Attic Black-figure Amphora

Attic Greek Black-Figure Neck Amphora with Athena and chariot

Side A of the amphora depicts the goddess Athena mounting a four-horse chariot (quadriga) and holding a rein in each hand (with a goad in the right as well). She is helmeted and wears a patterned garment, a transverse himation over a chiton. The B side shows a warrior carrying two spears and holding a shield blazoned with dolphins. He is flanked by elderly, bearded figures dressed in himation, to whom he bids farewell. The neck and surface below the triple-reeded handles are palmettes with stems, some curving up to link with lotus flowers. Rays spring from the torus foot, offset by double dots above them and a band of short strokes around the shoulder. This ornamentation gives the Dot-band Class its name, close in style to the Edinburgh Painter. White and purple pigments were added to distinguish further details.

Written by Allie Gloe, Curatorial Intern

Unknown (Greek), Attic black-figure Amphora, c. 520 – 510 BC, terracotta, 16 in., Museum Purchase, AP.1966.21.1

The amphora was a common piece in Ancient Greece and typically sculpted with a tapered base and neck, a wide body and two handles. This vase-shaped container was used as a storage vessel or transportation vessel for both dry and liquid products, but this amphora was most likely used for wine. Illustrated around the amphora, is the procession of Dionysos, Greek God of wine and winemaking. On one side of the vessel, Dionysos holds long grapevine branches and a kantharos, a bowl-shaped container which holds Dionysos’ wine and is never empty. He stands in between two bearded satyrs, who are half man and half goat, and is followed by a continuing procession of Maenads, who are depicted on the other side of the vessel. Maenads, or “raving ones,” are wild females and followers of Dionysos who get heavily intoxicated and become irrational.

This Greek amphora utilizes the black-figure style of vase painting, which renders figures and other designs almost like silhouettes. Natural, clay vessels were decorated with black slip and then incised to create detail and further design. After the firing process, the natural color of the clay would turn red to create a rich background and also project through the scores of black figures. These black-figure, Greek vases were extremely popular among Etruscans, who later developed their own black-figure technique based on Greek examples.

Three The François Vase

A hundred and forty years have passed since the François vase (pls. 23–29, 4), [1] now in the Archaeological Museum at Florence, was discovered just outside the Etruscan city of Chiusi by the devoted Italian excavator whose name it not unjustly bears. The tomb in which it had been placed had been robbed in antiquity the robbers had taken the objects in precious metal, but had contented themselves with shattering the clay vase and scattering many of the pieces far and wide outside the tomb. In his search for these, it was estimated at the time that Alessandro François had dug an area equal to that of the Colosseum at Rome. Long after, one of the fragments still missing was turned up by a ploughman and it is not impossible that others may still come to light.

The vase was made about 570 B.C. It bears the signatures of two artists, the potter Ergotimos and the painter Kleitias. It is strange to think how little we should know of either if this one vase had not been found. The same pair of signatures occurs on two small vases, and on figureless fragments of two small cups. We have also fragments of a few vases, without signature, which we see to be by Kleitias but without the François vase we should not have been able to name the artist.

The shape—Ergotimos' work—is what is known as a volute-krater, a krater with volute-handles (pl. 23). This is the earliest Attic volute-krater, and one of the earliest Greek. It is a finer and more elaborate version of the column-krater, which originally may have been a Corinthian type of vase, but if so had long been acclimatised in Attica. Later potters enlarged the volutes of the volute-krater, added a lip above the mouth, altered the form of the foot, and made the whole vase taller, but Ergotimos' model remains unsurpassed. The volute-handles may have been invented by workers in metal, but the bronze volute-kraters that have reached us have no special connexion with the François vase, the design of which is thoroughly ceramic.

The vase, over twenty-six inches high, is decorated all over with many rows of small figures, precise, angular, and keen, nearly all identified by inscriptions. The

[1] For numbered notes to chapter iii see pages 97–98.

surface has suffered, and the white parts of the painting especially many of the brown lines added on top of the white have disappeared, so that the female figures have a somewhat spectral appearance which is not original. Fragments of another vase by Kleitias, in Athens, are almost perfectly preserved (pl. 29, 5), [2] and give a notion of what the female figures on the François vase looked like when they were fresh.

(There are a few photographs of the entire vase, but we use, for the most part, the drawings made by Reichhold in 1900 they are not perfect, but as nearly so as one could hope for they are a wonder of patience and skill.) [3]

Before examining the several pictures, let us consider the subject-matter as a whole. It is not uniform there are several themes. First: the subjects of the chief picture, running right round the vase, and of the three other figure-zones on the obverse, are taken from the lives of the hero Peleus and his son Achilles while the lower picture on each handle figures, as will be seen, in narrow space, the last episode in that story, the dead body of Achilles borne from the field. Second: Theseus is the hero of the upper neck-picture on the reverse of the vase, and he also takes part in the centauromachy below it. Third: the remaining figure-scene, the Return of Hephaistos , is not taken from heroic legend, but from life in Olympus, viewed Homerically from its comic side. It is ingeniously linked, or hooked, to the chief picture by the special role which two gods, Dionysos and Hephaistos, play in both. Fourth: the lowermost of the figure zones is devoted to the wild animals which, as we saw, meant much to the Greeks of the earlier archaic period: sphinxes, and griffins, stationary lions and panthers attacking bull, deer, and boar. The sphinxes are repeated, smaller, in the upper corners of the mouth of the vase on one side. The chief picture on each handle is taken from the same realm, for it represents the goddess Artemis conceived as Queen of Wild Animals . Fifth: there is plant-life as well as animal, though highly stylized—plant-complexes between the sphinxes and between the griffins, in the animal-zone floral bands on the edges of the handles and the subordinate decoration, the so-called tongue-pattern and ray-pattern, is also floral. Sixth: a last far-off glimpse of the heroic world is given by the Gorgons on the inner sides of the handles, for they evoke a great hero of an elder generation, Perseus . Seventh and last: the narrow zone on the foot of the vase is filled by a serio-comic conflict, the Battle between the Pygmies and the Cranes .

The chief picture, which runs right round the shoulder and middle of the vase, is the Wedding of Peleus, or, to be precise, the gods visiting the newly-wedded pair (pl. 24). The story was told in epic poems now lost. The sea-goddess Thetis, eldest of the fifty daughters of the sea-god Nereus, was wooed by both Zeus and Poseidon, but when they learned that she was destined to bear a son stronger than his father they desisted, agreed that she should wed not a god but a mortal, and chose the hero Peleus. The wedding was one of the most famous in antiquity, and was attended by all the gods. It was at the wedding-feast that the dispute arose among the three goddesses which led to the Judgement of Paris and so to the fault of Helen, the Trojan

War, the death of Achilles, and the ruin of Troy. On the right is the house of Peleus, and Thetis sitting in it, drawing her mantle aside from her face, and looking through the half-open door at what approaches Peleus stands at the altar in front of the house to welcome the gods. Really, of course, the house would be seen in profile, and Thetis would not be seen at all but Kleitias has boldly turned the house towards us, while leaving Thetis in profile. The house is one of three buildings represented on the vase, and these are important for the history of Greek architecture, especially of early constructions part in timber, part in stone. It is a gabled building, with a porch formed by the projection of the side walls, and with two columns between the decorated wall-ends. Almost everything is given, even to the cat-hole, as it must be, the hole for a pet animal to pass out and in. The long procession is headed by Chiron and Iris. Most of the centaurs were wild, but a few were not, and the chief of these was Chiron, dikaiotatoVKentaurwn , as Homer calls him, justest or most civilised of centaurs. The more civil centaurs are often represented as wearing clothes, and as having a complete human body, to which the barrel and hindquarters of a horse are attached and so Chiron. He was the great educator of heroes, of Peleus, of Achilles, of Jason, and of many others: he taught them not only their accomplishments, shooting, riding, hunting, first-aid, and the rest, but their principles of conduct as well. He clasps Peleus by the hand, and as a great hunter he shoulders a fir-branch, with two hares tied to it, and another animal. Iris is here as herald of the gods, wearing a short tunic, so as to be able to run, with a dappled fawnskin round the waist. Then come three females side by side, sharing, as often in earlier archaic art, a single large mantle. In the middle is Chariklo, wife of Chiron beside her, Hestia and Demeter, sisters of Zeus and eldest daughters of Kronos. They are followed by a strange figure. It is Dionysos, but nowhere else is he represented like this. He hastens, almost stumbles forward, holding an amphora full of wine on his shoulder, wine for the feast. 3 bis The head is turned towards us, frontal. One or two faces on the vase are frontal instead of in profile. Frontal human faces occur as early as the seventh century (there are no three-quarter faces in Greek painting till after the beginning of the fifth). In archaic painting the frontal face is not used haphazard. [4] The god here, feeling the weight and the effort, turns towards the spectator, almost as if for sympathy, a contrast to the easy, unconscious bearing of the other deities. Then come, sharing a mantle as before, the three Horai, daughters of Zeus—Seasons, not our four, but goddesses of all seasonable increase, and so in place at a wedding. The peplos of the farthest Hora is one of those magnificent garments, adorned with rows of chariots, horsemen, animals, and flowers, of which there are seven on our vase. The earliest reference to such garments in poetry is in the Iliad, [5] where Helen is found weaving a large red web with scenes from the Trojan War, which reminds one of the Bayeux Tapestry. No such garments have survived from the Greek archaic period, but they begin to be represented in the middle of the seventh century. Now the chariots begin. First, Zeus and Hera. The horses, instead of planting all four hooves flat on the ground, as horses walking do in all earlier Greek art, [6] lift the off fore-hoof so that it touches the

ground with the tip only it is a small change, but it gives a lighter effect, and was a novelty in the time of Kleitias. The pole-horses all wear topknots, and hold their heads up, while the trace-horses bend theirs. [7] This chariot and the two succeeding ones are accompanied by the nine Muses, daughters also of Zeus, headed (as in Hesiod) by Kalliope, who plays not the flute, which is the instrument of the Muses when we first hear of them in poetry, but the syrinx or Pan-pipes. Her head is frontal. The Muses sang at the wedding-feast. Then comes Poseidon with his wife Amphitrite, and Ares with Aphrodite, who are often coupled as if husband and wife. [8] The artist asks you to think that the picture was complete, and that the handle was then set on top of it but of course that is only a fiction. Then comes Apollo, and perhaps his mother Leto, accompanied, probably, by the Charites or Graces, also daughters of Zeus. Then Athena, driving a goddess who is hard to name—the inscription is lost—but might be Artemis. Athena, the goddess of Athens, is specially honoured, for she is welcomed by the bride's father and mother—old Nereus, pointing the way, and Doris his wife. Then Hermes in his chariot, with his mother Maia, escorted by the Moirai, the Fates, who have much to do with marriage and birth and last, as dwelling farthest away, Okeanos, the ocean-stream believed to encompass the whole earth, with Tethys his spouse. Hardly anything of these last two figures remains, but enough to show that Okeanos was represented with a human body but the head and neck of a bull. [9] River-gods were thought of by the early Greeks as bull-like, and Okeanos was the greatest of rivers. Euripides, long after, calls him bull-headed, taurokranoV . [10] Okeanos and his wife are attended by a trio of females, probably Nereids, sisters of Thetis, and by a sea-god ending in the tail of a fish, or rather of a sea-serpent, a pristis , Triton. This is the last chariot, but not the end of the procession. As in the earlier picture of the subject by Sophilos, the lame god Hephaistos brings up the rear. Hephaistos, when cast out of Heaven by his mother Hera, found refuge with Eurynome and Thetis, daughter and grand-daughter of Okeanos, and spent nine years working for them in a cave of Ocean perhaps he is thought of as still their guest. As Dionysos came in front of the chariots, on foot, hurrying, burdened, face turned aside, so Hephaistos comes behind the chariots, not driving, but riding side-saddle on a donkey, he also in part turned towards the spectator. These two gods, who in this scene take a lowly place, will be compensated later, by their triumph in another scene, the Return of Hephaistos.

The subject occupying the front half of the zone below the Wedding is taken from the lost epic, the Cypria it is one of the earliest episodes in the Trojan War (pl. 25, 1–3). According to an oracle, Troy could not be taken if Troilos, youngest son of Priam, reached his twentieth year. Achilles lay in wait at the fountain outside the city, and when Troilos came to water his horses, sprang out. Troilos mounted, and made off towards the altar of Apollo, hoping for sanctuary but the fleet Achilles, though in heavy armour, pursued him, overtook him, and slew him on the altar itself. Troilos in this scene is regularly accompanied by his sister Polyxena, who has come to the fountain to fill her hydria, which she drops as she runs away. Athena

encourages Achilles Hermes says something to Thetis, Achilles' mother, who is apprehensive. On the left is the fountain, turned towards us as the house of Peleus was a youth and a girl are still drawing water. At the extreme left Apollo comes up incensed he has seen Troilos heading for sanctuary, and suspects that Achilles will not hesitate to trespass. Achilles, in fact, incurred the anger of the god, who did not forget, and long after helped Paris to slay Achilles. On the right of the picture is another building, the city wall of Troy. In front of it sits the aged Priam, who has been taking the air with his friend Antenor. Antenor has seen with alarm what is taking place in the distance (the interval between Antenor and Polyxena is not actual: the archaic artist does not leave a great gap between one figure and another, but spaces them all out evenly). Antenor hastens back to Priam, who, startled, instinctively rises from his seat. Priam is an unusual and expressive figure. Bald, with clipped beard, and wrinkles on forehead and neck, he has a patient, meagre face, and the brittle look of old age. Moreover, one of his feet is drawn right back and rests on the ground with toes and ball only. In early Greek art, seated figures keep their legs close together, and their feet flat on the ground. This, and another figure on the François vase (Ares in the next scene), are the earliest seated figures which draw one of the legs back—earliest in Greek art at least [11] in Egyptian and Mesopotamian there are much earlier examples. [12] The alarm has been given and a rescue party, headed by Troilos' brothers, Hector and Polites, issues from the heavy city gates. On the battlements, in the embrasures, there are heaps of stones to throw at attackers. Stone-throwing was a substantial part of ancient defence-tactics, and even in the fourth century the military expert Aeneas Tacticus describes a method of retrieving the stones under cover of night. [13] Taking a last glance at this picture, we see that the composition is far from primitive. In the middle, six figures to left and right three figures and a building (the two brothers tell as a single figure), the left side-group linked with the middle one by the girl Rhodia looking round and raising her arms in dismay, the right side-group linked with the middle one by the figure of Antenor, also looking round—enough remains to make this certain—and extending his arms.

The scene on the other half of this zone is the Return of Hephaistos (pl. 25, 4). This is one of those gay and irreverent stories about the gods of which there are good examples in Homer, above all the lay of Demodokos in the Odyssey, where Hephaistos catches his wife Aphrodite and her lover Ares in an invisible net. The story of the Return of Hephaistos was narrated in a poem of which not a word remains, but which can be reconstructed in its main outlines from brief allusions in ancient writers and with the assistance of vases, especially the François vase, which gives far the most elaborate representation of the subject. [14] Hera, disgusted with her son Hephaistos because he was an ugly cripple, threw him out of Heaven, and he would have been in great distress had he not found refuge with Thetis. Hephaistos forgave his mother, and made her a present of a masterpiece of his craftsmanship, a magnificent throne, but when she sat in it she could not rise. Only Hephaistos could free her, and he had disappeared. Ares, her son, boasted that he would fetch Hephaistos

back by force, but Hephaistos beat him off with firebrands—he was the inventor of artillery—and Ares retired discomfited. At last Dionysos, through the power of wine, induced Hephaistos to return. There was a special inducement Zeus, it seems, had gone so far as to promise the hand of Aphrodite to whoever should fetch Hephaistos back. So Hephaistos had Aphrodite to wife, but Hera, to reward Dionysos, persuaded the gods that he also should be admitted to Olympus.

In the left half of the picture, conflicting emotions and a charged atmosphere. Hera sits on the throne, with impatient hands. Zeus sits by her, an unhappy king. Aphrodite recoils at the sight of her future husband. Behind, Ares sits on a low block, crestfallen another expressive figure, with his right leg drawn back. He is one of those tall, long-backed fellows. Athena is jeering at him, and the sort of language she must be using may be gathered from Homer, where the Olympians do not spare their tongues, and Ares, in particular, seldom gets a good word from any of them. Three other gods hasten up, Artemis, Poseidon, and Hermes. In the right half of the zone an extraordinary procession approaches. Dionysos—he has the best head in the whole picture—leads the mule on which Hephaistos rides. It is a mule this time, not a donkey. The lameness of Hephaistos is not rendered so forcibly as in early non-Attic pictures, where his legs are cruelly deformed: the shanks are shapely, but the attachment is defective, and the toes point left and right. Three satyrs, or silenoi as they are here called—both names fit these horse-men—follow, the bodyguard of Dionysos and four nymphs, their companions. The first satyr pants under the weight of a wineskin full to bursting the second is the flute-player who was an essential part of a Greek procession the third has caught up a nymph in his arms of the second nymph only the hand remains, and the third is also fragmentary the fourth plays the cymbals, an orgiastic instrument hitherto unheard in heaven.

This is an early representation of Dionysos it is strange that there are none before the sixth century. [15] Satyrs, too, first appear in the early part of the sixth century. [16] Kleitias' satyrs are most unusual it is not only that they have horses' legs and not merely horses' tails and ears—so have other satyrs in black-figure,—but their whole aspect is lean and equine, and unlike most black-figure satyrs they have nothing of the pig. The heads of Kleitias' satyrs, with their roomy aquiline noses, and the hair towering over the forehead, are very like the heads, as we shall find, of his centaurs, but if anything wilder and more terrifying.

Thus the two gods who had to be content with a humble place at the wedding of Peleus are exalted at the expense of all the others.

The third zone on the body is devoted to animals. These, as we have seen, are not merely decorative in early Greek art, but significant of terror and power. There are six groups. In the middle of the front, though off centre, a pair of sphinxes with a stylized plant between, which they are perhaps thought of as guarding a timehonoured Oriental composition consists of two animals guarding a sacred tree. To left of them, a panther attacking a stag to right of them, a young bull attacked by a panther. On the other side of the vase, a pair of griffins with a plant between. To left

of them, a boar attacked by a lion to right of them, a lion attacking a bull. All these strong creatures have a new elegance, and there are many novel or original traits. Griffins are not nearly so common in Attic art as in early Greek art elsewhere and these are the earliest griffins on Attic vases. [17] Seldom do these bird-headed creatures have such fine sets of teeth as here. The panther, raising both fore-legs, grasping the stag's neck and biting it, is by no means a stock figure and there is no parallel to the attitude of the paw in two of these groups. In other animal-groups the paw is either seen from the back (as in the panther to the right), or from the side (as in the panther to the left) here it is seen with the claws up, as if to deal an upper-cut. Kleitias can never have seen a lion, and must have got this piece of realism from observation of one of the lesser felines.

On the upper zone of the neck, on the front of the vase, the Hunting of the Calydonian Boar (pl. 26, 1–3). The splendid description of the hunt in swinburne's Atalanta in Calydon is founded on Ovid, who had a good Greek original before him, probably the Meleager of Euripides, and was wise enough to follow it closely. Euripides, in his turn, based his narrative on an earlier poem, perhaps the same that Kleitias or his learned adviser used. Artemis, angry with Oineus, King of Calydon, sent a monstrous boar to ravage his country, and picked men from all Greece were needed to overcome it. Chief among the hunters were Meleager and Peleus, and Peleus and Meleager are shown in the front place. Peleus is beardless: this adventure is thought of as taking place when he was quite young, before his marriage. Next to these two was the virgin Atalanta, who with an arrow drew first blood. Here she has shot already, and is now wielding the spear, but her quiver is at her shoulder. She is dressed in a short tunic, and is the only figure on the vase to wear a wreath. The action is very orderly and symmetrical. The boar in the middle, pierced by four arrows, two from the left and two from the right a hound on the back of the boar, another at its rump, a third disembowelled. Under the boar, Ankaios lies dead. The hunters attack in pairs, with short spears, long javelins, and stones archers also, wearing exotic Oriental hats—Kleitias is interested in hats,—and two of them with Oriental-sounding names. The hounds are named, as well as the hunters. One ancient writer tells us that Atalanta's hound, Aura (Breeze), was killed on this occasion, but Aura is not among the hounds named by Kleitias.

Hunting boar without firearms is a different matter from the modern boar-hunt and hunting it on foot, from pig-sticking on horseback. The stage of action chosen by Kleitias is the same as in most ancient representations of boar-hunts: [18] it is when, after the preliminary attack with missiles, the hunters close in on the boar at bay. "The toughest and most experienced man in the field," to quote Xenophon's instructions in his treatise on hunting, "now approaches the boar from the front, looking it in the eye, left foot advanced, holding the spear with both hands, the left hand higher up on the shaft, and the right lower down—the left hand having to guide the spear, while the other thrusts." [19] That is the attitude of Meleager and Peleus on the François vase.

In Xenophon's time the boar was usually driven into nets, but in sultry weather, he says, hounds could run him down without the use of nets for, strong as the boar is, he loses his breath and tires. [20] This was dangerous work but so Meleager and his comrades must have hunted, without nets.

The upper zone of the neck: on the reverse, a ship, and a dance (pl. 27, 1–3). (The picture is continuous here the modern draughtsman has divided it, repeating one figure.) The subject is taken from the legend of Theseus. The Athenians were forced by King Minos of Crete to send a tribute of seven youths and seven maidens to be exposed to the Minotaur in his maze fastness, the Labyrinth. Theseus sailed to Crete, threaded the maze with the help of the ball of thread given him by Ariadne, daughter of Minos, slew the monster, rescued the fourteen, and worked his way out of the Labyrinth. Then, we are told, he and the fourteen celebrated their deliverance by a dance, in which they mimed the process of their exit hand in hand. This is what we see in the right half of the picture—one of those long, winding dances still to be witnessed in Greece. Theseus, in a festal robe, leads the dance, playing the lyre. Ariadne, facing him, holds up the ball of thread, rolled up again and she is chaperoned by her small nurse, whose name is recorded by Plutarch, Korkyne, but Kleitias calls her simply "nurse," qrofoV . Now the left half of the picture. This has often been misunderstood, and some have assumed that Phaidimos, the last of the fourteen, is thought of as having just landed from the ship. This is not so. The dance is just beginning, and he is the last to join in—a device of the painter to add a touch of life and variety to the beautiful formal delineation of the dance. As to the ship, there is no literary record to help us, and we have to explain it from the picture itself. The explanation is that the ship of Theseus, after landing him in Crete, near Cnossos, must have sailed off, with instructions to return after a given time it was not safe to remain moored. Returning as ordered, not knowing whether they would ever set eyes on him again, they see the dance forming up, and perceive with joy that the enterprise has been successful. [21]

The ship is a long, low, open rowing-vessel, with a single sail. We notice the stem-post and the foredeck the railing the stern curving round and ending in a pair of swan's heads, strengthened by a timber with a strut. The steersman, warmly dressed, sits at the stern with the two steering-oars. The mast has been lowered—the only representation of this in antiquity, although the process is often described in Homer. There is great excitement and delight. Some of the rowers rise from their seats, and one of them throws his arms up in joy. Another man has jumped overboard and swims to land, with a trudgeon-like stroke. Sixteen rowers are preserved, and there were probably thirty—the vessel was a triakonter. Part of the ship is missing the prow has a beak in the form of a boar's head.

This is a very rare subject indeed, the only other examples we have of it are by Kleitias himself. Small fragments of two splendid vases found on the Acropolis of Athens come from pictures of the dance on a larger scale than in the François vase (pl. 29, 6 and pl. 30, 2). From one vase, parts of the dancers. [22] From the other, the

face of a woman and the back of a head, with the inscription [Eur ]ysthenes , the name of the fifth dancer from the left on the François vase. [23]

The lower zone of the neck: on the front of the vase, a chariot-race (pl. 26, 1–3). It is the chief event at the funeral games held by Achilles in honour of Patroklos, described in the twenty-third book of the Iliad. Achilles stands at the post, and the prizes are tripods—bronze cooking-pots on three legs—and bronze lebetes, or, as we now call them, dinoi—large round mixing-bowls. The prizes are used to fill the voids under the horses, an old convention. The five drivers wear the regulation long robe, and hold, besides the reins, the goad. One of them looks back. Oddly enough, Kleitias departs widely from the Homeric account [24] of his five charioteers only Diomed, in Homer, takes part in the race, and he, the winner, runs third in Kleitias. Two of the five, Damasippos and Hippothoön, are not even mentioned in the Iliad. The others are Odysseus, who leads—but in Homer did not compete,—and Automedon. These are all good heroic names, but Kleitias, left to himself, did not remember the field, and could not find anyone who did his learned friend was not at hand.

As a work of art the picture is traditional. There is some variety, but not so much as might have been expected: one chariot is very like another. Kleitias could have varied them but what he wished to give was for once the beauty of swift, unimpeded movement in one direction, contrasting with the slow procession of the chief zone, the knots and staccato elsewhere.

The lower zone of the neck: on the reverse, a centauromachy (pl. 27, 1–3). In early art it is usually Herakles who fights the centaurs and until recently this was the earliest representation of the Thessalian Lapiths in battle with them but an episode in the Thessalian centauromachy, the death of Kaineus, appears on a seventh-century bronze relief found not long ago at Olympia. [25]

Nestor, in the Iliad, mentions the Thessalian centauromachy, but only briefly, as a tremendous conflict it is also described in the Shield of Herakles , but not at length there must have been an epic, now lost, which told the story in full. Kleitias' picture is composed of seven groups (all now fragmentary) with a good deal of overlapping. On the left, Theseus and a centaur (Theseus, though not a Lapith, took part as the sworn friend of the great Lapith warrior Peirithoös). Then Antimachos and a centaur. Next, Kaineus is rammed into the earth by the centaurs Agrios, Asbolos, and Hylaios. Kaineus is one of the most picturesque figures in the legend. The maiden Kainis asked Poseidon to change her into a man, and Poseidon did so, adding the gift of invulnerability. Kaineus, as he was now called, was proof against bronze and iron but the centaurs were armed with more primitive weapons, branches and boulders, not swords and spears, so that Kaineus was no better off against them than an ordinary man, and after many valiant deeds he disappeared, rammed into the ground. Hoplon and Petraios. A Lapith, probably Peirithoös (who cannot have be en omitted), and Melanchaites a second centaur, Pyrrhos, lies on the ground. A sixth group, of which little remains. Lastly, Dryas and Oroibios, who founders and begs for quarter.

The pictures on the handles (pl. 28). They are the same on both handles, with minor variations. First, Artemis, winged, holding (on one handle) two lions, (on the other) a panther and a stag. This is the type of figure which the moderns call Potnia Theron [*] , Queen of Wild Beasts, from a title of Artemis in Homer. The goddess, nearly always winged, usually standing still, grasping a pair of wild beasts or birds—that is a favourite figure in seventh- and sixth-century Greece [26] in Attica, however, it is not common, there are only twelve examples in all, the earliest late seventh-century, [27] and later it became so unfamiliar that Pausanias could write, in his account of the Chest of Kypselos, "I do not know for what reason Artemis has wings on her shoulders, and holds a panther in one hand and a lion in the other." We must ask why the Potnia Theron [*] appears on the François vase at all. It was Artemis who sent the boar to Calydon, but that is not why she is here. We must rather think that the Potnia Theron [*] belongs to the same realm as the sphinxes, griffins, and contending animals in the third zone on the body of the vase, and the sphinxes flanking the neck in front, and is here for the same reason as they or rather, they belong to her realm she is their queen.

The group of Ajax and Achilles (pl. 28, 1–2), the earliest Attic representation of the subject, is part of the Peleus-Achilles cycle, and is the concluding episode in the eventful heroic history that began with the wedding of Peleus and the divine Thetis. [28] A curious note is struck, as Payne observed, [29] by the juxtaposition of the hieratic figure of the goddess with the labouring Ajax and the rigid body of Achilles. It is not by chance that the one brings out the other, whether the artist's action was intentional, or instinctive, or on the border between.

Above the head of Artemis the handle curves rapidly round and down, and the third handle-picture, a Gorgon, is on the part of the handle that faces inwards (pl. 28, 3–4). Viewing the vase from the inside, the only decoration one sees is the pair of Gorgons, and if the vase were filled with wine they would look as if they were flying over a sea. The Gorgons of Kleitias are part of a story they are Stheno and Euryale, sisters of Medusa. The complete scene is already familiar from earlier works, and we have a fragment of a full representation of it by Kleitias himself. The sherd in the Pushkin Museum at Moscow (pl. 30, 1), [30] which may be from the neck of a columnkrater (rather than a volute-krater like the François vase), gives the right-hand corner of the picture, with Perseus flying and Athena following to protect him then Hermes must have come then the two sisters of Medusa, the dead Medusa herself, and possibly other figures.

Kleitias has left two gorgon-heads besides those of Stheno and Euryale. One, damaged, is the device on Hector's shield in the Troilos scene on the François vase (pl. 25, 3) the other, which ranks among the finest of archaic gorgoneia, is the chief ornament (pl. 30, 3–4) of a tiny stand-like object of uncertain use in New York which bears, like the François vase, the double signature of Ergotimos and Kleitias. [31]

Lastly, on the foot of the vase, small, Pygmies and Cranes (pl. 29, 1–4). The war between cranes and pygmies is mentioned in the Iliad, [32] but the picture on the François

vase is the earliest representation of it as well as the finest and most elaborate. The pygmies are midgets—small but not deformed, perfectly made and so they are in nearly all the early pictures of them. [33] Part of Kleitias' picture is missing, but the general composition is clear. In the middle, three groups of pygmies, using clubs and crook-handled sticks—"hockey-sticks." In the middle group of the three a pygmy has hooked a crane round the neck with his hockey-stick and is clubbing it (pl. 29, 3) his companion, hat on, lies dead on the ground. In the left-hand group another pygmy has hooked a flying crane his companion grasps the neck with his left hand and with his right hand raises his club to strike (pl. 29, 2). In the right-hand group two pygmies have hooked a flying crane one kneels, pulling it down (pl. 29, 3). These three groups are flanked by a pair of cavalry scenes. The pygmies are mounted on splendid goats, and use slings. We hear of pygmy cavalry, long after, in Pliny, and even of its strategic use: [34] "it is reported," he writes, "that when spring comes, the pygmies, mounted on rams or goats, and armed with bows and arrows, go down to the sea in force, and in a three months' campaign destroy the eggs and young of the cranes otherwise they would be unable to cope with the numbers. They bring home feathers and eggshells and use them, mixed with mud, to build their houses."

In the left-hand cavalry group one pygmy has fallen, and a crane pecks at his eyes (pl. 29, 1).

Beyond the cavalry there is more infantry here a crane is down, and a pygmy despatches it with a knobkerrie.

One source of the fable of the pygmies battling with the cranes was, of course, the reports of travellers about dwarfish races living at the ends of the earth, but another was, nearer home, the yearly struggle of the Greek farmer with the birds. The crane was one of his chief enemies, and there are many references in Greek literature to its destructiveness. Remember Aesop's fable of the farmer who caught a stork and was about to kill it. "But I am a stork," it protested, "not a crane." "I can't help that," says the farmer "I found you among the cranes." [35] The weapons of the pygmies in Kleitias, and their tactics, are taken from real life in Greece they are those used by the farmer—and the farmer's children—to protect the crops from birds, including cranes.

The Battle with the Cranes on the François vase has always been popular, and a great archaeologist has claimed that "in invention as well as drawing it gave the painter more opportunity to display his powers than the solemn procession of deities in the chief frieze." [36] Without wishing to underrate the qualities of the Battle with the Cranes, we must say, I think, that the high style of the chief frieze, and the varied, vivid narrative of the others, are even more excellent achievements. [37]

How were ancient Greek pots made?

This entry was posted on July 23, 2015 by Josho Brouwers .

Since 2006, I’ve taught a lot of courses on a variety of subjects at different institutions geared at adult education. I usually try to organize a tour in an archaeological museum as part of these courses, especially when they are on Classical art and architecture. When you visit the Greek department of virtually any archaeological museum, you’ll spend a considerable amount of time looking at Greek vases.

I always get a lot of questions about those pots. How did the ancient Greeks make them? What’s the decoration made of? Did they use some kind of paint for those figures? How did they get those black surfaces so dark and shiny? Who made those pots? What were they used for? Who bought them? And so on. All important questions that most museums usually only touch upon (if you’re lucky), since Greek painted vases are primarily seen as art rather than objects of everyday use.

There’s a lot to write about when it comes to ancient pots, including the important difference between the nicely decorated tableware and the coarser cooking wares (which are often not displayed in museums!), and how painted pottery was regarded in ancient times. Those are all issues for future blog posts, starting next week. For now, though, I want to focus more particularly on the first of the questions raised above, namely how the ancient Greeks actually made their pots.

From the Neolithic onwards, the Greeks made pots in different styles. For this blog post, I will focus on what are perhaps the most characteristic styles of Greek pottery, namely black figure and red figure. If you need a refresher, here’s an example of an Attic black-figure vase, a famous amphora made by Exekias and depicting Ajax and Achilles playing a game (source):

In black-figure, the figures are painted using a clay slip that becomes black through firing, with details added through incision. Red-figure is the reverse: the backgrounds are filled in, but the figures left blank, with details added using fine brushes. Red-figure technique developed ca. 525 BC and eventually displaced the older black-figure technique.

These pots served a function similar to fine china: they were used during meals and feasts. The general assumption is that pots like these were the crockery of the rich, but there is some debate on this indeed, the upper echelons of society probably used metal vessels, and it has been suggested that black- and red-figure pottery was modelled largely after vessels made from silver. Indeed, the polished, all-black pottery that came in vogue in Athens in the Classical period was almost certainly intended to emulate silver vessels.

The clay (keramos) used for such pots was of a very high quality, relatively fine and pure. The potter threw the clay on the potter’s wheel, where the basic shape would be formed, with thin walls. The Greek potters’ wheel was low to the ground and spun round by an assistant. In comparison, cooking pots and large but simple storage vessels were often shaped by hand (not using the wheel, though there was a great amount of variety), were made from coarse clay, and had thick walls. When the basic shape was modelled, handles and other elements were added. The pot could be polished using a damp cloth to smoothen the surface.

The kind of clay that the Greeks used was secondary clay, i.e. clay that has been transported from its original source by rivers and rain, and deposited. As it is transported, the clay accretes other materials, most notably iron. It is the iron content in the clay that gives Greek pottery its colour. Attic clay contains quite a lot of iron, which explains its rich red colour. Corinthian clay, for example, was more cream-coloured.

In order to ‘paint’ the vase, the Greeks used a very fine clay slip made from the same clay as the pot itself. Ferric oxide is red in colour, but when fired in an environment with little oxygen (i.e. a reducing environment) it turns into ferrous oxide and magnetite, which are black in colour. Attic pottery was fired in three stages: an oxidising phase (during which clay and slip turned red), a reducing phase (that would have turned the clay slip black and hardened it), and finally another oxidising phase to finish the procedure.

The temperature in the kiln never exceeded 950 degree Celsius, which explains the relative ‘softness’ of Greek pottery compared to modern china. Still, this fine tableware was usually fired at a much higher temperature than – generally speaking – everyday cooking wares and the like. You can even hear the difference: if you drop a shard of an Attic red-figure vase on the table, it will ring, whereas a shard from a normal, coarse cooking pot tends to sound dull when you drop it on a hard surface (as a more or less general rule again, there is plenty of variation, and cooking wares were sometimes fired at high temperatures, too!).

The process is simple on the surface, yet requires a great deal of knowledge and experience to pull off successfully. The Antiquities Museum in Leiden, for example, had a couple of Attic red-figure vases on display that were misfires: parts of the pots had turned a uniform, dull grey instead of the stark red/black contrast.

Edit: my thanks to Prof. Vladimir Stissi of the University of Amsterdam, who pointed out a few things that needed to be clarified/nuanced a bit.

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Step by step scratch-off

Our scratch-art project didn’t involve clay, but there were multiple steps that the students needed to follow to get to the finished product. As you can see, the end result of a scratch-off project looks something like black-figure or red-figure glazing processes – techniques used in successive periods in Ancient Greece as artists refined their processes for decorating the urns.

I had drawn a number of different vase shapes, which I projected onto the wall and had the students draw their favorite (or their version of it) with a black marker on a piece of 9”x12” piece of card stock. The students drew in the horizon line, and then colored inside the lines of the urns with several different colors of orange that I gave them. They colored the background with contrasting colors like blue and green.

They had to press super-hard with the crayons to get a smooth, thick layer of color, or the next step wouldn’t work. This took several days of class time! (If they finished coloring before the end of the class, they could continue to work on their drawing of the god or goddess for their vase there was a good amount of sketching time to be prepared for next steps.)

After they were done coloring the first layer, the students painted over the whole page with a mixture of black tempera paint mixed with a few drops of dish soap – I learned about this trick on an art teacher’s online group. (The dish soap makes it easier to scratch off the paint.) This step can be kind of alarming to students – covering up all that color with black paint – but the reveal is worth it.

When the paint dried, we started scratching in the background, the area outside of the outline of the vase. Wooden scratching sticks with a pointed tip work well, of course, to reveal the color underneath the paint. But I couldn’t find these, so we used whatever we could find – you could use toothpicks, a fork, a pencil, anything that is sharp enough to make a mark but won’t tear the paper. (If you use a pencil, be aware that it can show up on the background, so using a colored pencil is a good option.)

On the first day of scratching through the black paint, the students worked on the background: the sky and the ground beneath the amphora. One of my brilliant students realized that you could hold the paper up to a light to see where the vase was located. Then I had them scratch off the border around the amphora, as well as the handles and the lid.

The project looked really good at this point – the colors were really shining through.

Once they knew where the edges were, I had the students draw a square or rectangle on the widest part of the vase. In this space, they reproduced the illustration they had made previously of their god or goddess story.

This step can be a challenge. One of my students was nervous about being able to transfer her sketch, so I helped her with a technique that I will incorporate into the project the next time I do it. I will have the students make their preliminary sketch the same size as it will be on the finished urn they scratch. Then they will use a pencil to cover the back side of the sketch. Then they can place their drawing on to the square or rectangle on their scratch-art page and retrace the lines. The graphite will show up on the black tempera – a shiny guideline to scratch through to transfer their illustration. It worked really well.

After they transferred their illustrations on to the scratch art vase, the students finished the space above and below. They decorated the foot and the neck of the urn with patterns and shapes.

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In these lessons, students will learn about the art of Ancient Greece & Ancient Rome. Plus, get a complete Classical Sculpture lesson with an interactive activity to empower students to figure out the conventions on their own!

Attic Black-Figure Amphora (type B) - 1984.02

Attic Black-Figure Amphora (type B): The Johnson Vase.

Side A: two warriors in combat, a slain warrior between their feet and male attendant figures to either side.

Side B: Herakles attempting to stab the Nemean lion

With graffito on underside.

This represents Herakles' first labour, from which he acquired his characteristic lion skin. Painted amphorae such as this were used especially as wine containers and decanters.

Title: Attic Black-Figure Amphora (type B) - 1984.02

Attribution: Group E.

Culture or period: Archaic Greece.

Date: 530 - 520 BC.

Material: Clay - Terracotta

Object type: Pottery - Black-figure

Acquisition number: 1984.02

Dimensions: 279mm (w) x 402mm (h)

Origin region or location: Greece

Display case or on loan: 3

Keywords: Greek, Attic, Black Figure, Group E, Herakles, Nemean Lion, Athens

Sotheby (London), Sale Cat., 9 July 1984, no. 314 (colour ill.) Collection of Classics 8 (wrongly captioned) A.W. Johnston, Trademarks on Greek Vases. Addenda (Oxford 2006) 60, type 25A no. 8a. Beazley Archive Pottery Database 8244.

Attic Black-Figure Amphora (type B)

Purchased to commemorate Richard StC. Johnson’s term as Professor of Classics, 1962-1984. Ht 40.2cm diam. 27.9cm.

Broken into a small number of fragments and rejoined without significant restoration or repainting except for a triangular area on side A which includes part of Herakles’ chest, his lower right arm and the nose of the lion.

The shape is an amphora of type B of standard form: the handles are of circular section the foot has a curved outer face, flat resting surface, and a concave inner face, offset from the underside of the floor.

A: Two warriors in combat over a fallen warrior, with a cloaked, beardless male onlooker to either side. The combatants wear full armour, with crested Corinthian helmets. The fallen warrior lies prone with his shield lying over him, but although he has helmet and greaves as well as his shield, he does not have a cuirass. Incision is used to indicate the beards of both warriors below the cheek-pieces of their helmets, and the beard of the fallen warrior. Below the scene, a groundline in dilute glaze.

Added red is used for the hair of the two onlookers for broad stripes on their cloaks for the helmets of both warriors and for the crest of the one on the left to decorate the breast and bottom of the latter’s cuirass and for stripes on the skirt of his chitoniskos on the right warrior for the skirt of his chitoniskos, on his greaves, and for the rim of his shield on the fallen warrior’s helmet and on the body of his shield. Added white is used for the front edge of the cloak of both onlookers to outline the crest-supports of the warriors’ helmets for dots on the edge of the right warrior’s chitoniskos and the front edge of that on the left for dots decorating the rim of the fallen warrior’s shield for the left warrior’s bandolier for the shield device (tripod) of the right warrior.

B: Herakles fighting the Nemean lion between two onlookers, the one on the left a female, the one on the right a bearded male. The hero uses his sword to stab the lion in the throat. His scabbard is visible between his body and the lion’s tail. The figure on the right carries Herakles’ club. The woman on the left wears a peplos and has a fillet about her head. Below the scene, a groundline in dilute glaze.

Added red is used for the pupil of the woman’s eye, for her fillet, for the upper part of her peplos and stripes on the skirt for Herakles’ hair and beard for the lion’s mane for the hair and beard of the male on the right. Added white is used for the woman’s flesh and for dots decorating the edge of the overfall of her peplos for Herakles’ baldrick.

There is a palmette and lotus chain between dilute glaze lines above each of the scenes there are red dots on the hearts of some of the palmettes in the centre above the combat scene but not above the Herakles scene. There is a band of black within the lip (the upper face of the lip is reserved). There is no wash inside. At the base of the wall, a zone of rays with lines of dilute glaze above and below. The resting surface of the foot and the whole of the underside are reserved. There is no wash inside the vase. There is a band of red at the upper edge of the lip (now rather worn), three red bands around the neck, a double red band below scenes and again above the rays three further bands on the foot. There is an accidental blob of red on the foot.

See images for graffito on underside: see Johnston, Trademarks on Greek Vases (Warminster 1979) 84 type 25A and 191. The graffiti of this series are predominantly from Group E and doubtless indicate some on-going trading arrangement from this workshop. Johnston, Addenda (see below) suggests correctly that the mark on ours was made before firing this would imply that the vase was part of an order placed in advance by a dealer or trader.

About 530-520 BC. The vase is attributable to the so-called Group E, the cluster of vase-painters in the stylistic circle of Exekias, to whose work they at times come very close. On Group E, see the lists in J.D. Beazley, Attic Black-Figure Vase-Painters (Oxford 1956) 133-138, Paralipomena: Additions to Attic Black-Figure Vase-Painters and to Attic Red-Figure Vase-Painters (Oxford 1971) 54-57, and T.H. Carpenter et al., Beazley Addenda: Additional References to ABV, ARV 2 & Paralipomena (2nd ed., Oxford 1989) 35-39, and, more generally, E.E. Bell, “An Exekian Puzzle in Portland. Further Light on the Relationship between Exekias and Group E”, in: W.G. Moon (ed.), Ancient Greek Art and Iconography (Madison 1983) 75-86. This article is largely concerned with Herakles and the Lion in Group E. Also note E.A. Mackay, “Painters near Exekias”, in: J. Christiansen and T. Melander (eds), Ancient Greek and Related Pottery, Proceedings of the 3rd Symposium, Copenhagen August 31-September 4 1987 (Copenhagen 1988) 369-378, and for the larger picture the same author’s Tradition and Originality: A Study of Exekias (BAR international series 2092, Oxford 2010). Important too is a catalogue accompanying a recent exhibition in Zurich: Chr. Reusser and M. Bürge (eds), Exekias hat mich gemalt und getöpfert (2018). It includes some pieces from Group E as well as giving an up-to-date catalogue raisonné of Exekias’ work.

The absence of a cuirass on the fallen warrior on Side A is in some apparent contradiction with the presence of the rest of his armour. The painter was presumably drawing on a tradition in which the battle was over the armour as well as over the body. (One remembers, for example, that in the Iliad Hector stripped the body of Patroklos of the armour that Achilles had lent him.) For scenes of this kind, see S. Muth, Gewalt im Bild, Das Phänomen der medialen Gewalt im Athen des 6. und 5. Jh. v.Chr. (Berlin 2006), and H. van Wees, Status Warriors. War, Violence and Society in Homer and History (Amsterdam 1992). M. Recke, Gewalt und Leid. Das Bild des Krieges bei den Athenern im 6. und 5. Jh. v.Chr. (Istanbul 2002) 11-20 provides a formal analysis of such scenes on a chronological basis. Important also is D. Saunders, "Mourning Glory? The Depiction of Fallen Warriors in Black-Figure Vase-Painting", in: E. Macauley-Lewis, L. Hau, and E. Bragg (eds), Beyond the Battlefields of the Graeco-Roman World (Newcastle 2008) 161-183. He stresses that the images express élite ideals, presenting death on the battlefield in a positive fashion. For a similar approach, see among others N. Loraux, “Mourir devant Troie, tomber pour Athènes. De la gloire des héros à l'idée de la cité”, Information sur les Sciences Sociales/Social Science Information 17:6, 1978, 801-817.

The addition of the red dots to some of the palmettes over the scene on B may indicate that the painter thought of that scene as the main one. The subject of Herakles and the Lion is much repeated on the amphorae of Group E, with many variants in detail. Compare the amphora in Kassel where there is the same subject (though with some differences in the onlookers) and a more clearly similar warrior scene (R. Lullies, “Eine Amphora aus dem Kreis des Exekias”, Antike Kunst 7, 1964, 82-90 [Beazley, Paralipomena 56, 31 bis]). Somewhat nearer our scene is Toronto 919.5.176, Beazley, Attic Black-Figure Vase-Painters 134, 11, Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum (1) pl. 2.

Herakles quickly discovered that the lion’s skin was impenetrable by normal weapons and our painter was probably attempting to show Herakles’ initial, unsuccessful encounter with the creature. An amphora in the Villa Giulia Museum in Rome has a bent sword below the figures of the hero and the lion as he struggles to strangle it, and one could take it as depicting the stage following that shown on ours (Villa Giulia 50406, Mingazzini, Coll. Castellani i, pl. 65, 1 K. Schefold, Gods and Heroes in Late Archaic Greek Art [Cambridge 1992] 100 fig. 114 Beazley, Attic Black-Figure Vase-Painters 291). In the end, of course, he strangled it and then cleverly used its own claws to take its skin for himself.

Herakles’ encounter with the lion of Nemea was canonically the hero’s first labour. For other scenes involving Herakles in the Museum’s collection, see under the black-figure lekythos 1962.02. There is a very useful overview of scenes of Herakles in combat with the lion in Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae, v (1990) 16-34 (W. Felten) note more recently A.A. Lemos, “Herakles and the Nemean Lion on Rhodes. Two Athenian Black Figure Olpai from Ilyos and Camiros”, Archaiognosia 14, 2006, 151-166. There is also a collection of articles on his combats with animals in C. Bonnet, C. Jourdain-Annequin and V. Pirenne-Delforge (eds), Le Bestiaire d'Héraclès. IIIe Rencontre héracléenne (Kernos Suppl. 7, Liège 1998) and in particular A. Schnapp-Gourbeillon, “Les lions d’Héraclès” at pp. 109-126. There is a well-judged overview of scenes of Herakles and his labours by Schefold in the book mentioned in the previous paragraph. Note also R. Vollkommer, Herakles in the Art of Classical Greece (Oxford 1988) and the splendid and well-illustrated coverage in R. Wünsche (ed.), Herakles Herkules (Munich 2003): the encounter with the lion is dealt with at pp. 68-90.

One takes the man on the right to be Herakles’ normal companion, Iolaos: he is normally shown as young and unbearded, but it is not without parallel at this period for him to be given a beard. The woman is in the position where one might normally expect Athena, but she does not have the attributes of the goddess. ‘Iolaos’ raises his hand in a gesture which can be read as surprise, alarm (at the lion’s failure to die by the sword) or amazement.

Attic Black-figure Amphora - History

-Protogeometric 1000-900 B.C.: pots were decorated with black bands, wavy lines and simple geometric designs, principally concentric circles and half-circles drawn with a compass and multiple brush careful attention was given to the relationship between the decoration and the shape of the pot.

-Geometric 900-700 B.C.: an increasing variety of rectilinear ornaments (meander, “battlements”, triangles, hatching etc.) cover a larger portion of the pot simple figures of animals and human beings - reduced to geometric forms - appear on later examples monumental kraters and amphoras were used as grave markers and decorated with schematic references to funeral ceremonies.

-Orientalizing 700-600 B.C.: the style derives its name from the evidence it provides of Greek contacts with the older civilizations of the Near East well-represented in Corinth, it is characterized by the use of decorative animal and floral forms this period brought early experiments with the incised black-figure technique and with polychrome (multi-colored) decoration in different Greek centers, there were experiments with narrative representations of myths and legends.

1. CORINTHIAN PYXIS with lions and siren, c. 600 B.C. 2. CORINTHIAN ARYBALLOS , c. 600-575 B.C. 3. CORINTHIAN ALABASTRON with griffin, c. 590-570 B.C. (Tampa Museum of Art!)

Black-figure technique was likely developed around 700 B.C. in Corinth, and it may have been inspired by carved ivories and engraved metals imported from the Near East. As the name implies, figures appeared, after the firing of the pot, as black silhouettes against the background of the light red or yellowish clay of the pot. Within the black figures, incised lines revealed the red clay beneath, allowing the artist to trace the inner details of the figure. Other colors - purple, white and yellow - were sometimes added for highlighting. This technique was adopted in other Greek cities, and, by the sixth century B.C., the Athenians surpassed the Corinthians in the production of black-figure pottery. Athenian ware was characterized by its shiny gloss and the brighter orange color of the clay. In the decoration of the pots, Athenian painters placed greater emphasis on human figures and narrative scenes.

For an excellent survey of the different shapes of Greek pottery, check out this frame from the Beazley archive :
The images of the different shapes link to additional illustrations and more complete explanations. The following are some of the most important types:
amphora: a tall, storage jar for oil, wine, olives, dry goods or grain
hydria : large, three-handled jar for carrying water: one handle was used for pouring, two handles for lifting
krater : a large bowl for the mixing of wine and water at the symposium or banquet
kylix: a shallow, circular, two-handled drinking cup - resembling a plate - on a narrow stem
oinochoe: a small pitcher used for pouring wine into the cups


-Dipylon amphora (Athens), grave-marker for a woman, geometric style, mid-8th century B.C. Dipylon krater (Athens), grave-marker for a man, geometric style, mid-8th century B.C.
-Chigi vase, Protocorinthian oinochoe, c. 640 B.C., hoplite warriors, POLYCHROME (many-colored) decoration, possible influence of wall-painting
-fragment of a krater from Argos, mid-7th century B.C., blinding of the CYCLOPS by Odysseus and his men (image no. 1) :
-Protoattic amphora from Eleusis, grave-marker, mid 7th century B.C., blinding of the Cyclops (image no. 2)

1. Argos krater 2. Eleusis amphora 3. Trojan horse
-amphora from Mykonos decorated in relief, mid-7th century B.C., the Trojan horse (image no. 3)
-Orientalizing pottery, examples from Rhodes and Corinth, late 7th century B.C., stags, sphinxes and other animals:

-Francois vase, Attic black-figure krater by Ergotinos (potter) and Kleitias (painter), c. 570 B.C., mythological scenes include stories of Theseus, the Calydonian boar-hunt (the story told by Phoinix in book 9 of the Iliad) and the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, the parents of Achilleus.
-Attic black-figure pottery: examples by the painter, EXEKIAS, include the dice-game of Aias and Achilleus, Aias carrying Achilleus' corpse (image no. 1) from the battlefield, and DIONYSUS on the boat, c. 530 B.C.
-Attic red-figure krater painted by EUPHRONIOS, c. 515 B.C., death of Sarpedon
-Attic red-figure amphora painted by EUTHYMIDES, signed "As never Euphronios", c. 510 B.C., drunken revellers (FOR A DRAWING OF THIS SCENE: CLICK HERE )
-Attic red-figure hydria by the Kleophrades painter, c. 490 B.C., sack of Troy
-Attic red-figure krater by the Pan painter, c. 470 B.C., Artemis slaying Actaeon (image no. 2)
-Attic red-figure krater by the Niobid painter, c. 440 B.C., Herakles (image no. 3) in the underworld, the slaughter of Niobe's children (image no. 4)
-Attic pottery of the fifth century on white ground with polychrome decoration

OTHER TERMS: conceptual representation ( EXAMPLE ), simultaneous narration ( EXAMPLE )


FOOD FOR THOUGHT? Early forms of writing in the ancient Near East (cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphics) were based upon pictures. Do we still use "picture-writing"? Think about the use of pictures as a form of short-hand writing in advertising and public signs, on the internet, or in text messages. Discuss and compare two or three examples of pictographs or visual symbols in today's world. How do they get and convey their meaning? Do they form part of larger systems of symbols or "picture languages"?
Homer describes the scenes on the shield of Achilleus in great detail, and his verbal description provides many details that might not be easily represented or understood in a picture. He reminds us that he is describing an object by mentioning the metals of the shield, but he rarely refers to the location of the scenes on the shield. Can you make a diagram of the layout of the scenes on Achilleus' shield? How would your arrangement help a viewer to understand and interpret the scenes on the shield?

Harvard Art Museums / Fogg Museum | Bush-Reisinger Museum | Arthur M. Sackler Museum

View this object's location on our interactive map Physical Descriptions Medium Terracotta Technique Black-figure Dimensions 41.3 cm h x 31.5 cm diam (16 1/4 x 12 3/8 in.) Provenance David M. Robinson, Baltimore, MD, (by 1958), bequest to Fogg Art Museum, 1960. State, Edition, Standard Reference Number Standard Reference Number Beazley Archive Database #310424 Acquisition and Rights Credit Line Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of David M. Robinson Accession Year 1960 Object Number 1960.312 Division Asian and Mediterranean Art Contact [email protected] The Harvard Art Museums encourage the use of images found on this website for personal, noncommercial use, including educational and scholarly purposes. To request a higher resolution file of this image, please submit an online request. Descriptions Description Group E amphora.

On side A, Herakles wrestles with the Nemean lion between Iolaus and Athena. Herakles stands in the center facing right and strangles the lion, clinching his neck. On the left is Iolaus (Herakles' companion) who moves to the left and looks back over his shoulder. On the right stands Athena, wearing her customary peplos and helmet, and bearing a shield.

On side B, Theseus battles the Minotaur between two maidens. Theseus, the Athenian hero, stands in the center facing right wearing a short garment and ani mal skin. With his left hand he grasps the Minotaur (half man, half bull), stabbing the monster with a short sword. The hero is flanked on either side by two maidens, both wearing floor-length, decorated peploi.

On the shoulder, a cockfight. The neck is decorated with a palmette-lotus chain and tendrils, palmettes, and lotuses appear beneath the handles. Added red and white provide detail including the mens' hair and the womens' skin, respectively.

Both of these scenes were popular during the mid-late sixth century BCE Publication History

J. D. Beazley, Attic Black-figure Vases, The Clarendon Press (Oxford, England, 1956), p. 148

David M. Robinson, Unpublished Greek Vases in the Robinson Collection, American Journal of Archaeology (1956), 60.1, 1-25, p. 7-9, no. 8, pl. 5

Diana M. Buitron, Attic Vase Painting in New England Collections, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1972), p.30, no.11

Thomas Carpenter, Thomas Mannack, and Melanie Mendonca, ed., Beazley addenda : additional references to ABV, ARV² & Paralipomena, Oxford University Press (UK) (Oxford, 1989), p. 62

Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC), Artemis (Zürich, Switzerland, 1999), Vol. 5, Herakles 1807.

The David Moore Robinson Bequest of Classical Art and Antiquities: A Special Exhibition, Fogg Art Museum, 05/01/1961 - 09/20/1961

Attic Vase Painting in New England Collections, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 03/01/1972 - 04/05/1972

Re-View: S422 Ancient & Byzantine Art & Numismatics, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 04/12/2008 - 06/18/2011

32Q: 3400 Greek, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at [email protected]

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Attic Black-figure Amphora - History

The Orientalizing style in ATHENS is called Protoattic. In Attica, the 7th century was a period of experimentation in painting as the Geometric style was replaced. Various technical experiments were undertaken, including a mixing of outline technique and black figure Technique on the same vase.

Protoattic Amphora
the "Analatos" amphora
c. 700-675 BCE
Height: 2 feet 7 1/2 inches
(Musée du Louvre, Paris)

The Analatos Painter was one of the main proponents of the shift from the Geometric aesthetic to that of the Orientalizing Period. Within a rigorous framework, his use of line drawing brings the human figures to life. This long-necked amphora (also called a loutrophoros) is decorated in superposed registers in which appear sphinxes, dancers, and chariots drawn in silhouette or in line, with various curvilinear and vegetal motifs between.

Protoattic Amphora
the "Eleusis" amphora
c. 650 BCE
Height: 4 feet 9 inches
(Archaeological Museum, Eleusis)

This large Dipylon-like vase has figure decoration on one side (the reverse side is decorated with a design of intertwined plants). On the body, in a panel over 20" inches high, is told the story of Perseus. Medusa is shown headless under one of the handles while her sister Gorgons advance to the right, to be stopped by Athena as Perseus flees with Medusa's head (the last two figures are badly preserved). The Gorgons, their outlines partially filled with white, are not the standard Gorgon type known from elsewhere. On the shoulder, is a scene of animal combat, with the head of a lion in outline and its body in black figure, attacking a boar. On the neck, in a panel about 15" high, is depicted the Blinding of Polyphemos. Odysseus alone is painted in the same technique as the Gorgons below (singles him out as the hero). The other figures, Odysseus's companions, are described in a combination of silhouette and outline, with a few details (toes, fingers, beard) incised. Together the human figures are shown driving the stake into the single eye of the cyclops, Polyphemos. Odysseus's right leg is fully extended, his left knee is braced against Polyphemos's knee, and he throws all his weight behind the thrust. Polyphemus appears to howl in agony as he vainly attempts to pull out the stake with one hand, his other hand still holding the wine cup. The painting catches all the violence and dynamic of the Homer's account.

Late Protoattic / Early black-figure Amphora
the "Nessos" amphora
c. 625-600 BCE
Height: 4 feet
(National Archaeological Museum, Athens)

Watch the video: Attic Black-Figure: Exekias, amphora with Ajax and Achilles playing a game (January 2022).