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Attic Vases
compiled by John Porter, University of Saskatchewan

Notice: This text is the copyrighted property of the author and should not be reproduced without the author's permission.

The images provided here are offered via links to the Perseus WWW site.
Unless otherwise indicated, links to background material and definitions are also to the Perseus WWW site.


In addition to the Perseus WWW site, one of the most valuable tools on the WWW is the Beazley Archive at Oxford University. This is an excellent general resource for the study of classical art, but its main strength is its immense database of Greek painted pottery.

This site also offers a much more authoritative introduction to Greek painted pottery than the one presented below.

See as well the video, "Making Greek Vases," on the Getty Museum WWW site.

Other useful sites of interest:

The 8th-7th centuries B.C. see the initial flourishing of the Greek city-states, which is attended by the introduction of coinage and an increase in trade, both between the different city-states and abroad. The opportunity for trade led to a thriving pottery market. Although Corinthian pottery dominates this market at first, in the course of the sixth century Attic pottery comes to the fore: after c. 550, relatively little significant Greek pottery is produced outside of Attica.

Example of Corinthian Ware
on the Perseus WWW site

As a result, the vases shown in class will for the most part be of Athenian origin and belong to one of three types:

The Black Figure technique was originally developed in Corinth. It first appears on Athenian pottery c. 630 B.C. and dominates Athenian vase painting until near the end of the 6th century. It disappears, to all intents and purposes, after 470 B.C.; after that date it is used almost solely for the ornamental amphorae awarded to victors at the Athenian Panathenaia. As the name implies, Black Figure vases portray their figures via a black glaze, using the reddish fabric of the vase (often enhanced via a light "wash") as a background. Other colors (especially red and white) may be added as well.

Example of Attic Black Figure
on the Perseus WWW site

The Red Figure technique first comes into use c. 530 B.C. and soon (c. 500) becomes the dominant type, leading, c. 470 B.C., to the virtual disappearance of Black Figure. The Red Figure technique reverses the procedure of Black Figure: images are traced in outline and the background filled in with black glaze. Details are then drawn in by the painter with a black or brownish glaze, much as in a modern painting or cartoon. Red figure vases continue to be produced in Athens until about 320 B.C.

Example of Attic Red Figure
on the Perseus WWW site

The White Ground technique (technically, a special type of red-figure ware) comes into use in the late 6th century and reaches its peak development in the Classical period. The painter covers the vase in a white slip and then paints in the figures, often using a variety of colors. The result is somewhat reminiscent of ancient frescos. This technique is associated mainly with small lekythoi which were dedicated as grave offerings.

Example of Attic White Ground
on the Perseus WWW site


The links provided below are to the Perseus WWW site.

See as well the superb table of shapes and profiles of Greek painted pottery in the Beazley Archive.
(Each section of this page is active text: clicking on a particular pottery type will take you to a page offering numerous images of the type of vase in question.

The most important shapes are:


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These pages were designed by John Porter.
Last Modified: Friday, 24-Feb-2017 09:07:24 CST
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