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Black Figure Pottery

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chloe collier

on 13 November 2014

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Transcript of Black Figure Pottery

What is Typical of Black Figure Pottery?
The Technique
Amphora by Exekias, Achilles and Ajax engaged in a board game, c.540-530 BC, Vatican Museums, Vatican City.
Scenes of the Attic Black Figure Pottery
Francois Vase
Timeline of Black-Figure Pottery Research
19th century
- Scholarly research truly starts

- Eduard Gerhard is able to identify 31 different artists

- Gustav Kramer proves that vases found in Etruscian tombs are in fact Greek in origin in his article

- John D. Beazley begins his work

Black Figure Pottery
Corryn Bamber, Chloé Collier, Nikki Nbx, Kaoru Yui
Features of Attic Clay
Found near the city of Athens (Amarousi)
Secondary clay
Iron is presented as an impurity
Accounts for the rich reddish-brown colour
Unusual plastic properties

Black Glaze
The Handling of the Clay
Purification of the clay
-Remove foreign materials

1: Mixing water with the clay
2: Letting the mixture stand in a large settling basin
3: Leave heavy impurities to fall to the bottom
4: The upper layer of clay and water is pumped or bailed into an adjoining settling basin
(1~4 repeated until the desired quality is obtained)

Forming the vases
-Produced on the potter’s wheel

Vase Shapes

One of the most common uses for attic vases
The storage of wine, olive oil, honey and water
A vase with two sturdy handles
Two predominant types
one with neck and body forming a continuous curve
the other with neck set off from the body by a definite change in contour

Shapes of Vases

Used for dilution of wine
4 types of kraters : identified by their contour and the positions of their handles
: body and shoulder were usually formed in one piece
: identified by the handles, body and shoulder were thrown in one piece, the neck and lips are separated, the foot is also separated

The Decoration Process
Decorating the vases
Apply an ochre wash
Burnish the ochre with an agate pebble
Polish the surface
Apply black glaze with a brush
Make trial sketches
Outline the figures in black glaze with a fine brush
Paint with black glaze
Apply added red
Apply added white
Make incision with a sharp point

The Tools
Pointed instrument

The Firing Process
Fired by wood or twigs
An air hole
Firing cycle
1. Apply heat to the kiln under the oxidizing condition
2. When the temperature reaches 800℃, the atmospheric condition changed to that of a reducing atmosphere
3. The temperature decreases slowly, and the atmosphere changes to oxidizing again

The Kiln Process
Turns into a deep warm orange colour when fired
Comes from a highly purified normal clay which turns black in the kiln
The same iron oxides of clay which are used to form the vase
Three-step firing process (known as early as the Middle Helladic Period)
Chemical reaction

= levigation
John D. Beazley
François Vase
Found in 1844 in Etruscan Tomb near Chiusi, Italy

Named after its discoverer Alessandro François

Fragments were found scattered among 12 rooms (1/3 of them missing)

In 1900 it was smashed into 638 pieces

Second reconstruction in 1902, third in 1978
More Shapes
Departing warriors shown on a belly amphora by the Affecter, c. 540/530 BC, now in the Louvre, Paris
Heracles and Geryon on an Attic black-figured amphora with a thick layer of transparent gloss, c. 540 BC, now in the Munich State Collection of Antiquities.
The Amphora
Amphora by Exekias, Achilles and Ajax engaged in a board game, c.540-530 BC, Vatican Museums, Vatican City.
The Krater
Scene from a black-figure amphora from Athens, 6th century BC, now in the Louvre, Paris
Final Remarks
Detail of Francois Vase
Front and back view of Francois Vase
Scenes of Reality
Narrative scenes involving human figures
White paint for women’s flesh, almond eyes and red pupils
Male flesh is plain black
Red and white used for pattern or shading
Size indicated age, young had similar proportions to adults but were beardless
Expressions conveyed through staring eyes and gapped mouths
Figures are gestural, used to convey the narrative scene

General Decoration
Scenes of Reality
Raised hand, palm out
“Valediction of male mourners” – saying goodbye to the dead
Hand to forehead
Show grief, figure in disappointment
Hand to chin
Prayer in the threat of death
Communication between lovers
Woman holding cloak before the face
Modesty or embarrassment
Possible ritual meaning
Amarousi (Marousi)
Scenes of Myth
Inscriptions name figures, placed near them
Artist signatures are common on Athenian black figure pottery
Some inscriptions include the cry of a mourner
Speech bubbles form comics
Lettering done in black and spelling is often flourished
Example from the François Vase:
Fill friezes with no narrative or decorate the neck of the vase
The lotus flower is a common choice as well as other vegetative patterns, palmette designs and laurels
Designs are non-realistic

Noble, Joseph Veach.
The Techniques of Painted Attic Pottery
. London:
Faber & Faber, 1966.
The production of black figure vases allowed Athens to flourish economically

The blacken quality is due to a chemical reaction

These vases represent one of the most important sources of mythology and iconography, and sometimes also for researching day-to-day ancient Greek life

Animals of pasture, such as horses
Animals of the hunt such as boars
Animals to represent the gods (Owl = Athena)
Animals can be protagonists in the narrative, like fierce hunting dogs or war horses
The Gods
Olympian deities shown as a support to heroes
Towns had individual patron deities shown on religious vases
Common Gods include:
Zeus, shown as a black figure dressed but also often naked, representing power as the head of the Gods of Olympia. He usually holds a lightning bolt (see below)
Apollo, usually beardless, dressed and holding a bow, laurel branch or another weapon
Hermes, bearded and dressed for travel as he was the messenger God including winged sun hat and/or shoes
Artemis, “mistress of animals” often depicted with wings surrounded by beasts

Most popular mythological being in Attic Black Figure pottery
Patroness was Athena who was the city goddess regularly shown with him, making pottery relate to many communities
Bearded figure in lion skin, paws over chest and head as a hat
Often naked and never wearing a helmet
Weapons of choice include the club, bow or sword
Athena often by his side in encouragement
found in many scenes where the context is not recorded in literature, sometimes it seems like he does not belong in the narrative
BCE Black figure techniques developed in Corinth

- 625 BCE Transitional period/style between Orientalizing period and Black-figure.
Moving from Animal Friezes to Narrative styles

 BCE Black-figure pottery dominant style in Corinth.

The Greek world of the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. consisted of numerous autonomous city-states

Competition/Economics between city-states was a source of positive pressure on the arts.

Prominent artistic centers of mainland Greece: Sparta, Corinth, and Athens—show significant regional variation in their respective arts.

Period of flourishing art and creativity in the arts.

Transition from the Orientalizing period to Black-figure style.
The Birth of Black Figure Pottery
7th Century BCE: Political and Commercial power of ancient Greece.

Ruled by the tyrant Cypselus

Became the pottery export center of the Mediterranean.

Corinthian potters invented a new technique of “painting” the vases which became known as “Black-Figure pottery” which became a widely-sought commodity.

Due to high demand in the markets, Corinth increased production.

This mass production led to a degradation in quality and an opportunity was created for a competitor to enter the markets with a better product.
Flourishing creatively and artistically [600 BC]

The potters and painters of Athens soon caught up and mastered the Corinthian techniques as well as developed their own style.

Athenian clay: Clay beds with superior-quality clay. Developed a complex and unique method of firing which caused the clay to turn an attractive orange-red.

The attic (Athenian) black-figure pottery dominated the markets and was exported to all major hubs in the Mediterranean, notable popular with the Etruscans.
Every mythical creature is labelled
Most animals are labelled
Some objects of furniture are labelled
Signature of the maker and artist is inscribed twice:

“Ergotimos made me; Kleitias painted me”
Other Gods and Heroes
Slaying of the minotaur, a monster with human body and bulls head
Shown beardless attacking the beast with a sword
Decapitated the Gorgon Medusa and chased by her sisters a portrayed in black figure pottery due to the decorative nature of running Gorgons
Dressed for running and holding a sword of sickle carrying her head in a bag around his neck

Theseus on the Francois Vase - ship picking up young girls and boys after being rescued by Theseus
Perseus pursued by one of Medusa's sisters
Cambridge University Press. 1964
Beazley, John. The Development of Attic Black-Figure. London:

Scene from a black-figure amphora from Athens, 6th century BC, the Louvre, Paris
46.5 The Wedding of Pleus and Thetis above and Achilles Chases Troilos below
Timeline Continued
600 - 480 BCE Attic black-figure pottery dominates the ceramic market.
The first depictions on black-figure pottery of Hercules fighting the centaur Nessos.
BCE First signed black-figure pottery by Sophilos.

BCE The Francois Vase is produced in Attica by Ergotimos (potter) and Kleitias (painter).

BCE Exekias, arguably the greatest black-figure pottery painter is active.

 BCE Red-figure pottery style takes over black-figure as the dominant style.
Monsters and other Mythical Beings
Most common are the siren and sphinx
Griffins, centaurs, satyrs and other half-breed immortals
Satyrs are like centaurs but with a human body and just ears and tail of a horse, also snub nosed
Amazons, often fought by Herakles
Amazons, notice the skin colour
Winged Figures
Winged women are often called Harpies with a few exceptions. Winged Gods and Goddesses include:
Smaller figures with wings may represent the release of a soul
Volute-krater c. 570-565 BCE Discovered by Alessandro François in Italy 1845
Marine life shows dolphin most often, jumping across frieze
Animals can be used as decoration or filler, such as birds filling the sky or dogs accompanying horsemen
Animals also seen on their own - lions attacking stags or boar or other lower animals in a frieze
Dedicated life's work to scientific research on Attic vase painting

Studied over 65 000 fragments (20 000 of them black figure fragments)
Classified 17 000 of these fragments into groups of painters or workshops, relationships and stylistic affinity

Identified over 15 000 potters and painters
Chiusi Italy
Carpenter, T. H.
Art and Myth in Ancient Greece
. New York: World of

Art. 1991.
Boardman, John. Athenian Black Figure Vases. London: Thames and
Hudson. 1974.
46.3 Calydonian Boar Hunt above and Funeral Games of Patroklos Below
46.4 Athenian's boat retrieves Theseus
Here we see Medusa as described earlier
Death of Achilles is not shown in Black Figure but popular is the scene of Ajax carrying his body after the fact
Story from the Iliad
Walls of Troy on either side of the register shown here
Pygmies are Africans, depicted here as very small men
ride goats and carry sling and curved sticks to beat off cranes
here they are fighting the cranes, which typically go for their eyes
Athletes are usually naked, with trainers near ready to correct
Two classes of sporting scenes:
Genre scenes,
depicting pairs of boxers, wrestlers, chariot racers, jumping or racing men
these scenes have no specific association with an event
Events depicted in reference to the games at Athens
foot, horse and chariot races as well as boxer scenes
Weapons and Protection:
most commonly depicted in black figure is a spear or sword
shields are round with a grip on the back for carrying
helmets vary from a small cap to a metal helmet, never shown covering the face of the subject
chest protection includes full metal bell corsets covering front and back with anatomical flourishes
thigh guards and shin plates also seen in black figure
Combat scenes are usually heroic scenes but without inscriptions it is hard to tell
victory is depicted from left to right the dead lying on the ground facing their friends
Dates from 7th to 5th century

The reddish clay

The black silhouettes

Dionysos, god of wine, procession escorting drunken Hephaistos back to Olympus, who is bearded, fully dressed and shown with a twisted foot
Gods attending: Hera pinned to throne waiting to be released by Hephaistos, Zeus on his throne, Ares as an outsider
Zeus cast Hesphaistos out of Olympus because he was planning to trap Hera
Gods gather like this in a sort of Olympian council
Scenes featuring everyday and religious life
Boar brought down by dog and hunter
Peleus and Meleager face hte boar with other commonly depicted hunters on the outskirts of the scene
Theseus leads boat saving young girls and boys
Funeral games include chariot races
Griffins are mythical creatures with a lions body and an eagles wings and head, someimes even their talons.
The scientific research was pioneered by John Beazley
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