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The wedding of Thetis, pyxis by the Wedding Painter, circa 470/460 BC

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1 The wedding of Thetis, pyxis by the Wedding Painter, circa 470/460 BC
The wedding of Thetis, pyxis by the Wedding Painter, circa 470/460 BC. Paris: Louvre

2 Bell-krater (bowl for mixing wine and water) , ca. 440 b. c
Bell-krater (bowl for mixing wine and water) , ca. 440 b.c.; Red-figure Attributed to the Persephone Painter Greek, Attic Terracotta

3 Bell-krater (bowl for mixing wine and water) , ca. 440 b. c
Bell-krater (bowl for mixing wine and water) , ca. 440 b.c.; Red-figure Attributed to the Persephone Painter Greek, Attic Terracotta This vessel, known as a bell-krater, was used for mixing wine and water at the Greek symposium. The scene on the obverse of this bell-krater depicts the return of Persephone to her mother, the goddess Demeter. At the left, Persephone steps up from Hades through a cleft in the ground, as Hermes, messenger of the gods, stands back. The goddess Hekate, "daughter of dark-bosomed night" according to Bacchylides, a Greek poet of the fifth century B.C., occupies the center of the vase holding two flaming torches with which she illuminates Persephone's nighttime journey from the Underworld. Lastly, at the far right stands Demeter. The importance of the nocturnal setting of the scene is underscored by the prominent size of the torches held by Hekate, and emphasized by her central position within the composition. The scene illustrates one episode from the myth of Persephone's abduction by Hades recounted in the sixth-century B.C. Homeric Hymn to Demeter. From the hymn we learn that Persephone is to spend one-third of the year with her husband in the realm of the dead, and two-thirds of it on earth with Demeter, the goddess who gave the gift of grain to mankind, and who is responsible for the growth of crops. This krater shows Persephone in the midst of her ascent, her return, heralding the arrival of spring and the beginning of growing season. Despite the positive allegorical significance of Persephone's return for ancient Greeks, it was not a well-developed theme in ancient literature. The vivid pictorial conception of this episode, including the deliberate reference to time on this bell-krater, it seems is a strictly visual convention. The root of this iconographical tradition may lie in the fact that the arrival of spring was viewed as an annual, ritual event, and such events were celebrated at night. A clearly defined time therefore was an essential element of the pictorial typology of Persephone's return. Such a detail would have reflected actual cult practice, which would have added a level of tangible realism to the scene for the ancient viewer. Persephone is seen emerging out of the earth wearing a himation over her pleated linen chiton. Demeter also wears a chiton of crinkled fabric beneath a long himation. With his traveling staff in hand, Hermes dons his characteristic broad-rimmed traveling hat (petasos) and short cloak (chlamys). Hekate, dressed in an open-sided peplos, guides the way with lighted torches. Women and men in ancient Greece wore the chiton, peplos, and himation in various configurations. With belting, girding, and different methods of draping, they were able to transform the essentially simple construction and configuration of these garments. Many of these variations became codified, and persisted as preferred styles for centuries.

4 Column-krater (bowl for mixing wine and water), Classical, ca. 430 b.c., red-figure Attributed to the Marlay Painter (Attic vase painter, active ca. 450-ca. 420 b.c.) Greek, Attic Terracotta

5 Lekythos, ca. 480 b.c.; red-figure Attributed to the Brygos Painter Greek, Attic Terracotta
A solitary figure decorates the elongated body of this small red-figure lekythos, a flask for oil and perfume distinguished by its narrow aperture. Although the single female figure may be considered an excerpt from a symposium scene, it is perfectly satisfactory in itself—partly because it is so masterfully composed. A young woman plays the aulos, a double-reed wind instrument. She wears an Ionic chiton, himation, shoes, a sakkos (scarf), disk earrings, and a spiral bracelet. Behind her hangs a case made of spotted skin and the receptacle for the instrument's mouthpiece. In front of her is a chair with a fringed cushion. The aulos, commonly mistaken as a flute, was more akin to the oboe or clarinet, as the reed mouthpiece was inserted into a cylindrical pipe. The instrument was constructed of two such pipes, made of reed, wood, bone, or ivory, that were played simultaneously. Each pipe had a range of six possible notes. However, since each pipe had its own mouthpiece, a musician could extend the musical range by playing the pipes separately.

6 Lekythos (oil flask) with a maenad


8 Attic Red-Figure Skyphos
This skyphos, signed by the potter Hieron and attributed to Macron by J.D. Beazley, is an example of the collaboration between the potter and the painter during the early part of the fifth century BC. Both sides illustrate episodes from the Trojan War: the abduction of Briseis, Achilles' slave, by Agamemnon, and the embassy to Achilles, who is angry and does not wish to resume fighting. The scenes are separated beneath the handles by a tree on one side and a stool on the other.

9 There are two main styles in Greek vase painting – black figure and red figure. Mostly before about 530 BC people painted in black figure, and after that time people gradually began to paint in red figure. Black figure is called that because the people (the figures) are black, and the background is red. In red figure, on the other hand, the people are red, and the background is black. Black figure is done all with one type of clay. The clay found near Athens, Greecehas a lot of iron in it, so it looks black when it is wet. But if you fire it in an oven where there is plenty of air getting in, the clay rusts, and turns red. This is because the iron mixes with the oxygen in the air. If you fire it in an oven with no air getting in, the iron can't mix with oxygen, and the pot stays black. So you can have either red or black pots. So how do you get a picture? You make a pot the regular way, and let it dry a little ("leather-dry"). Then you mix a little of the wet clay with a lot of water, to make a kind of paint (called the slip), which you use to make the black part of the picture. (You can't see it now, because it is all the same color). And you let the whole thing dry. When your pot is dry, you fire it in a kiln. First you give it a lot of air, so the whole pot turns red, slip and all. Then you shut off the air supply, but just for a little while right at the end of the firing. When the air runs out, the fire sucks oxygen right out of the clay of the pot. But the places where there is slip, the slip is thinner and easier to suck air out of. So the slip turns black (the color of iron with no oxygen in it) faster than the rest of the pot (which is red, the color of iron with oxygen in it). At first the Greek potters didn't know much about drawing people, and their people look a little funny. Later they got better at it. They began to care more about drawing the muscles and the eyes right. They were especially careful about arranging the people in the picture in a pleasing way. Black figure vase painting lasted until about 525BC. Around 530BC, Athenian potters were more and more frustrated by the black-figure way of vase-painting. They wanted to paint figures that overlapped, for instance, which was very difficult to do in black figure without the whole thing looking like just a big black blob. And they wanted to be able to show the muscles better too. So somebody had an idea: instead of painting the people black, why not paint the background black and leave the people red? This is harder because you have to carefully paint all around the people in the picture, but it makes the people look much more real. The slip and the firing are exactly the same as in black figure. Some of the greatest vases are in red figure. But by around 450 BC, just eighty years after the invention of red-figure painting, hardly any vases were still being produced. We don't really know why this happened. Maybe it just went out of style. Some people think that the Athenians became so rich that they all used metal (bronze or silver) dishes instead of pottery. Maybe the Athenians were rich enough that they didn't need to sell their pottery to other people. Also, the Etruscans, who had bought a lot of this pottery, were no longer doing very well by 450BC, and maybe they couldn't afford to buy Athenian pottery anymore.

10 Red-figure pottery Red-figure vase painting is one of the most important styles of figural Greek vase painting. It developed in Athens around 530 BC and remained in use until the late 3rd century BC. It replaced the previously dominant style of Black-figure vase painting within a few decades. Its modern name is based on the figural depictions in red colour on a black background, in contrast to the preceding black-figure style with black figures on a red background. The most important areas of production, apart from Attica, were in Southern Italy. The style was also adopted in other parts of Greece. Etruria became an important centre of production outside the Greek World. Attic red-figure vases were exported throughout Greece and beyond. For a long time, they dominated the market for fine ceramics. Only few centres of pottery production could compete with Athens in terms of innovativeness, quality and production capacity. Of the red figure vases produced in Athens alone, more than 40,000 specimens and fragments survive today. From the second most important production centre, Southern Italy, more than 20,000 vases and fragments are preserved. Starting with the studies by John D. Beazley and Arthur Dale Trendall, the study of this style of art has made enormous progress. Some vases can be ascribed to individual artists or schools. The images provide irreplaceable evidence for the exploration of Greek cultural history, everyday life, iconography, and mythology.

11 Technique Red figure is, put simply, the reverse of the black figure technique. The paintings were applied to the shaped but unfired vessels after they had dried to a leathery, near-brittle texture. In Attica, the normal unburnt clay was of orange colour at this stage. The outlines of the intended figures were drawn either with a blunt scraper, leaving a slight groove, or with charcoal, which would disappear entirely during firing. Then, the contours were redrawn with a brush, using a glossy clay slip. Occasionally, the painter decided to somewhat change the figural scene. In such cases, the grooves from the original sketch sometimes remain visible. Important contours were often drawn with a thicker slip, leading to a slightly protruding outline (relief line); less important lines and internal details were drawn with diluted glossy clay. Detail in other colours, like white or red, were applied at this point. The relief line was probably drawn with a bristle brush or a hair, dipped in thick paint. The suggestion of a hollow needle seems somewhat unlikely[1]. The application of relief outlines was necessary, as the rather liquid glossy clay would otherwise have turned out too dull. After the technique's initial phase of development, both alternatives were used, so as to differentiate gradations and details more clearly. The space between figures was filled with a glossy grey clay slip. Then, the vases underwent triple-phase firing, during which the glossy clay reached its characteristic black or black-brown colour through reduction, the reddish color by a final re-oxidation.[2] Since this final oxidizing phase was fired using lower temperatures, the glazed parts of the vase did not re-oxidized from black to red: their finer surface was melted (sintered) in the reducing phase, and now protected from oxygen.

12 Red-figure scene on the Belly Amphora by the Andokides Painter (Munich 2301). Munich: Staatliche Antikensammlungen The new technique had the primary advantage of permitting a far better execution of internal detail. In black-figure vase painting, such details had to be scratched into the painted surfaces, which was always less accurate than the direct application of detail with a brush. Red-figure depictions were generally more lively and realistic than the black-figure silhouettes. They were also more clearly contrasted against the black backgrounds. It was now possible to depict humans not only in profile, but also in frontal, rear, or three-quarter perspectives. The red-figure technique also permitted the indication of a third dimension on the figures. However, it also had disadvantages. For example, the distinction of sex by using black slip for male skin and white paint for female skin was now impossible. The ongoing trend to depict heroes and deities naked and of youthful age also made it harder to distinguish the sexes through garments or hairstyles. In the initial phases, there were also miscalculations regarding the thickness of human figures. In black-figure vase painting, the pre-drawn outlines were a part of the figure. In red-figure vases, the outline would, after firing, form part of the black background. This led to vases with very thin figures early on. A further problem was that the black background did not permit the depiction of space with any depth, so that the use of spatial perspective almost never was attempted. Nonetheless, the advantages outnumbered the disadvantages. The depiction of muscles and other anatomical detail clearly illustrates the development of the style.[3]

13 Shapes Greek vases are referred to by name according to shape
Shapes Greek vases are referred to by name according to shape. A useful illustrated index to these would be Richter and Milne, Shapes but this is sadly out of print. However most general studies treat this aspect of vases as fundamental, and a pictorial chart of Greek vase-shapes is easy to come by, e.g. Cook, British Museum, ; Vickers, Vases, opp.p.viii . It is natural to slip unconsciously into the habit of using these names but it may be worth emphasising that they are archaeological terms often reflecting modern convention, rather than ancient usage. The Greeks themselves have supplied us with a baffling diversity of names for which it is usually not possible to find a corresponding shape (Richter and Milne, Shapes, xiii; Sparkes and Talcott, Agora 3-9; Johnston, Trademarks, 32-6). Function Our use of the term 'vase' is itself inappropriate and belies the original purpose of these vessels. In most cases it must be assumed that they were not ornamental, nor were they meant for putting flowers into! Many were storage containers for perfume, olive oil, wine or water; others were for drinking out of. The paraphernalia of the symposium (Vickers, Symposia) accounted for a number of shapes, e.g. kylix (drinking-cup), oinochoe (wine-jug), krater (mixing-bowl), psykter (wine-cooler), Others had more specialised functions: Panathenaic prize - amphorae were made especially to hold the prize-oil awarded at the Panathenaic games (Beazley, Development, 88ff.). A particularly interesting range of vessels was associated with the marriage ritual: e.g. loutrophoros (bath-fetcher), lebes gamikos (Marriage-bowl). The list of uses is far from exhausted. Richter and Milne, Shapes is again the best reference here, if you can get it. In addition Sparkes and Talcott, Pots and Pans is a lively picture booklet, which is ideal for putting into the hands of the pupil. Potting and Painting The indispensable handbook to the study of the technique of Attic pottery is Noble, Techniques. The author gives a full account of the technical process involved in the production of Athenian painted pottery from start to finish. In addition, although in French, I have no hesitation in recommending T. Hackens (ed.), Bon Usage, an easy to follow picture book - with explanatory captions - of the making and painting of a Greek vase. The text will need translating but there is not a great deal of it. Potter and Painter The study of Greek vases from the point of view of the craftsmen who produced them has been hampered by a lack of documentary evidence. The identity of some is revealed in the inscriptions they left on their own productions. Occasionally from these we can deduce a special association between a particular potter and a painter; sometimes as in the case of Exekias they are one and the same. For the most part, however, we know pitifully little about the men whose works we have come to admire. What can be said is surveyed in Beazley's lively essay, Potter and Painter. On the problems of signatures see in addition R. M. Cook, JHS 91 (1971), 137-8; answered by Robertson JHS 1972 (92), Subject matter This is perhaps the most rewarding and enjoyable of all the approaches listed here. The subject matter of Greek vases may be divided broadly into scenes relating to mythology and scenes of daily life. The practice adopted in the 'A' level syllabus would seem to be most sensible, namely that candidates should concentrate on a topic chosen from a selection offered for their particular year. The range of possible subjects is as extensive as it is exciting: on the mythological side there are, for example, the adventures of Herakles or Theseus, or one might choose a theme from the Trojan cycle. As for subjects drawn from daily life, these might include the symposium, women, music or athletics. The teachers' notes in the British Museum Greek and Roman Daily Life Studies series should prove useful here, and also the JACT monographs. These and other relevant literature are listed below. Where to see Greek vases The British Museum has, of course, the largest and finest collection of Greek vases in this country and the Education Service at the Museum frequently offers sessions to teachers and students on the subject. The other major museums with good displays of vases are the Ashmolean, Oxford and the Fitzwilliam, Cambridge. Some other provincial museums have good collections of vases, e.g. The Manchester Museum, Manchester City Art Gallery, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Lincoln Museum and Castle Museum, Norwich. In addition a few of the universities have museums housing Greek vases, notably Reading, Newcastle and Durham. Bibliography This is by no means intended as a comprehensive reading list, but it mentions publications which have either been referred to above, or 'which may prove particularly useful for teaching the approaches I have outlined. J. D. Beazley, Potter and Painter in Ancient Athens in Proceedings of the British Academy XXX year? A. Birchall and P. E. Corbett, Greek Gods and Heroes (London 1974). B. F. Cook, Greek and Roman Art in the British Museum (London 1976). R. M. Cook, Vase Painting (Open University A 292 B 1979). G. Etienne and J.Etienne-Germeau, Documents Pedaqogiques - Scenes de la vie quotidienne a Athenes (Ministere de l'Education Nationale et de la Culture Francaise, Boulevard de Berlaimont 26, 1000 Bruxelles). 48 excellent plates illustrating daily life. Notes in French but worth it just for the pictures. T. Hackens (ed.), Du Bon Usage du Vase Grec, Musee Louvain-la-Neuve [1980), Universite Catholique de Louvain-College Evasme B 1348, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium). J. Henle, Greek Myths: a vase painter's notebook (London 1973). To be used with caution, see review by B. A. Sparkes, JHS 95 (1975), I. D. Jenkins, An Athenian Childhood (JACT monograph). I. D. Jenkins and Sue Bird, Greek and Roman Daily life Studies: Athletics and Society Spinning and Weaving in Ancient Greece Greek Dress Greek Music Illustrated Teachers Notes available free on request from the British Museum Education Service. A. W. Johnston, Trademarks on Greek Vases (Warminster 1979). A. Lane, Greek Pottery (London 1948). J. V. Noble, The Techniques of Painted Attic Pottery (London 1966). G. M. A. Richter and M. J. Milne, Shape and Names of Athenian Vases (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 1935). B. Sparkes and L. Talcott, The Athenian Agora Vol.XII, Parts 1 and 2. Black and Plain Pottery (Princeton New Jersey 1958). Pots and Pans of Classical Athens, American School of Classical Studies Excavations of the Athenian Agora, Picture Book No.1 (Princeton, New Jersey 1958). M. Vickers, Greek Vases (Ashmolean Museum 1978). Greek Symposia (JACT monograph). D. Williams, Women on Athenian Vases in Averil Cameron and Amelie Kuhrt (eds.) Images of Woman in Antiquity (Croom Helm).

14 Vases used for storing and transporting wine and foodstuffs
Greek Vase Shapes Scholars today classify ancient Greek vases by shape, of which there are about 100 different types, many with several sub-types. Here are some examples of the major types arranged by predominant (but not exclusive) function. Vases used for storing and transporting wine and foodstuffs Amphora The amphora was a two-handled vase used for storage and transport. Stamnos is probably another name for a large amphora.

15 Vases used for mixing and cooling wine
Krater The word krater means "mixing-bowl," and the vase was used for mixing wine with water. (The Greeks did not drink their wine "neat".) Psykter The word psykter means "cooler," and it was used for cooling wine: the psykter was placed in a krater which had been filled with cooled water, and the cooling liquid would surround the psykter and cool the wine.

16 Vases used for drinking or pouring (wine or water)
Kantharos This type of drinking-cup is often seen held by Dionysus in representations on vases. Kylix This drinking-cup is sometimes called the "symposium-vase," since it appears often in vase-representations of symposia Oinochoe This vase is a kind of ladle or small pitcher used for pouring wine from the krater into a drinking-cup. The word oinochoe means "wine-pourer."

17 Vases used for drawing water
Lebes Gamikos This vase-type has three pieces: a bowl with handles, a lid (not shown here), and a stand. The term means "marriage bowl," and the vase was used for the same purpose as the loutrophoros in wedding rituals--to bring water for the bridal bath. Many of these vases are decorated with scenes depicting wedding preparations/wedding processions Hydria The name of this three-handled vase is derived from the Greek word for water. Hydriai were used for drawing water, as ballot-boxes, and also as urns to hold the ashes of the dead. They are commonly seen in vase-representations of women drawing water at the fountain-house. Loutrophoros The name of this vase means "carrier of washing-water", and the vase was used only in ritual contexts: at weddings, to carry the water for the bridal bath; in funerals, to carry the water for washing the corpse of unmarried persons and to mark their graves. Vases of this shape are commonly decorated with scenes of mourners or wedding processions

18 Vases used for cosmetics
Lekythos This vase was a flask used for toilet oils, perfume, or condiments, and also appears in funerary contexts, where it was used to pour libations for the dead or was left on the grave as an offering. Pyxis This vase was a round box with a cover used to hold cosmetics.

19 Vases used for athletics
Aryballos This vase was a small flask with a narrow neck used to hold and pour oil; it is often shown in Attic vase painting as being suspended from the wrist of an athlete, or looped by a string and hung on the wall.   Alabastron This vase was an elongated flask with a narrow neck used to contain oil. Like the aryballos, it was sometimes suspended from an athlete's wrist or from a peg on the wall.

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