientalizing Period (circa 700-600 B.C.) display animal processions and Near Eastern motifs.
Later, during the Archaic and Classical Periods (circa 600-323 B.C.), vase-paintings primarily display human and mythological activities. These figural scenes can vary widely, from daily life events (e.g., fetching water at the fountain house) to heroic deeds and Homeric tales (e.g., Theseus and the bull, Odysseus and the Sirens), from the world of the gods (e.g., Zeus abducting Ganymede) to theatrical performances and athletic competitions (for example, the Oresteia, chariot racing). While it is important to stress that such painted scenes should not be thought of as photographs that document reality, they can still aid in reconstructing the lives and beliefs of the ancient Greeks.
To produce the characteristic red and black colors found on vases, Greek craftsmen used liquid clay as paint (termed “slip”) and perfected a complicated three-stage firing process. Not only did the pots have to be stacked in the kiln in a specific manner, but the conditions inside had to be precise. First, the temperature was stoked to about 800° centigrade and vents allowed for an oxidizing environment. At this point, the entire vase turned red in color. Next, by sealing the vents and increasing temperature to around 900-950° centigrade, everything turned black and the areas painted with the slip vitrified (transformed into a glassy substance). Finally, in the last stage, the vents were reopened and oxidizing conditions returned inside the kiln.
At this point, the unpainted zones of the vessel became red again while the vitrified slip (the painted areas) retained a glossy black hue. Through the introduction and removal of oxygen in the kiln and, simultaneously, the increase and decrease in temperature, the slip transformed into a glossy black color. Briefly, ancient Greek vases display several painting techniques, and these are often period specific. During the Geometric and Orientalizing periods (900-600 B.C.), painters employed compasses to trace perfect circles and used silhouette and outline methods to delineate shapes and figures.
Around 625-600 B.C., Athens adopted the black-figure technique (i.e., dark-colored figures on a light background with incised detail). Originating in Corinth almost a century earlier, black-figure uses the silhouette manner in conjunction with added color and incision. Incision involves the removal of slip with a sharp instrument, and perhaps its most masterful application can be found on an amphora by Exekias. Often described as Achilles and Ajax playing a game, the seated warriors lean towards the center of the scene and are clothed in garments that feature intricate incised patterning. In addition to displaying more realistically defined figures, black-figure painters took care to differentiate gender with color: women were painted with added white, men remained black.
The red-figure technique was invented in Athens around 525-520 BCE and is the inverse of black-figure. Here light-colored figures are set against a dark background. Using added color and a brush to paint in details, red-figure painters watered down or thickened the slip in order to create different effects. Watered down slip or “dilute glaze” has the appearance of a wash and was used for hair, fur, and anatomy, as exemplified by the sketchy coat of the hare and the youth’s musculature on the interior of this cup by Gorgos. When thickened, the slip was used to form so-called “relief lines” or lines raised prominently from the surface, and these were often employed to outline forms. Surprisingly similar to red-figure is the white-ground technique.
Though visually quite different with its polychrome figures on a white-washed background, white-ground requires the craftsman to paint in the details of forms just like red-figure, rather than incise them. Alongside figures and objects, one can sometimes find inscriptions. These identify mythological figures, beautiful men or women contemporaneous with the painter (“kalos” / “kale” inscriptions), and even the painter or potter himself (“egrapsen” / “epoiesen”). Inscriptions, however, are not always helpful. Mimicking the appearance of meaningful text, “nonsense inscriptions” deceive the illiterate viewer by arranging the Greek letters in an incoherent fashion.
The overall attractive quality of Greek vases, their relatively small size, and—at one point in time—their easily obtainable nature, led them to be highly coveted collector’s items during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Since the later part of the nineteenth century, however, the study of vases became a scholarly pursuit and their decoration was the obsession of connoisseurs gifted with the ability to recognize and attribute the hands of individual painters. The most well-known vase connoisseur of the twentieth century, a researcher concerned with attribution, typology, and chronology, was Sir John Davidson Beazley.
Interested in Athenian black-, red-figure, and white-ground techniques, Beazley did not favor beautifully painted specimens; he was impartial and studied pieces of varying quality with equal attention. From his tedious and exhaustive examinations, he compiled well-over 1000 painters and groups, and he attributed over 30,000 vases. Although some researchers since Beazley’s death continue to attribute and examine the style of specific painters or groups, vase scholars today also question the technical production of vessels, their archaeological contexts, their local and foreign distribution, and their iconography. [KhanAcademy.org].
Experts tend to speak of 'Greek Vases' and 'Greek vase-painting', rather than pottery or ceramics. This terminology has been in use for a long time and reflects the material's long, and indisputably close, relation with the history of art. The scholarship of Greek Vases developed from the early 18th century, when large numbers of examples began to be discovered in Italy.
Broad classifications for Greek pottery are the same as for any other: place, time, shape, technique and decoration. Most has been found in graves. Domestic contexts are uncommon because sites were reused; it takes a volcano such as Vesuvius to preserve life as it was lived. Sanctuary contexts are known, but they too are not numerous. Knowing where the pottery was found does not necessarily confirm the function. For example, some found in graves was made for funerals, but some was initially made for another purpose, used, sometimes even mended, and buried with the dead, presumably as a cherished possession.
The focus of this article is the fine wheel-made pottery, fired at relatively high temperatures, and decorated in a variety of ways, but vast quantities of coarse and undecorated ancient Greek pottery are known today, and this material is not without importance. Most of the people who made the finer pottery probably also made other products of clay, such as sarcophagi, roof tiles, small altars, terracotta figurines, and plaques. The one place and period where there was more specialised production of finer figure-decorated pottery is Athens in the later 6th and 5th centuries.
The pottery made in Greece between about 1000 and 300 B.C. has been preserved in large quantities. Most examples come from graves discovered not only in Greece, but also in many parts of the Mediterranean region, particularly in Italy, where pottery was exported in large quantities in antiquity. The 'fine' pottery with figure decoration, especially that made in Athens between about 625 and 300 B.C., is of great importance to archaeologists and historians because shapes and styles of decoration can be dated closely, often to within twenty years of manufacture.
The ability of scholars to recognise individual painters who lived more than 2500 years ago, in the absence of signatures and contemporary literary documentation, has made the study of Greek figure-decorated pottery a subject in the History of Art. The connoisseurship of Greek, particularly Athenian, vases is a model of excellence, combining close personal examination of the objects with rigorous documentation of shapes, techniques, and styles of decoration.
Greek Pottery was made by Greek-speaking people. A significant number lived outside the area recognised today as Greece. There is, for example, a wealth of material from the coastal settlements of modern Turkey, and some of its off shore islands, particularly of the 6th century. Greek-style pottery was also made in the western Mediterranean, for example, in southern Italy and Sicily, from the end of the 5th century. Interaction between Greeks and non-Greeks affected the shapes, techniques, and decoration of Greek Pottery.
Greek painted pottery has a long history. Conventionally the earliest examples are dated around 1000 B.C., the latest around 300 B.C. The tradition can be traced back, to Bronze Age (Cretan and Mycenean) ceramics, and carried on through later Hellenistic, but both of these groups are sufficiently different from the main sequence that they tend to be studied separately. What holds the main sequence together? The answer is political, social, and economic history, as much as knowledge of potting and painting handed down through generations. Conventionally the finer pottery of these 700 years is divided into groups, by centuries or half, even quarter, centuries, according to styles and techniques of decoration.
Because the pottery can be dated closely, often to within 20 or 25 years, through absolute and relative dates, there is a tendency to use it to date other types of objects, found both in Greece and in lands where Greeks traveled, traded and settled. There is also a tendency to use terms adopted for styles of pottery decoration to denote periods of time. For example, people often speak of 'Geometric Greece', but this terminology is not precise and should be avoided; 'Geometric Athens' is not the same chronologically as 'Geometric Corinth'.
Good handbooks present Greek Pottery in chronological order, with sub-sections devoted to regions. Only Athens figures prominently as a centre of production in all periods, and it is for this reason that Athenian is used in the following brief introduction to major styles and techniques. In the Protogeometric and Geometric styles the technique is usually no more than dark paint on a light ground. 'Orientalizing' is the name given to the next style, produced in a variety of techniques, under growing eastern influence from about 700 B.C. Some Greeks, among them the Athenians, outlined their figures on pottery, as they might have painted them on walls.
Others, initially the Corinthians, incised detail on the silhouette of figures with a sharp tool, as they might have chased decoration on metal. For a century or more, depending on where they lived, Greeks developed city-states, some under powerful tyrants, and gained access to more eastern 'luxury' goods. From small, portable objects, for example, of metal or ivory, they took common decorative motifs and adapted them to their own needs. Enjoyment of eastern luxuries was, however, restricted from the mid-6th century, after which the Persians began to conquer Greek settlements in the east, and even to threaten Greeks at home.
Although never as artistically celebrated as Athens nor as militarily renowned as Sparta, the city-state of Corinth was nevertheless a major player in the renaissance of Greece during the first millennium B.C., contributing particularly to the development of visual arts which reached its zenith in the 5th century B.C. Her favorable geographical location - situated on the Isthmus between the Peloponnese and Attica, with easy access to the Adriatic in the west and the Aegean in the east - and peculiar ability to prosper supported a checkered history from Neolithic times right through to and beyond the sack of Corinth by the Romans in 146 B.C.
Map of CornthareaPausanias' account of his visit to Corinth in the 2nd century AD records the variety of myths long associated with the area - the Sow of Krommyon slain by Theseus, the brigand Sinis who tore his victims apart between two flexed pine trees, the foundation of the Isthmian Games by Sisyphus - as well as the many ancient buildings still standing, from the archaic Temple of Apollo to the Springs of Peirene, from the rich Agora to the Sanctuary of Aphrodite. Strabo's term for these relics of the earlier city, 'Necrocorinthia', was used by Humfrey Payne as the title for his important 1933 book on Corinthian pottery.
From the 8th century B.C., many other local settlements were attracted by the rich coastal plain, the numerous springs, the ports of Lechaion and Kenchriai, and the steep acropolis of Acrocorinth affording protection, with the result that Corinth was in a position to expand, establishing colonies overseas, most notably on Corfu and Sicily, and to pursue greater foreign trade. The first modern archaeological excavation was undertaken by the Germans in 1886. From 1896 systematic excavations were continued by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.
Some Late Bronze Age Mycenaean and early Iron Age Protogeometric pottery has been discovered, but it is the later Geometric style that is well represented. Corinthian vases made in the first half of the 8th century B.C. have been found at the nearby sanctuary of Perachora and Delphi further along the Corinthian Gulf, at Aetos on Corfu, and throughout Sicily and South Italy, providing archaeologists with evidence for Corinthian exploration of sea routes and for the dating of sites.
In the late 8th century, when the Geometric style was coming to an end, Corinthian contact with the Near East was a stimulus for the Orientalizing style of Greek pottery. Evidence from excavation of the 'potters' quarter', one mile west of Corinth, would seem to support this resurgent interest in painted wares. The traditionally angular geometric patterns were being replaced with the curvaceous flora and fauna that typify the Protocorinthian style. For much of the 7th and 6th centuries Corinth led the Greek world in producing and exporting pottery.
When Attic wares superceded Corinthian in the mid-6th century, Corinth had left a significant legacy of artistic developments, not only in pottery, but also in architecture, which had thrived under the powerful, aristocratic, Bacchiad family, as Herodotus describes. A monarchy was established by Kypselos in 657, whose successor, Periander, may have been responsible for constructing the stone track (diolkos) by which ships were dragged across the Isthmus. Many wars throughout the ensuing centuries eroded Corinth's resources, and the city fell to Philip of Macedon in 338. Her participation with the Achaean Confederacy in the Second Macedonian War eventually led to her sack in 146, but Corinth was refounded as a Roman colony. By the time Paul had established an early Christian church there in the late 1st century AD, Corinth was once again a splendid city.
Historically Athens has received much of the credit for keeping Greece from becoming part of the Persian Empire. The fifth century was her finest period, documented in contemporary literature, which has survived, and celebrated in monumental art which has also survived; the most famous example is the Parthenon. The fifth century, and late sixth, was also the period when the best pottery was made. What set it apart was the richness of the narrative, technical precision, and a fine sense of aesthetic design.
Athens' own aspirations to empire were dashed at the end of the fifth century, after she entered into a disastrous conflict with her rival Sparta, which is also documented in contemporary literature. Economically she seems to have recovered quite quickly, but great artists had already gone elsewhere for patronage. Pottery production also suffered. Overall the quality of shape and technique of decoration tended to decline, leaving us with the impression that fine painting was being executed on walls, no longer on pottery.
The relation between Greek painting and Greek pottery has intrigued scholars for a long time. Greek pottery, even the finer with figure decoration, has been preserved in quantity. Today more than 100,000 examples of Athenian, from 600 to 300 B.C., are kept in museums and private collections worldwide. Greek painting, on the other hand, from 1000-300 B.C. has scarcely survived. There are wall-paintings from Bronze Age palatial structures and tomb-paintings from later 4th century Macedonia, but precious little from mainland Greece. The naming of wall-painters in ancient literary sources, the description of the subject-matter of famous paintings, and discussions of the techniques make it irresistible for scholars to seek glimpses of this lost art.
We rarely know the ancient name of the shapes, even though we have contemporary literature. Pictures painted on the pottery can provide the most reliable clues for linking function to form. Shapes display continuity and a remarkable degree of homogeneity over a long period. Even in 5th century Athens, at the peak of 'fine' production, there are barely more than 30. Of these less than half are common. Overall there is only modest variety in technique, design and decorative elements.
Figures dominate; they are usually human, and they are usually framed by patterns which, though varied, derive from a modest range of component elements. The overall consistency, which is due to large-scale, and fairly sophisticated, production, and the large number of examples preserved, helped Sir John Beazley, among others, to classify the material. Beazley was so meticulous in recording details about Athenian figure-decorated pottery of the 6th through the 4th centuries that it could be transferred to computer with minimal change.
The closest art form which has been preserved is painting on pottery, and the principal pottery during the period of the great wall-painters is Athenian. From about 600 to 500 the principal ceramic techniques were black figures on a red ground (black-figure), and from around 500 to 300, a reversal of the firing procedure, giving red-figures on a black ground (red-figure). Neither technique is very realistic, but both are durable and exploit the natural redness of the Athenian clay, rich in iron.
A third technique outlines figures on a ground which has been made white by using a special clay free from the iron oxides, applied over the common reddish clay. This so called white-ground technique (white ground) has quite a long history, but is common only in Athens during the 5th century. It gives a more realistic effect than black- and red-figures and permits the addition of colours ranging from yellow to pink, red, violet and blue - and probably comes closest to painting on panels and walls. The technique of draughtsmanship is, however, usually the same as red-figure.
The ancient sources describe advances made in the art of painting, and some can be paralleled, broadly, on Athenian pottery. Here are a few examples, in chronological order. Until about 520 B.C. the human figure was depicted as it had been in all earlier two-dimensional art, in profile, or, less commonly, in combination of profile and frontal views. Then, on some large well-made clay shapes a few painters experimented towards the end of the 6th century with more realistic poses, attempting to show the human body as it was in life, not stylized as it had been in art.
They also attempted to show it in movement. In the ancient sources (Pliny, Natural History 35.55-6) a man named Kimon from the town of Kleonai, is said to have invented three-quarter views at this time, showing figures in various poses, looking up, down, backwards, etc., with parts of their bodies clearly articulated - bones and muscles, even veins - and drapery with folds and creases. Similar advances can be seen in sculpture, particularly in low relief, from roughly the same time, but the initial steps towards artistic change may well have come from the draughtsmen.
In the middle of the 5th century a small number of fine, large shapes have figures disposed on different levels, not on a single groundline as in earlier art. At this time the ancient sources tell us that one of the most famous Greek painters, Polygnotos, from the northern Greek island of Thasos, introduced figures on different levels in paintings which he executed on the walls of some of the most prestigious buildings, at Delphi and Athens.
At the end of the 5th century they tell us that Parrhasios and Zeuxis, the greatest painters of their time, introduced new techniques. The former is said to have used outline in new ways which achieved greater realism, the latter shading. These technical advances, as fundamental to later western painting as the abandonment of the rigid profile view at the beginning of the century, can be paralleled on some exceptional white-ground pottery dated on independent criteria to around 400 B.C.
Experts tend to speak of 'Greek Vases' and 'Greek vase-painting', rather than pottery or ceramics. This terminology has been in use for a long time and reflects the material's long, and indisputably close, relation with the history of art. The scholarship of Greek Vases developed from the early 18th century, when large numbers of examples began to be discovered in Italy.
Broad classifications for Greek pottery are the same as for any other: place, time, shape, technique and decoration. Most has been found in graves. Domestic contexts are uncommon because sites were reused; it takes a volcano such as Vesuvius to preserve life as it was lived. Sanctuary contexts are known, but they too are not numerous. Knowing where the pottery was found does not necessarily confirm the function. For example, some found in graves was made for funerals, but some was initially made for another purpose, used, sometimes even mended, and buried with the dead, presumably as a cherished possession.
The final element in Sir John Beazley's classification was the identification of individual painters. He was able to assign to painters about half of the vases he knew, even if fragmentary or poor quality, and these were recorded in lists which were published from the 1920s until 1970, the year of his death. Since 1979 these lists have been kept up to date electronically. [University of Oxford].
REVIEW: A comparison of earlier pieces (from the Neolithic and early bronze age [2nd millennium B.C.]) show the improvements that the potters wheel brought to the fineness and shapes of the vessels. Bronze age examples (all dating before 1100 B.C.) from Cyprus, Crete (so-called 'Minoan' wares) and the Greek mainland (so-called 'Mycenaean') show a variety of coarse as well as fine wares, some made by hand and others made on the potter's wheel.
The interaction of Greeks and near easterners is suggested by similarities in these wares to those that their eastern neighbours used, and in the inclusion of 'Oriental' motifs such a lions, sphinxes, and lotuses, especially on Archaic vases (those made in the period from 700-480 B.C.). 'Naucratite' wares (from Naucratis, a Greek trading post in Egypt) show the infusion of Greek styles in Egypt.
In the high Archaic period (7th-6th centuries B.C.) the Corinthians were the biggest producers of Greek decorated wares, and they pioneered in the development of the so-called black-figure style (black figures on a red background). The Athenians took over this style and with it became the preeminent producers of decorative wares in the 6th century B.C. They also experimented with more techniques, of which the most important became the red-figure style (red figures on a black background), which began to be produced in 530 B.C.
After Athens lost its fortunes through the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.) many of its artists sought markets abroad (e.g. the Kerch style was used for Athenian exports to the region of the Black Sea in the 4th century B.C.). Some of these artists moved abroad and set up successful businesses in southern Italy - in the regions of Sicily, Apulia, Lucania, and Campania, and towns such as Gnathia (Egnazia) and Paestum - where they adapted the red figure style to local fabrics, shapes, and decorations. These and later Hellenistic styles took particular advantage of the use of added colour. [URE Museum of Greek Archaeology].
REVIEW: We know the names of some potters and painters of Greek vases because they signed their work. Generally a painter signed his name followed by some form of the verb 'painted', while a potter (or perhaps the painter writing for him) signed his name with 'made'. Sometimes the same person might both pot and paint: Exekias and Epiktetos, for example, sign as both potter and painter. At other times potter and painter were different people and one or both of them signed. However, not all painters or potters signed all their work. Some seem never to have signed their vases, unless by chance signed pieces by these craftsmen have not survived.
Even in the case of unsigned vases, it is sometimes possible, through close examination of minute details of style, to recognize pieces by the same artist. The attribution of unsigned Athenian black- and red-figured vases to both named and anonymous painters was pioneered in the twentieth century by Sir John Davidson Beazley. Other scholars have developed similar systems for other groups of vases, most notably Professor A.D. Trendall for South Italian red-figured wares. For ease of reference Beazley and the others gave various nick-names to the anonymous painters whom they identified.
Some are called after the known potters with whom they seem to have collaborated - the Brygos and Sotades Painters, for example, are named from the potters of those names. Other painters are named from the find-spot or current location of a key vase, such as the Lipari or Berlin Painters. A few, such as the Burgon Painter, take their names from former or current owners of key vases. Others are named from the subjects of key vases, such as the Niobid, Siren or Cyclops Painters, or else from peculiarities of style, such as The Affecter or Elbows Out Painters. [British Museum]
REVIEW: Ancient Greek black-figure pottery (named after the color of the depictions on the pottery) was first produced in Corinth, circa 700 B.C., and then adopted by pottery painters in Attica, where it would become the dominant decorative style from 625 B.C. and allow Athens to dominate the Mediterranean pottery market for the next 150 years. Laconia was a third, albeit minor, producer of the style in the first half of the 6th century B.C. The more than 20,000 surviving black figure vessels make it possible not only to identify artists and studios, but they also provide the oldest and most diverse representations of Greek mythology, religious, social, and sporting practices. The pottery vessels are also an important tool in determining the chronology of ancient Greece.
Evolving from the earlier geometric designs on pottery, the black-figure technique depicted animals (more favored in Corinth) and human silhouette figures (preferred in Athens) in naturalistic detail. Before firing, a brilliant black pigment of potash, iron clay, and vinegar (as a fixative) was thickly applied to vases and gave a slight relief effect. Additional details such as muscles and hair were added to the figures using a sharp instrument to incise through the black to reveal the clay vessel beneath and by adding touches of red and white paint. Vessel borders and edges were often decorated with floral, lotus, and palmette designs.
Certain color conventions were adopted such as white for female flesh, black for male. Other conventions were an almond shape for women’s eyes, circular for males, children are as adults but on a smaller scale, young men are beardless, old men have white hair and sometimes stoop, and older women are fuller-figured. Some gestures also became conventional such as the hand to the head to represent grief. Another striking feature of the style is the lack of literal naturalism. Figures are often depicted with a profile face and frontal body, and runners are in the impossible position of both left (or right) arms and legs moving forward. There was, however, some attempt at achieving perspective, frontal views of horses and chariots being especially popular.
Typical vessels of the style are amphorae, lekythoi (handled bottles), kylixes (stemmed drinking cups), plain cups, pyxides (lidded boxes), and bowls. Painters and potters were usually, although not always, separate specialists. The first signed vase was by Sophilos and dates to circa 570 B.C. Many other individual painters have been identified with certainty through their signatures (most commonly as ‘...made this’) and many more unsigned artists may be recognized through their particular style.
Perhaps the most celebrated example of the technique is the Francois Vase, a large volute krater, by Kleitias (circa 570 B.C.) which is 66 cm high and covered in 270 human and animal figures depicting an astonishing range of scenes and characters from Greek mythology including, amongst others, the Olympian gods, centaurs, Achilles, and Peleus.
The technique would eventually be replaced by the red-figure (reverse) technique around 530 B.C. The two styles were parallel for some time and there are even ‘bilingual’ examples of vases with both styles, but the red-figure, with its attempt to more realistically portray the human figure, would eventually become the favored style of Greek pottery decoration. [Ancient History Encyclopedia].
REVIEW: Black-figure pottery painting, also known as the black-figure style or black-figure ceramic is one of the styles of painting on antique Greek vases. It was especially common between the 7th and 5th centuries B.C., although there are specimens dating as late as the 2nd century B.C. Stylistically it can be distinguished from the preceding orientalizing period and the subsequent red-figure pottery style. Figures and ornaments were painted on the body of the vessel using shapes and colors reminiscent of silhouettes. Delicate contours were incised into the paint before firing, and details could be reinforced and highlighted with opaque colors, usually white and red.
The principal centers for this style were initially the commercial hub Corinth, and later Athens. Other important production sites are known to have been in Laconia, Boeotia, eastern Greece, and Italy. Particularly in Italy individual styles developed which were at least in part intended for the Etruscan market. Greek black-figure vases were very popular with the Etruscans, as is evident from frequent imports. Greek artists created customized goods for the Etruscan market which differed in form and decor from their normal products. The Etruscans also developed their own black-figure ceramic industry oriented on Greek models.
Black-figure painting on vases was the first art style to give rise to a significant number of identifiable artists. Some are known by their true names, others only by the pragmatic names they were given in the scientific literature. Especially Attica was the home of well-known artists. Some potters introduced a variety of innovations which frequently influenced the work of the painters; sometimes it was the painters who inspired the potters’ originality. Red-figure as well as black-figure vases are one of the most important sources of mythology and iconography, and sometimes also for researching day-to-day ancient Greek life. Since the 19th century at the latest, these vases have been the subject of intensive investigation.
The foundation for pottery painting is the image carrier, in other words the vase onto which an image is painted. Popular shapes alternated with passing fashions. Whereas many recurred after intervals, others were replaced over time. But they all had a common method of manufacture: after the vase was made, it was first dried before being painted. The workshops were under the control of the potters, who as owners of businesses had an elevated social position.
The extent to which potters and painters were identical is uncertain. It is likely that many master potters themselves made their main contribution in the production process as vase painters, while employing additional painters. It is, however, not easy to reconstruct links between potters and painters. In many cases, such as Tleson and the Tleson Painter, Amasis and the Amasis Painter or even Nikosthenes and Painter N, it is impossible to make unambiguous attributions, although in much of the scientific literature these painters and potters are assumed to be the same person. But such attributions can only be made with confidence if the signatures of potter and painter are at hand.
The painters, who were either slaves or craftsmen paid as pottery painters, worked on unfired, leather-dry vases. In the case of black-figure production the subject was painted on the vase with a clay slurry (a glossy slip, in older literature also designated as varnish) which turned black after firing. This was not a "color" in the traditional sense, since this surface slip was of the same material as the vase itself, only differing in the size of the component particles. The area for the figures was first painted with a brush-like implement.
The internal outlines and structural details were incised into the slip so that the underlying clay could be seen through the scratches. Two other earth-based pigments were used to add details—red and white for ornaments, clothing or parts of clothing, hair, animal manes, parts of weapons and other equipment. White was also frequently used to represent women’s skin. The success of all this effort could only be judged after a complicated, three-phase firing process which generated the red color of the vase clay and the black of the applied slip.
Specifically, the vessel was fired in a kiln at a temperature of about 800 °C, with the resultant oxidization turning the vase a reddish-orange color. The temperature was then raised to about 950 °C with the kiln's vents closed and green wood added to remove the oxygen. The vessel then turned an overall black. The final stage required the vents to be re-opened to allow oxygen into the kiln, which was allowed to cool down. The vessel then returned to its reddish-orange colour due to renewed oxidization, while the now-sintered painted layer remained the glossy black color which had been created in the second stage.
Although scoring is one of the main stylistic indicators, some pieces do without. For these, the form is technically similar to the orientalizing style, but the image repertoire no longer reflects orientalizing practice. The evolution of black-figure pottery painting is traditionally described in terms of various regional styles and schools. Using Corinth as the hub, there were basic differences in the productions of the individual regions, even if they did influence each other. Especially in Attica, although not exclusively there, the best and most influential artists of their time characterized classical Greek pottery painting.
The black-figure technique was developed around 700 B.C. in Corinth and used for the first time in the early 7th century B.C. by Proto-Corinthian pottery painters, who were still painting in the orientalizing style. The new technique was reminiscent of engraved metal pieces, with the more costly metal tableware being replaced by pottery vases with figures painted on them. A characteristic black-figure style developed before the end of the century. Most orientalizing elements had been given up and there were no ornaments except for dabbed rosettes (the rosettes being formed by an arrangement of small individual dots).
The clay used in Corinth was soft, with a yellow, occasionally green tint. Faulty firing was a matter of course, occurring whenever the complicated firing procedure did not function as desired. The result was often unwanted coloring of the entire vase, or parts of it. After firing, the glossy slip applied to the vase turned dull black. The supplemental red and white colors first appeared in Corinth and then became very common. The painted vessels are usually of small format, seldom higher than 30 cm. Oil flasks (alabastra, aryballos), pyxides, kraters, oenochoes and cups were the most common vessels painted. Sculptured vases were also widespread.
In contrast to Attic vases, inscriptions are rare, and painters’ signatures even more so. Most of the surviving vessels produced in Corinth have been found in Etruria, lower Italy and Sicily. In the 7th and first half of the 6th centuries B.C., Corinthian vase painting dominated the Mediterranean market for ceramics. It is difficult to construct a stylistic sequence for Corinthian vase painting. In contrast to Attic painting, for example, the proportions of the pottery foundation did not evolve much. It is also often difficult to date Corinthian vases; one frequently has to rely on secondary dates, such as the founding of Greek colonies in Italy.
Based on such information an approximate chronology can be drawn up using stylistic comparisons, but it seldom has anywhere near the precision of the dating of Attic vases. Mythological scenes are frequently depicted, especially Heracles and figures relating to the Trojan War. But the imagery on Corinthian vases does not have as wide a thematic range as do later works by Attic painters. Gods are seldom depicted, Dionysus never. But the Theban Cycle was more popular in Corinth than later in Athens. Primarily fights, horsemen and banquets were the most common scenes of daily life, the latter appearing for the first time during the early Corinthian period.
Sport scenes are rare. Scenes with fat-bellied dancers are unique and their meaning is disputed up to the present time. These are drinkers whose bellies and buttocks are padded with pillows and they may represent an early form of Greek comedy. The transitional style (640-625 B.C.) linked the orientalizing (Proto-Corinthian) with the black-figure style. The old animal frieze style of the Proto-Corinthian period had run dry, as did the interest of vase painters in mythological scenes. During this period animal and hybrid creatures were dominant. The index form of the time was the spherical aryballos, which was produced in large numbers and decorated with animal friezes or scenes of daily life.
The image quality is inferior compared with the orientalizing period. The most distinguished artists of the time were the Shambling Bull Painter, whose most famous work is an aryballos with a hunting scene, the Painter of Palermo 489, and his disciple, the Columbus Painter. The latter’s personal style can be most easily recognized in his images of powerful lions. Beside the aryballos, the kotyle and the alabastron are the most important vase shapes. The edges of kotyles were ornamented, and the other decorations consisted of animals and rays. The two vertical vase surfaces frequently have mythological scenes. The alabastrons were usually painted with single figures.
The Duel Painter was the most important early Corinthian painter (625-600 B.C.) who depicted fighting scenes on aryballos. Starting in the Middle Corinthian period (600-575 B.C.), opaque colors were used more and more frequently to emphasize details. Figures were additionally painted using a series of white dots. The aryballos became larger and were given a flat base. The Pholoe Painter is well known, his most famous work being a skyphos with a picture of Heracles. The Dodwell Painter continued to paint animal friezes, although other painters had already given up this tradition. His creative period extended into Late-Corinthian times and his influence cannot be overestimated on vase painting of that time.
Likewise of exceptional reputation were the master of the Gorgoneion Group and the Cavalcade Painter, given this designation because of his preference for depicting horsemen on cup interiors; he was active around 580 B.C. Two of his masterpieces are a cup showing the suicide of Ajax, and a column krater showing a bridal couple in a chariot. All figures shown on the bowl are labeled. The first artist known by name is the polychrome vase painter Timonidas (de), who signed a flask and a pinax. A second artist’s name of Milonidas also appears on a pinax.
The Corinthian olpe wine jug was replaced by an Attic version of the oinochoe with a cloverleaf lip. In Middle Corinthian time, depictions of people again became more common. The Eurytios Krater dated around 600 B.C. is considered to be of particularly high quality; it shows a symposium in the main frieze with Heracles, Eurytios, and other mythical figures. In Late Corinthian times (sometimes designated Late Corinthian I, 575–550 B.C.) Corinthian vases had a red coating to enhance the contrast between the large white areas and the rather pale color of the clay vessel.
This put the Corinthian craftsmen in competition with Attic pottery painters, who had in the meantime taken over a leading role in the pottery trade. Attic vase forms were also increasingly copied. Oinochoes, whose form had remained basically unchanged up until that time, began to resemble Attic forms; lekythos also started to be increasingly produced. The column krater, a Corinthian invention which was for that reason called a korinthios in the rest of Greece, was modified. Shortening the volutes above the handles gave rise to the Chalcidic krater. The main image field it was decorated with various representations of daily life or mythological scenes, the secondary field contained an animal frieze. The back often showed two large animals.
Cups had become deeper already in Mid-Corinthian times and this trend continued. They became just as popular as kotyles. Many of them have mythological scenes on the outside and a gorgon grimace on the inside. This type of painting was also adopted by Attic painters. On their part, Corinthian painters took over framed image fields from Athens. Animal friezes became less important. During this time the third Corinthian painter with a known name, Chares, was active. The Tydeus Painter should also be mentioned, who around 560 B.C. liked to paint neck amphoras with a red background.
Incised rosettes continued to be put on vases; they are lacking on only a few kraters and cups. The most outstanding piece of art in this period is the Amphiaraos Krater, a column krater created around 560 B.C. as the major work of the Amphiaraos Painter.. It shows several events from the life of the hero Amphiaraos. Around 550 B.C. the production of figured vases came to an end. The following Late Corinthian Style II is characterized by vases only with ornaments, usually painted with a silhouette technique. It was succeeded by the red-figure style, which however did not attain a particularly high quality in Corinth.
With over 20,000 extant pieces, Attic black-figure vases comprise the largest and at the same time most significant vase collection, second only to Attic red-figure vases. Attic potters benefitted from the excellent, iron-rich clay found in Attica. High quality Attic black-figure vases have a uniform, glossy, pitch-black coating and the color-intensive terra cotta clay foundation has been meticulously smoothened. Women’s skin is always indicated with a white opaque color, which is also frequently used for details such as individual horses, clothing or ornaments. The most outstanding Attic artists elevated vase painting to a graphic art, but a large number of average quality and mass-market products were also produced.
The outstanding significance of Attic pottery comes from their almost endless repertoire of scenes covering a wide range of themes. These provide rich testimonials especially in regard to mythology, but also to daily life. On the other hand, there are virtually no images referring to contemporary events. Such references are only occasionally evident in the form of annotations, for example when kalos inscriptions are painted on a vase. Vases were produced for the domestic market on the one hand, and were important for celebrations or in connection with ritual acts. On the other hand, they were also an important export product sold throughout the Mediterranean area. For this reason most of the surviving vases come from Etruscan necropolises.
The black-figure technique was first applied in the middle of the 7th century B.C., during the period of Proto-Attic vase painting. Influenced by pottery from Corinth, which offered the highest quality at the time, Attic vase painters switched to the new technology between about 635 B.C. and the end of the century. At first they closely followed the methods and subjects of the Corinthian models. The Painter of Berlin A 34 at the beginning of this period is the first identified individual painter. The first artist with a unique style was the Nessos Painter. With his Nessos amphora he created the first outstanding piece in the Attic black-figure style.
At the same time he was an early master of the Attic animal frieze style. One of his vases was also the first known Attic vase exported to Etruria. He was also responsible for the first representations of harpies and Sirens in Attic art. In contrast to the Corinthian painters he used double and even triple incised lines to better depict animal anatomy. A double-scored shoulder line became a characteristic of Attic vases. The possibilities inherent in large pieces of pottery such as belly amphoras as carriers for images were also recognized at an early date. Other important painters of this pioneer time were the Piraeus Painter, the Bellerophon Painter and the Lion Painter.
The black-figure style became generally established in Athens around 600 B.C. An early Athenian development was the horse-head amphora, the name coming from the depiction of horse heads in an image window. Image windows were frequently used in the subsequent period and were later adopted even in Corinth. The Cerameicus Painter and the Gorgon Painter are associated with the horse-head amphoras. The Corinthian influence was not only maintained, but even intensified. The animal frieze was recognized as generally obligatory and customarily used. This had economic as well as stylistic reasons, because Athens competed with Corinth for markets. Attic vases were sold in the Black Sea area, Libya, Syria, lower Italy and Spain, as well as within the Greek homeland.
In addition to following Corinthian models, Athens vases also showed local innovations. Thus at the beginning of the 6th century B.C. a "Deianaira type" of lekythos arose, with an elongated, oval form. The most important painter of this early time was the Gorgon Painter (600–580 B.C.). He was a very productive artist who seldom made use of mythological themes or human figures, and when he did, always accompanied them with animals or animal friezes. Some of his other vases had only animal representations, as was the case with many Corinthian vases.
Besides the Gorgon Painter the painters of the Komast Group (585–570 B.C.) should be mentioned. This group decorated types of vases which were new to Athens, namely lekanes, kotyles and kothons. The most important innovation was however the introduction of the komast cup, which along with the "prekomast cups" of the Oxford Palmette Class stands at the beginning of the development of Attic cups. Important painters in this group were the elder KX Painter and the somewhat less talented KY Painter, who introduced the column krater to Athens. These vessels were designed for use at banquets and were thus decorated with relevant komos scenes, such as komast performers komos scenes.
Other significant painters of the first generation were the Panther Painter, the Anagyrus Painter, the Painter of the Dresden Lekanis and the Polos Painter. The last significant representative of the first generation of painters was Sophilos (580–570 B.C.), who is the first Attic vase painter known by name. In all, he signed four surviving vases, three as painter and one as potter, revealing that at this date potters were also painters of vases in the black-figure style. A fundamental separation of both crafts seems to have occurred only in the course of the development of the red-figure style, although prior specialization cannot be ruled out.
Sophilos makes liberal use of annotations. He apparently specialized in large vases, since especially dinos and amphoras are known to be his work. Much more frequently than his predecessors, Sophilos shows mythological scenes like the funeral games for Patroclus. The decline of the animal frieze begins with him, and plant and other ornaments are also of lower quality since they are regarded as less important and thus receive scant attention from the painter. But in other respects Sophilos shows that he was an ambitious artist. On two dinos the marriage of Peleus and Thetis is depicted.
These vases were produced at about the same time as the François vase, which depicts this subject to perfection. However, Sophilos does without any trimmings in the form of animal friezes on one of his two dinos, and he does not combine different myths in scenes distributed over various vase surfaces. It is the first large Greek vase showing a single myth in several interrelated segments. A special feature of the dinos is the painter's application of the opaque white paint designating women directly on the clay foundation, and not as usual on the black gloss.
The figure's interior details and contours are painted in a dull red. This particular technique is rare, only found in vases painted in Sophilos' workshop and on wooden panels painted in the Corinthian style in the 6th century B.C. Sophilos also painted one of the rare chalices (a variety of goblet) and created the first surviving series of votive tablets. He himself or one of his successors also decorated the first marriage vase (known as a lebes gamikos) to be found.
Starting around the second third of the 6th century B.C., Attic artists became interested in mythological scenes and other representations of figures. Animal friezes became less important. Only a few painters took care with them, and they were generally moved from the center of attention to less important areas of vases. This new style is especially represented by the François vase, signed by both the potter Ergotimos and the painter Kleitias (570–560 B.C.). This krater is considered to be the most famous Greek painted vase. It is the first known volute krater made of clay.
Mythological events are depicted in several friezes, with animal friezes being shown in secondary locations. Several iconographic and technical details appear on this vase for the first time. Many are unique, such as the representation of a lowered mast of a sailing ship; others became part of the standard repertoire, such as people sitting with one leg behind the other, instead of with the traditional parallel positioning of the legs. Four other, smaller vases were signed by Ergotimos and Kleitias, and additional vases and fragments are attributed to them. They provide evidence for other innovations by Kleitias, like the first depiction of the birth of Athena or of the Dance on Crete.
Nearchos (565–555 B.C.) signed as potter and painter. He favored large figures and was the first to create images showing the harnessing of a chariot. Another innovation was to place a tongue design on a white background under the vase lip. Other talented painters were the Painter of Akropolis 606 and the Ptoon Painter, whose most well-known piece is the Hearst Hydria. The Burgon Group is also significant, being the source of the first totally preserved Panathenaic amphora.
The Siana cup evolved from the komast cup around 575 B.C. While the Komast Group produced shapes other than cups, some craftsmen specialized in cup production after the time of the first important exemplifier of Siana cups, the C Painter (575-555 B.C.). The cups have a higher rim than previously and a trumpet-shaped base on a relatively short hollow stem. For the first time in Attic vase painting the inside of the cup was decorated with framed images (tondo). There were two types of decoration. In the "double-decker" style the cup body and the lip each have separate decorations. In the "overlap" style the image extends over both body and lip.
After the second quarter of the 6th century B.C. there was more interest in decorating especially cups with pictures of athletes. Another important Siana cup painter was the Heidelberg Painter. He, too, painted almost exclusively Siana cups. His favorite subject was the hero Heracles. The Heidelberg Painter is the first Attic painter to show him with the Erymanthian boar, with Nereus, with Busiris and in the garden of the Hesperides. The Cassandra Painter, who decorated mid-sized cups with high bases and lips, marks the end of the development of the Siana cup.
He is primarily significant as the first known painter to belong to the so-called Little Masters, a large group of painters who produced the same range of vessels, known as Little-master cups. So-called Merrythought cups were produced contemporaneously with Siana cups. Their handles are in the form of a two-pronged fork and end in what looks like a button. These cups do not have a delineated rim. They also have a deeper bowl with a higher and narrower foot.
The last outstanding painter of the Pre-Classical Archaic Period was Lydos (560-540 B.C.), who signed two of his surviving pieces with ho Lydos (the Lydian). He or his immediate ancestors probably came from Asia Minor but he was undoubtedly trained in Athens. Over 130 surviving vases are now attributed to him. One of his pictures on a hydria is the first known Attic representation of the fight between Heracles and Geryon. Lydos was the first to show Heracles with the hide of a lion, which afterward became common in Attic art. He also depicted the battle between the gods and the giants on a dinos found on Athens’ acropolis, and Heracles with Cycnus.
Lydos decorated other types of vessels besides hydriai and dinos, such as plates, cups (overlap Siena cups), column kraters and psykters, as well as votive tablets. It continues to be difficult to identify Lydos’ products as such since they frequently differ only slightly from those of his immediate milieu. The style is quite homogenous, but the pieces vary considerably in quality. The drawings are not always carefully produced.
Lydos was probably a foreman in a very productive workshop in Athens’pottery district. He was presumably the last Attic vase painter to put animal friezes on large vases. Still in the Corinthian tradition, his figure drawings are a link in the chain of vase painters extending from Kleitias via Lydos and the Amasis Painters to Exekias. Along with them he participated in the evolution of this art in Attica and had a lasting influence.
A special form of Attic vases of this period was the Tyrrhenian amphora (550-530 B.C.). These were egg-shaped neck amphora with decorations atypical of the usual Attic design canon of the period. Almost all of the circa 200 surviving vases were found in Etruria. The body of the amphora is usually subdivided into several parallel friezes. The upper or shoulder frieze usually shows a popular scene from mythology. There are sometimes less common subjects, such as a unique scene of the sacrificing of Polyxena. The first known erotic images on Attic vases are also found at this vase location. The painters frequently put annotations on Tyrrhenian amphora which identify the persons shown.
The other two or three friezes were decorated with animals; sometimes one of them was replaced with a plant frieze. The neck is customarily painted with a lotus palmette cross or festoons. The amphoras are quite colorful and recall Corinthian products. In this case a Corinthian form was obviously deliberately copied to produce a particular vase type for the Etruscan market, where the style was popular. It is possible that this form was not manufactured in Athens but somewhere else in Attica, or even outside Attica. Important painters were the Castellani Painter and the Goltyr Painter.
The period between 560 and the inception of red-figure pottery painting around 530/520 B.C. is considered to be the absolute pinnacle of black-figure vase painting. In this period the best and most well-known artists exploited all the possibilities offered by this style. The first important painter of this time was the Amasis Painter (560–525 B.C.), named after the famous potter Amasis, with whom he primarily worked. Many researchers regard them as the same person. He began his painting career at about the same time as Lydos but was active over a period almost twice as long.
Whereas Lydos showed more the abilities of a skilled craftsman, the Amasis Painter was an accomplished artist. His images are clever, charming and sophisticated and his personal artistic development comes close to a reflection of the overall evolution of black-figure Attic vase painting at that time. His early work shows his affinity to the painters of Siana cups. Advances can be most easily recognized in how he draws the folds of clothing. His early female figures wear clothes without folds. Later he paints flat, angular folds, and in the end he is able to convey the impression of supple, flowing garments.
Drawings of garments were one of his chief characteristics; he liked to depicted pattered and fringed clothing. The groups of figures which the Amasis Painter shows were carefully drawn and symmetrically composed. Initially they were quite static, later figures convey an impression of motion. Although the Amasis Painter often depicted mythological events—he is known for his pig-faced satyrs, for example—he is better known for his scenes of daily life.
He was the first painter to portray them to a significant extent. His work decisively influenced the work of red-figure painters later. He possibly anticipated some of their innovations or was influenced by them toward the end of his painting career: on many of his vases women are only shown in outline, without a black filling, and they are no longer identifiable as women by the application of opaque white as skin color.
Group E (550–525 B.C.) was a large, self-contained collection of artisans, and is considered to be the most important anonymous group producing black-figure Attic pottery. It rigorously broke with the stylistic tradition of Lydos both as to image and vessel. Egg-shaped neck amphoras were completely given up, column kraters almost entirely abandoned. Instead, this group introduced Type A belly amphoras, which then became an index form. Neck amphoras were usually produced only in customized versions. The group had no interest in small formats. Many scenes, especially those originating in myths, were reproduced again and again.
Thus several amphoras of this group show Heracles with Geryon or the Nemean Lion, and increasingly Theseus and the Minotaur, as well as the birth of Athena. The particular significance of the group is, however, in the influence it exerted on Exekias. Most Attic artists of the period copied the styles of Group E and Exekias. The work of Lydos and the Amasis Painter was, by contrast, not imitated as frequently. Beazley describes the importance of the group for Exekias as follows: "Group E is the fertile ground from which the art of Exekias sprouts, the tradition which he takes up and surpasses on his way from an excellent craftsman to a true artist".
Exekias (545-520 B.C.) is generally considered to be the absolute master of the black-figure style, which reaches its apex with him. His significance is not only due to his masterful vase painting, but also to his high quality and innovative pottery. He signed 12 of his surviving vessels as potter, two as both painter and potter. Exekias probably had a large role in the development of Little-master cups and the Type A belly amphora mentioned above, and he possibly invented the calyx krater, at least the oldest existing piece is from his workshop. In contrast to many other comparable craftsmen, as a painter he attached great importance to the careful elaboration of ornaments.
The details of his images—horses’ manes, weapons, clothing—are also outstandingly well executed. His scenes are usually monumental and the figures emanate a dignity previously unknown in painting. In many cases he broke with Attic conventions. For his most famous vessel, the Dionysus cup, he was the first to use a coral-red interior coating instead of the customary red color. This innovation, as well as his placing of two pairs of eyes on the exterior, connects Exekias with the classic eye cups. Probably even more innovative was his use of the entire inside of the cup for his picture of Dionysus, reclining on a ship from which grapevines sprout.
At this time it was in fact customary to decorate the inside surface merely with a gorgon face. The cup is probably one of the experiments undertaken in the pottery district to break new ground before the red-figure style was introduced. He was the first to paint a ship sailing along the rim of a dinos. He only seldom adhered to traditional patterns of depicting customary mythological subjects. His depiction of the suicide of Ajax is also significant. Exekias does not show the act itself, which was in the tradition, but rather Ajax’ preparations.
About as famous as the Dionysus cup is an amphora with his visualization of Ajax and Achilles engaged in a board game. Not only is the portrayal detailed, Exekias even conveys the outcome of the game. Almost in the style of a speech balloon he has both players announce the numbers they cast with their dice—Ajax a three and Achilles a four. This is the oldest known depiction of this scene, of which there is no mention in classical literature. No fewer than 180 other surviving vases, dating from the Exekias version up to about 480 B.C., show this scene.
John Boardman emphasizes the exceptional status of Exekias which singles him out from traditional vase painters: "The people depicted by earlier artist are elegant dolls at best. Amasis (the Amasis Painter) was able to visualize people as people. But Exekias could envision them as gods and thereby give us a foretaste of classical art". Ackn0owledging that vase painters in ancient Greece were regarded as craftsmen rather than artists, Exekias is nevertheless considered by today’s art historians to be an accomplished artist whose work can be compared with "major" paintings (murals and panel paintings) of that period.
His contemporaries apparently recognized this as well. The Berlin Collection of Classical Antiquities in the Altes Museum contains the remnants of a series of his votive tablets. The complete series probably had 16 individual panels. Placing such an order with a potter and vase painter is likely to be unique in antiquity and is evidence of the high reputation of this artist. The tablets show grieving for a dead Athenian woman as well as her lying in state and being transported to a gravesite. Exekias conveys both the grief and the dignity of the figures.
One special feature, for example, is that the leader of the funeral procession turns his face to look at the viewer directly, so to speak. The depiction of the horses is also unique; they have individual temperaments and are not reduced to their function as noble animals, as is otherwise customary on vases. There was further specialization among producers of vessels and cups during the mature Classical Period. The large-volume komast and Siana cups evolved via Gordion cups into graceful variants called Little-master cups because of their delicate painting. The potters and painters of this form are accordingly called Little Masters.
They chiefly painted band cups and lip cups. The lip cups got their name from their relatively pronounced and delineated lip. The outside of the cup retained much of the clay background and typically bore only a few small images, sometimes only inscriptions, or in some cases the entire cup was only minimally decorated. Also in the area of the handles there are seldom more than palmettes or inscriptions near the attachment points. These inscriptions can be the potter’s signature, a drinker’s toast, or simply a meaningless sequence of letters. But lip cup interiors are often also decorated with images.
Band cups have a softer transition between the body and the rim. The decoration is in the form of a band circling the cup exterior and can frequently be a very elaborate frieze. In the case of this form the rim is coated with a glossy black slip. The interior retains the color of the clay, except for a black dot painted in the center. Variations include Droop cups and Kassel cups. Droop cups have black, concave lips and a high foot. As with classic band cups the rim is left black, but the area below it is decorated with ornaments like leaves, buds, palmettes, dots, nimbuses or animals on the cup exterior.
Kassel cups are a small form, squatter than other Little Masters cups, and the entire exterior is decorated. As in the case of Droop cups, primarily ornaments are painted. Famous Little Masters are the potters Phrynos, Sokles, Tleson and Ergoteles, the latter two being sons of the potter Nearchos. Hermogenes invented a Little Master variety of skyphos now known as a Hermogenes skyphos. The Phrynos Painter, Taleides Painter, Xenokles Painter and the Group of Rhodes 12264 should also be mentioned here. Until the end of the century the quality of black-figure vase production could basically be maintained.
But after the development of the red-figure style around 530 B.C., presumably by the Andokides Painter, more and more painters went over to the red-figure style, which provided many more possibilities for adding details within the figure contours. The new style also permitted many more promising experiments with foreshortening, perspective views and new designs for arrangements. Scene contents, as always, reflected trends in taste and the spirit of the times, but the red-figure style created better preconditions for presenting more elaborate scenes by exploiting the new arrangement possibilities.
But in the meantime, a few innovative craftsmen could still give new impulses to the production of black-figure vases. The most imaginative potter of the time, also a talented businessman, was Nikosthenes. Over 120 vases bear his signature, indicating that they were made by him or in his workshop. He seems to have particularly specialized in producing vases for export to Etruria. In his workshop the usual neck amphoras, Little Masters, Droop and eye cups were produced, but also a type of amphora reminiscent of Etruscan bucchero pottery, named the Nikosthenic amphora after its creator.
These pieces were found particularly in Caere, the other vase types usually in Cerveteri and Vulci. The many inventions in his workshop were not limited to forms. In Nikosthenes’ workshop what is known as the Six’s technique was developed, in which figures were painted in reddish brown or white atop a black glossy slip. It is not clear whether Nikosthenes also painted vases, in which case he is usually presumed to be identical with Painter N. The BMN Painter and the red-figure Nikosthenes Painter are also named after Nikosthenes. In his workshop he employed many famous vase painters, including the elderly Lydos, Oltos and Epiktetos. The workshop tradition was continued by Nikosthenes’ successor, Pamphaios.
Two black-figure vase painters are considered to be mannerists (540-520 B.C.). The painter Elbows Out decorated primarily Little Masters cups. The extended elbows of his figures are conspicuous, a characteristic responsible for his pragmatic name. He only seldom depicted mythological scenes; erotic scenes are much more common. He also decorated a rare vase form known as a lydion. The most important of the two painters was The Affecter, whose name comes from the exaggeratedly artificial impression made by his figures.
These small-headed figures do not seem to be acting as much as posing. His early work shows scenes of daily life; later he turned to decorative scenes in which figures and attributes are recognizable, but hardly actions. If his figures are clothed they look as if they were padded; if they are naked they are very angular. The Affecter was both potter and painter; over 130 of his vases have survived. The Antimenes Painter (530–500 B.C.) liked to decorate hydria with animal friezes in the predella, and otherwise especially neck amphoras.
Two hydria attributed to him are decorated on the neck region using a white ground technique. He was the first to paint amphoras with a masklike face of Dionysus. The most famous of his over 200 surviving vases shows an olive harvest on the back side. His drawings are seldom really precise, but neither are they excessively careless. Stylistically, the painter Psiax is closely related to the Antimenes Painter, although the former also used the red-figure technique. As the teacher of the painters Euphronius and Phintias, Psiax had a great influence on the early development of the red-figure style. He frequently shows horse and chariot scenes and archers.
The last important group of painters was the Leagros Group (520-500 B.C.), named after the kalos inscription they frequently used, Leagros. Amphoras and hydria, the latter often with palmettes in the predella, are the most frequently painted vessels. The image field is usually filled absolutely to capacity, but the quality of the images is still kept very high. Many of the over 200 vases in this group were decorated with scenes of the Trojan War and the life of Heracles Painters like the witty Acheloos Painter, the conventional Chiusi Painter, and the Daybreak Painter with his faithful detailing belong to the Leagros Group.
Other well-known vase painters of the time are the Painter of the Vatican Mourner, The Princeton Painter, the Painter of Munich 1410 and the Swing Painter (540-520 B.C.), to whom many vases are attributed. He is not considered to be a very good artist, but his figures are unintentionally humorous because of the figures with their large heads, strange noses and frequently clenched fists. The work of the Rycroft Painter bears a resemblance to red-figure vase painting and the new forms of expression. He liked to depict Dionysian scenes, horses and chariots, and the adventures of Heracles. He often uses outline drawings.
The approximately 50 usually large-size vessels attributed to him are elegantly painted. The Class of C.M. 218 primarily decorated variations of the Nikosthenic amphoras. The Hypobibazon Class worked with a new type of belly amphora with rounded handles and feet, whose decoration is characterized by a key meander above the image fields. A smaller variant of neck amphora was decorated by the Three Line Group. The Perizoma Group adopted around 520 B.C. the newly introduced form of the stamnos. Toward the end of the century, high quality productions were still being produced by the Euphiletos Painter, the Madrid Painter and the imaginative Priam Painter.
Particularly cup painters like Oltos, Epiktetos, Pheidippos and Skythes painted vases in both red- and black-figure styles (Bilingual Pottery), primarily eye cups. The interior was usually in the black-figure style, the exterior in the red-figure style. There are several cases of amphoras whose front and back sides are decorated in the two different styles.
The most famous are works by the Andokides Painter, whose black-figure scenes are attributed to the Lysippides Painter. Scholars are divided on the issue of whether these painters are the same person. Only a few painters, for example the Nikoxenos Painter and the Athena Painter, produced large quantities of vases using both techniques. Although bilingual pottery was quite popular for a short time, the style went out of fashion already toward the end of the century.
At the beginning of the 5th century B.C. until 480 B.C. at the latest, all painters of repute were using the red-figure style. But black-figure vases continued to be produced for some 50 additional years, with their quality progressively decreasing. The last painters producing acceptable quality images on large vases were the Eucharides Painter and the Kleophrades Painter. Only workshops which produced smaller shapes like olpes, oenoches, skyphos, small neck amphoras and particular lekythos increasingly used the old style.
The Phanyllis Painter used the Six technique, among other methods, and both the Edinburgh Painter and the Gela Painter decorated the first cylindrical lekythos. The former primarily produced casual, clear and simple scenes using a black-figure style on a white ground. The white ground of the vases was quite thick and no longer painted directly on the clay foundation, a technique which became the standard for all white-ground vases. The Sappho Painter specialized in funerary lekythos.
The workshop of the Haimon Painter was especially productive; over 600 of their vases have survived. The Athena Painter (who is perhaps identical with the red-figure Bowdoin Painter) and the Perseus Painter continued to decorate large, standard lekythos. The scenes of the Athena Painter still radiate some of the dignity inherent in the work of the Leagros Group. The Marathon Painter is primarily known for the funerary lekythos found in the tumulus for the Athenians who died in the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C.
The last significant lekythos painter, the Beldam Painter, worked from around 470 B.C. until 450 B.C. Except for the Panathenaic prize amphoras, the black-figure style came to a close in Attica at this time. Among black-figure Attic vases, the Panathenaic prize amphoras play a special role. After 566 B.C.—when the Panathenaic celebrations were introduced or reorganized—they were the prize for the winners of sport competitions and were filled with olive oil, one of the city's main export goods. On the front they routinely bore the image of the goddess Athena standing between two pillars on which roosters perched; on the back there was a sports scene.
The shape was always the same and was only modified slightly over the long period of its production. The belly amphora was, as its name suggests, originally especially bulbous, with a short neck and a long, narrow foot. Around 530 B.C. the necks become shorter and the body somewhat narrower. Around 400 B.C. the vase shoulders were considerably reduced in width and the curve of the vase body looked constricted. After 366 B.C. the vases were again more elegant and become even narrower.
These vases were primarily produced in the leading workshops of the Kerameikos district. It seems to have been an honor or particularly lucrative to be awarded a commission for producing the vases. This also explains the existence of many prize amphoras by excellent vase painters. In addition to superior black-figure painters like the Euphiletos Painter, Exekias, Hypereides and the Leagros Group, many red-figure master craftsmen are known as creators of prize amphoras. These include the Eucharides Painter, the Kleophrades Painter, the Berlin Painter, the Achilleus Painter and Sophilos, who was the only one to have signed one of the surviving vases.
The first known vase was produced by the Burgon Group and is known as the Burgon vase. Since the name of the ruling official (Archon) occasionally appears on the vase after the 4th century B.C., some of the vases can be precisely dated. Since the Panathenaia were religious festivals, the style and the type of decoration changed neither during the red-figure period nor after figured vases were no longer really traded in Athens. The prize amphoras were produced into the 2nd century B.C., and about 1,000 of them have survived. Since for some dates the number of amphorae awarded to a winner is known, it is possible to deduce that about one percent of the total production of Athenian vases has survived. Other projections lead to the conclusion that in all about seven million vases with painted figures were produced in Athens. In addition to the prize amphoras, imitative forms known as Pseudo-Panathenaic prize amphoras were also manufactured.
Starting already in the 7th century B.C. painted pottery was being produced in Sparta for local consumption as well as for export. The first quality pieces were produced around 580 B.C. The zenith in black-figure pottery was reached between about 575 and 525 B.C. Besides Sparta, the main discovery sites are the islands of Rhodes and Samos, as well as Taranto, Etruscan necropolises, and Cyrene, which was at first considered to be the original source of the pottery. The quality of the vessels is very high. The clay was well slurried and was given a cream-colored coating.
Amphoras, hydriai, column kraters (called krater lakonikos in antiquity), volute kraters, Chalcidic kraters, lebes, aryballoi and the Spartan drinking cup, the lakaina, were painted. But the index form and most frequent find is the cup. In Lakonia the deep bowl was usually put on a high foot; cups on low feet are rare. The exterior is typically decorated with ornaments, usually festoons of pomegranates, and the interior scene is quite large and contains figures. In Laconia earlier than in the rest of Greece the tondo became the main framework for cup scenes.
The main image was likewise divided into two segments at an early date, a main scene and a smaller, lower one. Frequently the vessel was only coated with a glossy slip or decorated with just a few ornaments. Inscriptions are uncommon but can appear as name annotations. Signatures are unknown for potters as well as painters. It is probable that the Laconian craftsmen were perioeci pottery painters. Characteristic features of the pottery often match the fashion of known painters. It is also possible that they were migrant potters from eastern Greece, which would explain the strong eastern Greek influence especially on the Boreads Painter.
In the meantime at least eight vase painters can be distinguished. Five painters, the Arkesilas Painter (565–555), the Boreads Painter (575–565), the Hunt Painter, the Naucratis Painter (575–550) and the Rider Painter (550–530) are considered to be the more important representatives of the style, while other painters are regarded as craftsmen of lesser ability. The images are usually angular and stiff, and contain animal friezes, scenes of daily life, especially symposia, and many mythological subjects.
Of the latter, Poseidon and Zeus are depicted especially frequently, but also Heracles and his twelve labors as well as the Theban and Trojan legend cycles. Especially on the early vases, a gorgon grimace is placed in a cup tondo. A depiction of the nymph Cyrene and a tondo with a rider with a scrolling tendril growing from his head (name vase of the Rider Painter) are exceptional. Also important is a cup with an image of Arcesilaus II. The Arcesilas cup supplied the pragmatic name for the Arcesilas Painter.
It is one of the rare depictions on Greek pottery of current events or people. The subjects suggest Attic influence. A reddish purple was the main opaque color. At present over 360 Laconian vases are known, with almost a third of them, 116 pieces, being attributed to the Naucratis Painter. The decline around 550 B.C. of Corinthian black-figure vase painting, which had an important influence on Laconian painting, led to a massive reduction in the Laconian production of black-figure vases, which came to an end around 500 B.C. The pottery was very widely distributed, from Marseille to Ionian Greece. On Samos, Laconian pottery is more common than Corinthian pottery because of the close political alliance with Sparta.
Black-figure vases were produced in Boeotia from the 6th to the 4th century B.C. As late as the early 6th century B.C. many Boeotian painters were using the orientalizing outline technique. Afterward they oriented themselves closely on Attic production. Distinctions and attributions to one of the two regions are sometimes difficult and the vases can also be confused with Corinthian pottery. Low-quality Attic and Corinthian vases are often declared to be Boeotian works. Frequently, good Boeotian vases are considered to be Attic and poor Attic vases are falsely considered to be Boeotian. There was probably an exchange of craftsmen with Attica.
In at least one case it is certain that an Attic potter emigrated to Boeotia (the Horse-Bird Painter, and possibly also the Tokra Painter, and among the potters certainly Teisias the Athenian). The most important subjects are animal friezes, symposia and komos scenes. Mythological scenes are rare, and when present usually show Heracles or Theseus. From the late 6th century through the 5th century a silhouette-like style predominated.
Especially kantharos, lekanis, cups, plates and pitchers were painted. As was the case in Athens, there are kalos inscriptions. Boeotian potters especially liked to produce molded vases, as well as kantharos with sculptured additions and tripod pyxides. The shapes of lekanis, cups and neck amphoras were also taken over from Athens. The painting style is often humorous, and there is a preference for komos scenes and satyrs.
Between 425 and 350 B.C. Kabeiric vases were the main black-figure style in Boeotia. In most cases this was a hybrid form between a kantharos and a skyphos with a deep bowl and vertical ring handles, but there were also lebes, cups and pyxides. They are named after the primary place where they were found, the Sanctuary of the Kabeiroi near Thebes. The scenes, usually painted on only one side of the vase, depict the local cult. The vases caricature mythological events in a humorous, exaggerated form. Sometimes komos scenes are shown, which presumably related directly to the cult.
Black-figure vase painting in Euboea was also influenced by Corinth and especially by Attica. It is not always easy to distinguish these works from Attic vases. Scholars assume that most of the pottery was produced in Eretria. Primarily amphoras, lekythos, hydria and plates were painted. Large-format amphoras were usually decorated with mythological scenes, such as the adventures of Herakles or the Judgment of Paris. The large amphoras, derived from 7th century shapes, have tapering lips and usually scenes relating to weddings. They are apparently funerary vases produced for children who died before they could marry.
Restrained employment of incising and regular use of opaque white for the floral ornaments were typical features of black-figure pottery from Eretria. In addition to scenes reflecting Attic models, there were also wilder scenes like the rape of a deer by a satyr or Heracles with centaurs and demons. The vases of the Dolphin Class were previously regarded as being Attic, but are now considered to be Euboic. However, their clay does not match any known Eretrian sources. Perhaps the pieces were produced in Chalcis.
The origin of some black-figure regional styles is disputed. For example, Chalcidian pottery painting was once associated with Euboea; in the meantime production in Italy is considered to be more likely. In hardly any other region of Greece are the borders between the orientalizing and black-figure styles as uncertain as in the case of vases from eastern Greece. Until about 600 B.C. only outline drawings and empty spaces were employed. Then during the late phase of the orientalizing style incised drawings began to appear, the new technique coming from northern Ionia.
The animal frieze style which had previously predominated was certainly decorative, but offered few opportunities for further technical and artistic development. Regional styles arose, especially in Ionia. Toward the end of the Wild Goat style, northern Ionian artists imitated—rather poorly—Corinthian models. But already in the 7th century high quality vases were being produced in Ionia. Since approximately 600 B.C. the black-figure style was used either entirely or in part to decorate vases.
In addition to regional styles which developed in Klazomenai, Ephesus, Milet, Chios and Samos there were especially in northern Ionia styles which cannot be precisely localized. Oil flasks which adhered to the Lydian model (lydions) were common, but most of them were decorated only with stripes. There are also original scenes, for example a Scythian with a Bactrian camel, or a satyr and a ram. For some styles attribution is controversial. Thus the Northampton Group shows strong Ionian influence but production was probably in Italy, perhaps by immigrants from Ionia.
In Klazomenai primarily amphoras and hydria were painted in the middle of the 6th century B.C. (circa 550 to 350 B.C.), as well as deep bowls with flat, angular-looking figures. The vessels are not very elegant in workmanship. Dancing women and animals were frequently depicted. Leading workshops were those of the Tübingen Painter, the Petrie Painter, and the Urla Group. Most of the vases were found in Naukratis and in Tell Defenneh, which was abandoned in 525 B.C. Their origin was initially uncertain, but Robert Zahn identified the source by comparison with images on Klazomenian sarcophagi.
The pottery was often decorated with sculptured women’s masks. Mythological scenes were rare; fishscale ornaments, rows of white dots, and stiff-looking dancing women were popular. The depection of a herold standing in front of a king and a queen is unique. In general, men were characterized by large, spade-shaped beards. Starting already in 600 B.C. and continuing to about 520 B.C. rosette cups, successor to the eastern Greece bird cups, were produced, probably in Klazomenai. Samian pottery first appeared around 560/550 B.C. with forms adopted from Attica.
These are Little Masters cups and kantharos with facial forms. The painting is precise and decorative. Samos along with Milet and Rhodes was one of the main centers for the production of vases in the Wild Goat style. Rhodian vase painting is primarily known from Rhodian plates. These were produced using a polychrome technique with many of the details being incised as in black-figure painting. From about 560 to 530 B.C. situlas were common, inspired by Egyptian models. These show both Greek subjects, such as Typhon, as well as ancient Egyptian themes like Egyptian hieroglyphics and Egyptian sport disciplines.
"Caeretan hydria" is the name used for an especially colorful style of black-figure vase painting. The origin of these vases is disputed in the literature. Based on an assessment of the painting the vases were long considered to be Etruscan or Corinthian, but in recent years the view predominates that the producers were two pottery painters who emigrated from eastern Greece to Caere (modern Cerveteri) in Etruria. Inscriptions in Ionic Greek support the emigration theory. The workshop existed for only one generation.
Today about 40 vases produced by the two master craftsmen in this style are known. All are hydriai except for one alabastron. None were found outside of Etruria; most came from Caere, which is the reason for their name. The vases are dated to approximately 530 to 510/500 B.C. The Caeretan hydria are followed stylistically by neck amphoras decorated with stripes. These technically rather inferior hydriai are 40–45 cm. high. The bodies of these vases have high and very prominent necks, broad shoulders, and low ring feet in the form of upside-down chalices.
Many of the hydriai are misshapen or show faulty firing. The painted images are in four zones: a shoulder zone, a belly zone with figures and one with ornaments, and a lower section. All but the belly zone with figures are decorated with ornaments. There is only one case of both belly friezes having figures. Their multiple colors distinguish them from all other black-figure styles. The style recalls Ionian vase painting and multicolored painted wooden tablets found in Egypt. Men are shown with red, black or white skin.
Women are almost always portrayed with an opaque white color. The contours as well as the details are incised, as is typical for the black-figure style. Surfaces of black glossy slip are often covered with an additional colored slip, so that the black slip which becomes visible where there is scoring supplies the various shapes with internal details. On the front side the images are always full of action, on the back heraldic designs are common. Ornaments are an important component of the hydrias; they are not subsidiary to other motifs. Stencils were used to paint the ornaments; they are not incised.
The Busiris Painter and the Eagle Painter are named as painters. The latter is considered the leading representative of this style. They were particularly interested in mythological topics which usually revealed an eastern influence. On the name vase by the Busiris painter, Heracles is trampling on the mythical Egyptian pharao Busiris. Heracles is frequently depicted on other vases as well, and scenes of daily life also exist. There are also uncommon scenes, such as Cetus accompanied by a white seal.
The Pontic vases are also closely related stylistically to Ionian pottery painting. Also in this case it is assumed that they were produced in Etruscan workshops by craftsmen who emigrated from Ionia. The vases got their misleading name from the depiction on a vase of archers thought to be Scythians, who lived at the Black Sea (Pontus). Most of the vases were found in graves in Vulci, a significant number also in Cerveteri. The index form was a neck amphora with a particularly slender shape, closely resembling Tyrrhenian amphoras.
Other shapes were oenochoes with spiral handles, dinos, kyathos, plates, beakers with high bases, and, less often, kantharos and other forms. The adornment of Pontic vases is always similar. In general there is an ornamental decoration on the neck, then figures on the shoulder, followed by another band of ornaments, an animal frieze, and finally a ring of rays. Foot, neck and handles are black. The importance of ornaments is noticeable, although they are often rather carelessly formed; some vases are decorated only with ornaments.
The clay of these vases is yellowish-red; the slip covering the vases is black or brownish-red, of high quality, and with a metallic sheen. Red and white opaque colors are generously used for figures and ornaments. Animals are usually decorated with a white stripe on their bellies. Scholars have identified six workshops to date. The earliest and best is considered to be that of the Paris Painter. He shows mythological figures, included a beardless Heracles, as was customary in eastern Greece.
Occasionally there are scenes which are not a part of Greek mythology, such as Heracles fighting Juno Sospita ("the Savior") by the Paris Painter, or a wolf demon by the Tityos Painter. There are also scenes of daily life, komos scenes, and riders. The vases are dated to a time between 550 and 500 B.C., and about 200 are known. Locally produced Etruscan vases probably date from the 7th century B.C. At first, they resemble black-figure models from Corinth and eastern Greece. It is assumed that in the early phase primarily Greek immigrants were the producers.
The first important style was Pontic pottery painting. Afterward, in the period between 530 and 500 B.C., the Micali Painter and his workshop followed. At this time Etruscan artists tended to follow Attic models and produced primarily amphoras, hydriai and jugs. They usually had komos and symposia scenes and animal friezes. Mythological scenes are less common, but they are very carefully produced. The black-figure style ended around 480 B.C. Toward the end a mannerist style developed, and sometimes a rather careless silhouette technique.
Chalcidian vase painting was named from the mythological inscriptions which sometimes appeared in Chalcidian script. For this reason the origin of the pottery was first suspected to be Euboea. Currently it is assumed that the pottery was produced in Rhegion, perhaps also in Caere, but the issue has not yet been finally decided. Chalcidian vase painting was influenced by Attic, Corinthian and especially Ionian painting. The vases were found primarily in Italian locations like Caeri, Vulci and Rhegion, but also at other locations of the western Mediterranean.
The production of Chalcidian vases began suddenly around 560 B.C. To date, no precursors have been identified. After 50 years, around 510 B.C., it was already over. About 600 vases have survived, and 15 painters or painter groups have been so far identified. These vases are characterized by high quality pottery work. The glossy slip which covers them is usually pitch-black after firing. The clay has an orange color. Red and white opaque colores were generously used in the painting, as was scoring to produce interior details.
The index form is the neck amphora, accounting for a quarter of all known vases, but there are also eye cups, oenochoes and hydria; other vessel types being less common. Lekanis and cups in the Etruscan style are exceptions. The vases are economical and stringent in construction. The "Chalcidian cup foot" is a typical characteristic. It is sometimes copied in black-figure Attic vases, less often in red-figured vases. The most important of the known artists of the older generation is the Inscription Painter, of the younger representatives the Phineus Painter.
The former is presumably the originator of the style; some 170 of the surviving vases are attributed to the very productive workshop of the latter. He is probably also the last representative of this style. The images are usually more decorative than narrative. Riders, animal friezes, heraldic pictures or groups of people are shown. A large lotus-palmette cross is frequently part of the picture. Mythological scenes are seldom, but when they occur they are in general of exceptionally high quality.
Pseudo-Chalcidian vase painting is the successor to Chalcidian painting. It is close to Chalcidian but also has strong links to Attic and Corinthian vase painting. Thus the artists used the Ionian rather than the Chalcidian alphabet for inscriptions. The structure of the clay is also different. There are about 70 known vases of this type, which were first classified by Andreas Rumpf. It is possible that the artisans were successors to the Chalcidian vase painters and potters who emigrated to Etruria.
Pseudo-Chalcidian vase painting is classified into two groups. The elder of the two is the Polyphemus Group, which produced most of the surviving vessels, primarily neck amphoras and oinochoes. Groups of animals are usually shown, less seldom mythological scenes. The vessels were found in Etruria, on Sicily, in Marsellle and Vix. The younger and less productive Memnon Group, to which 12 vases are currently attributed, had a much smaller geographical distribution, being limited to Etruria and Sicily. Except for one oinochoe they produced only neck amphoras, which were usually decorated with animals and riders.
The vases of the Northampton Group were all small neck amphoras with the exception of a single belly amphora. They are stylistically very similar to northern Ionian vase painting, but were probably produced in Italy rather than in Ionia, perhaps in Etruria around 540 B.C. The vases of this group are of very high quality. They show rich ornamental decorations and scenes that have captured the interest of scholars, such as a prince with horses and someone riding on a crane. They are similar to the work of the Group of Campana Dinoi and to the so-called Northampton Amphora whose clay is similar to that of Caeretan hydriai. The Northampton Group was named after this amphora. The round Campana hydriai recall Boeotian and Euboean models.
Alabastrons with cylindrical bodies from Andros are rare, as are lekanis from Thasos. These are reminiscent of Boeotian products except that they have two animal friezes instead of the single frieze common for Boeotia. Thasian plates rather followed Attic models and with their figured scenes are more ambitious than on the lekanis. Imitations of vases from Chios in the black-figure style are known. Local black-figure pottery from Halai is also rare. After the Athenians occupied Elaious on the Dardanelles, local black-figure pottery production began there as well. The modest products included simple lekanis with outline images. A small number of vases in black-figure style were produced in Celtic France. They too were almost certainly inspired by Greek vases.
Scholarly research on these vases started especially in the 19th century. Since this time the suspicion has intensified that these vases have a Greek rather than an Etruscan origin. Especially a Panathenaic prize amphora found by Edward Dodwell in 1819 in Athens provided evidence. The first to present a proof was Gustav Kramer in his work Styl und Herkunft der bemalten griechischen Tongefäße (1837). However it took several years for this insight to be generally accepted. Eduard Gerhard published an article entitled Rapporto Volcente in the Annali dell’Instituto di Corrispondenza Archeologica in which he systematically investigated the vases; he was the first scholar to do so.
Toward this end in 1830 he studied vases found in Tarquinia, comparing them, for example, with vases found in Attica and Aegina. During this work he identified 31 painter and potter signatures. Previously, only the potter Taleides was known. The next step in research was scientific cataloging of the major vase collections in museums. In 1854 Otto Jahn published the vases in the Munich State Collection of Antiquities. Previously, catalogs of the Vatican museums (1842) and the British Museum (1851) had been published.
The description of the vase collection in the Berlin Collection of Classical Antiquities, put together in 1885 by Adolf Furtwängler, was especially influential. Furtwängler was the first to classify the vessels by region of artistic origin, technology, style, shape, and painting stye, which had a lasting effect on subsequent research. In 1893 Paul Hartwig attempted in his book Meisterschalen to identify various painters based on kalos inscriptions, signatures and style analyses. Edmond Pottier, curator at the Louvre, initiated in 1919 the Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum.
All major collections worldwide are published in this series, which as of 2009 amounted to over 300 volumes. Scientific research on Attic vase painting owes a great deal to John D. Beazley. He began studying these vases in about 1910, making use of the method developed by the art historian Giovanni Morelli for studying paintings, which had been refined by Bernard Berenson. He assumed that each painter created original works which could always be unmistakably attributed. He made use of particular details such as faces, fingers, arms, legs, knees, and folds of clothing. Beazley studied 65,000 vases and fragments, of which 20,000 were black-figure.
In the course of his studies, which lasted almost six decades, he could attribute 17,000 of them by name or by using a system of pragmatic names, and classified them into groups of painters or workshops, relationships and stylistic affinity. He identified over 1,500 potters and painters. No other archaeologist had such a decisive influence on the research of an archaeological field as did Beazley, whose analyses remain valid to a large extent up to the present time. After Beazley, scholars like John Boardman, Erika Simon and Dietrich von Bothmer investigated black-figure Attic vases.
Basic research on Corinthian pottery was accomplished by Humfry Payne, who in the 1930s made a first stylistic classification which is, in essence, being used up to the present time. He classified the vases according to shape, type of decoration and image subjects, and only afterward did he make distinctions as to painters and workshops. He followed Beazley’s method except for attributing less importance to allocating painters and groups since a chronological framework was more important for him. Jack L. Benson took on this allocation task in 1953 and distinguished 109 painters and groups.
Last of all, Darrell A. Amyx summarized the research up to that point in his 1988 book Corinthian Vase-Painting of the Archaic Period. It is however a matter of scholarly dispute whether it is at all possible in the case of Corinthian pottery to attribute specific painters. Laconian pottery was known since the 19th century from a significant number of vases from Etruscan graves. At first they were erroneously attributed, being considered for a long time to be a product of Cyrene, where some of the earliest pieces were also found.
Thanks to British excavations carried out in Sparta’s Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia, their true origin was quickly identified. In 1934, Arthur Lane put together all the known material and was the first archaeologist to identify different artists. In 1956 the new discoveries were studied by Brian B. Shefton. He reduced the number of distinct painters by half. In 1958 and 1959 other new material from Taranto was published. A significant number of other vases were also found on Samos. Conrad Michael Stibbe studied anew all 360 vases known to him and published his findings in 1972. He identified five major and three minor painters.
In addition to research on Attic, Corinthian and Laconian vase painting, archaeologists are frequently especially interested in minor Italian styles. The Caeretan hydriai were first identified and named by Carl Humann and Otto Puchstein. Andreas Rumpf, Adolf Kirchhoff and other archaeologists erroneously suspected the origin of Chalkidischen Pottery to be Euboea. Georg Ferdinand Dümmler is responsible for the false naming of the Pontic vases, which he assumed to come from the Black Sea area because of the depiction of a Scythian on one of the vases. In the meantime, research on all styles is carried out less by individuals than by a large international group of scientists. [Wikipedia].
REVIEW: Greek Pottery from circa 1000 to circa 400 B.C. provides not only some of the most distinctive vase shapes from antiquity but also some of the oldest and most diverse representations of the cultural beliefs and practices of the ancient Greeks. Further, pottery, with its durability (even when broken) and lack of appeal to treasure hunters, is one of the great archaeological survivors and is, therefore, an important tool for archaeologists and historians in determining the chronology of ancient Greece.
Whatever their artistic and historical value though, the vast majority of Greek vases, despite now being dusty museum pieces, were actually meant for everyday use and, to paraphrase Arthur Lane, it is perhaps worth remembering that standing on a stone pavement and drenched with water, they would have once gleamed in the Mediterranean sun. The clay (keramos) to produce pottery (kerameikos) was readily available throughout Greece, although the finest was Attic clay, with its high iron content giving an orange-red color with a slight sheen when fired and the pale buff of Corinth.
Clay was generally prepared and refined in settling tanks so that different consistencies of material could be achieved depending on the vessel types to be made with it. Greek pottery was invariably made on the potter’s wheel and usually made in separate horizontal sections: the foot, the lower and upper body, the neck, and finally the handles, if necessary. These sections were then joined together with a clay ‘slip’ after drying and it is possible in many cases to see the prints of the potter impressed on the inside of the vessel.
The piece was then put back on the wheel to smooth the join marks and add the final shaping. Therefore, all vases were unique and the small variations in dimensions reveal that the use of simple tools and not cut-out templates was the norm. Next, the pot was decorated. This process depended on the decorative style in vogue at the time, but popular methods included painting the whole or parts of the vase with a thin black adhesive paint which was added with a brush, the marks of which remain visible in many cases. This black paint was a mix of alkali potash or soda, clay with silicon content, and black ferrous oxide of iron.
The paint was affixed to the pot by using a fixative of urine or vinegar which burned away in the heat of the kiln, binding the paint to the clay. Another technique, used more rarely, was to cover the vessel with a white clay paint. Alternatively, only lines or figures were added in black using a thicker version of the black paint mentioned above and applied with a stiff brush or feather; in consequence, a slight relief effect was achieved. Minor details were often added with a thinned black paint giving a yellow-brown color, a white pipe-clay, and a dark red of ochre and manganese. The latter two colors tended to flake off over time.
The finished pot was then ready to be put in the kiln and fired at a temperature of around 960 °C, which is relatively low and explains the ‘softness’ of Greek pottery (in comparison to, for example, Chinese porcelain). Pots were fired several times (in the same kiln) in order to achieve the required finish and coloring. First, the pot was fired in an oxidising fire where good ventilation to the kiln ensured that the orange/red of the clay came to the fore.
Then the pot was re-fired in a kiln starved of oxygen (reduction process) by adding water or damp wood inside the kiln. This ensured that the painted colors, particularly the black, darkened in color. A third firing, again with good ventilation, re-reddened the clay of the pot whilst the painted areas, now protected by a thin wash, kept their original coloring. This complicated process obviously required excellent timing from the potter so as not to spoil the vase with unseemly discoloring.
Greek potters produced practical vessels for wine, water, oil and perfumes. Painter and potter (kerameus) were usually, although not always, separate specialists. However, lasting partnerships existed such as between the potter Ergotimos and painter Kleitas. Many individual potters and less frequently, painters, have been identified with certainty through their signatures (most commonly as “...made this”) although the majority of Greek vases are unsigned. However, Professor J. D. Beazley, working in the 20th century A.D., identified more than 500 unsigned artists distinguishable through their particular style.
Beazley’s systematic and comprehensive cataloguing of Greek pottery has also allowed for the study of its evolution in techniques, designs, and decoration. Painters often worked in collective workshops, generally under the supervision of one ‘master’ potter (which suggests form was actually more important than decoration for the Greeks). Although artists were free from centralised political control or restrictions, they no doubt were driven by the market demand for particular styles, subjects, and fashions. Many potters and artists were prolific in their output and in some cases over 200 vases may be attributed to a single artist.
The majority of pottery workers would have been paid no more than any other manual laborer and a good vase probably cost only a day’s wages. Certainly though, a few artists would have been in great demand and their goods were sold not only locally but far and wide throughout the Mediterranean. Potters themselves sometimes relocated to other cities, particularly colonies, often taking with them their regional style. There was also some rivalry between artists as indicated by one signed comment on a vase, “better than Euphronias could ever have done”.
Although Greek pottery provides us with a wide range of shapes from cups to plates to massive amphorae, many of the forms remained relatively constant over centuries. This is primarily because Greek potters were producing wares for practical use - holding wine, water, oil, and perfumes - and once the optimum practical shape had evolved, it was copied and maintained. However, despite this restriction in form, the Greek potters and painters could express their versatility in the decoration of the vase.
The most common forms of pottery were amphorae for storing wine, large kraters for mixing wine with water, jugs (oinochoai) for pouring wine, kylixes or stemmed cups with horizontal handles for drinking (especially practical if lifting a cup from the floor when reclining on a lounger at dinner), hydra with three handles for holding water, skyphoi or deep bowls, and lekythoi jars for holding oils and perfumes. Precisely because these objects were for practical use, handles (when present) are generally sturdy affairs, yet the potter, by using carefully considered shapes, often managed to blend these additions into the overall harmony of the vessel and was aided in this endeavor with subtle decorative additions by the painter.
Greek pottery, particularly in terms of decoration, evolved over the centuries and may be categorized into four broad groups. These groups or styles, however, did not pass abruptly from one to the other but rather in some cases ran contemporary for decades. Also, some city-states and regions were either slow to catch on to new styles or simply preferred the ‘old’ style decoration long after they had gone out of production elsewhere. In addition, some cities and regions were consistently a little eccentric in their decoration (notably Laconia-Sparta, Cyprus, Crete, and Boeotia) and preferred to follow their own artistic path rather than imitate the styles of the more dominant centres such as Athens and Corinth.
The first distinctive Greek pottery style first appeared around 1000 B.C. or perhaps even earlier. Reminiscent in technique of the earlier Greek civilizations of Minoan Crete and the Mycenaean mainland, early Greek pottery decoration employed simple shapes, sparingly used. Proto-Geometric pottery, however, differs from Minoan and Mycenaean in shape. The centre of gravity of the vase is moved downwards (creating a more stable vessel) with the feet and neck more articulated.
The most popular Proto-Geometric designs were precisely painted circles (painted with multiple brushes fixed to a compass), semi-circles, and horizontal lines in black and with large areas of the vase painted solely in black. A new motif on the bases of vessels was the upright triangular points which would endure for centuries and become a staple feature of the later black-figure pottery design.
From around 900 B.C. the full Geometric style appeared and favored the rectangular space on the main body of the vase between the handles. Bold linear designs (perhaps influenced by contemporary basketwork and weaving styles) appeared in this space with vertical line decoration on either side. It was in this period that the Maeander design first appeared (perhaps inspired by the practice of wrapping leaves around the rims of metal bowls), destined to become forever associated with Greece and still going strong on everything from plates to beach towels even today.
The lower portion of Geometric vessels were often painted in black and separated from the rest of the vase using horizontal lines. An interesting Geometric style shape appeared which was the circular box with a flat lid, on top of which, one to four horses acted as a handle. From the 8th century B.C., Geometric pottery decoration began to include stylized human figures, birds, and animals with nearly all the surface of the vase covered in bold lines and shapes painted in brown and black. Towards the end of the period in the 7th century B.C., the so-called Orientalising style became popular in Corinth.
With its eastern trade connections, the city appropriated the stylised plants (e.g. lotus, palm, and the tree of life), animal friezes (e.g. lions), and curved lines of Egyptian and Assyrian pottery to produce its own unique Greek version. The rest of eastern Greece followed suit, often preferring red on a white slip background. Athens also followed the new trend and it became widespread with, for example, the Cyclades also producing pottery in this new freer style, often on very large vases and with more spacious decoration.
At the end of the 7th century B.C., Proto-Corinthian pottery reached new heights of technique and quality producing the finest pottery yet seen, in firing, shape, and decoration. The black stylized figures became more and more precisely engraved and were given ever more detail, grace, and vigor. The celebrated black-figure pottery style was born. Although first produced in Corinth, then with fine examples made in Laconia and southern Italy (by Euboean settlers), it would be the potters and painters of Attica who would excel above all others in the black-figure style, and they would go on to dominate the Greek market for the next 150 years.
Not all figures were painted black as certain color conventions were adopted, such as white for female flesh and purple-red for clothes and accessories. A greater interest in fine details such as muscles and hair, which were added to the figures using a sharp instrument, is characteristic of the style. However, it is the postures of the figures which also mark out black-figure pottery as the zenith of Greek vase painting. The finest figures are given grace and poise and often illustrated in the moments before actual movement or resting after exertion.
The famous vase by Exekias, with Ajax and Achilles playing a board game during the Trojan War, is an excellent example of the dignity and energy black-figure painting could achieve. In addition, black-figure vases often told, for the first time, a narrative. Perhaps the most celebrated example is the Francois Vase, a large volute krater made by Ergotimos and painted by Kleitas (570-565 B.C.) which is 66cm high (26 inches) and covered in 270 human and animal figures depicting an astonishing range of scenes and characters from Greek mythology. Typical other vessels of the black-figure style are amphorae, lekythoi, kylixes, plain cups, pyxides (small lidded boxes) and bowls.
The black-figure technique was replaced by the red-figure technique (red figures created by painting their outline with a black slip background) around 530 B.C. which would endure for the next 130 years or so. The two styles were parallel for some time and there are even ‘bilingual’ examples of vases with both styles but the red-figure, with its advantage of the brush over the graver, could attempt to more realistically portray the human figure and eventually it became the favored style of Greek pottery decoration.
Perhaps influenced by contemporary wall painting techniques, anatomical detail, diverse facial expressions, greater detail in clothing (especially of folds, following the new fashion of the lighter chiton dress which also fascinated contemporary sculptors), greater attempts at portraying perspective, the overlapping of figures, and the depiction of everyday life such as education and sporting scenes are all characteristic of this style.
The shapes of red-figure vessels are generally those of the black-figure style. An exception is the kylix which becomes shallower and with a shorter foot, almost becoming a third handle. In addition the painted narrative is to be read by turning the cup in the hand. Other minor modifications are the hydra, which becomes a little fuller in figure and the slimmer neck-amphora. Lekythoi of this period commonly had a white background as did (more rarely) cups and boxes.
Into the fourth century B.C., perhaps in attempting to copy the innovations in perspective of contemporary fresco, the red-figure style would reveal its limitations and vases would degenerate into over-packed scenes with strange floating perspectives. Significantly, pottery painting would no longer be linked intrinsically to the form which it decorated and so ceased to exist as an art-form in its own right. Consequently, artistic attention and excellence would turn away from the confinements of pottery to other more open media such as wall-painting.
In conclusion, then, we may say that not only has Greek pottery given us some of the most distinctive, influential, and beautiful shapes and designs of antiquity but it has also given us a window into the lives, practices, and beliefs of a people long gone and of whom we very often have no contemporary written record. These everyday objects, unlike those other archaeological survivors literature, sculpture, and architecture, allow us to feel a little closer to the ordinary people of the ancient world, those who could not afford fine art or precious jewellery but could indulge in possessing a finely made object such as a Greek vase. [Ancient History Encyclopedia].
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