Ancient Greek Pottery Greek pots are important because they tell usso much about how life was in Athens andother ancient Greek cities. Pots came in allsorts of shapes and sizes depending on theirpurpose, and were often beautifully decoratedwith scenes from daily life. Sometimes thesescenes reflect what the pot was used for. The Greeks believed that the goddess Athenainvented the potters wheel.
Athena Athena, otherwise known asMinerva in Roman, the daughterof Zeus, and only by him, thegoddess of Athena not being bornfrom a woman. She was born andsprung out from Zeuss head.When born, she was an adult andfully equipped with armor. Butshe was not without a mother,her mother was Metis, Zeuss firstwife. She is known for being afierce and ruthless battle goddess.She is only warlike to defend herstate from enemies and invaders.
The Importance of Pottery Storage containers,cookware anddishes were asnecessary for theAncient Greeks asthey are for us. Without much glassand with metalexpensive, clay wasa very handymaterial.
The death of AktaeonThe painting on this pot showsArtemis slaying Actaeon. It was madecirca 440 B.C.Artemis was the daughter of Zeus andLeto and the twin sister of Apollo. Shewas usually depicted as the maidengoddess of the hunt, bearing a bowand arrows.The story shown on this pottery is this:When Actaeon made her angry bybragging he was better at hunting,Artemis hunted him with her hounddogs and killed Actaeon.
Clay Clay is inexpensive and readily available. It is weathered rock that has crumbled to dust. Found in its original location, it is calledprimary clay. In the Mediterranean region, most clay hasbeen deposited by glaciers and is known assecondary clay. The impurities in clay give it varying colours. For instance, red clay contains iron.
Clay It is easily workedand can be shapedas desired. Once fired it is quitestrong andwaterproof. It makes an idealmaterial forcontainers of allsorts.
Working With Clay The first step is to remove rocks, shellsand other materials. This is done by mixing the clay with waterin a process called levigation orelutriation. This allows the impurities to sink to thebottom of the mixing tub. The more oftenthis is done, the smoother the claybecomes.
Throwing pots The clay is next kneaded andplaced on a wheel. As the wheel spins, the pottershapes the clay and forms it intothe desired shapes. Large pots are made in sections.Handles, feet and spouts werealso fabricated separately. Sections are glued together witha layer of thin, watery, clay,known as a slip.
Decoration Once made, theentire pot is paintedwith a thin black slip.How this slip isapplied will createan image. The entire object isthen fired – in 3stages.
Pottery Art Only men were allowed to make pots in AncientGreece, though women were permitted to paintthem. Pottery was frequently made by slaves. What survives is often not high art. Reallyvaluable containers tended to be made ofbronze, silver or gold. However, little of thissurvives because the metal was reused. Potteryfragments, having no real value, survive.
Pottery Art Despite it being alesser form thanmetal-craft, someexcellent creationsexist. Greek pottery andpainting evolved intoa significant artform.
Form and Function Pots were shapedaccording to theirfunction.
Form & Function Large storagecontainers werecalled amphora andare made with twocarrying handles..
Form and Function Small storage boxeswere called pyxis.
Form and Function Small vases forperfume or oil werecalled Alabastron.
Form and Function Athletes kept theiroil supply in smallcontainers calledAryballos
Form and Function Hydria were used tocarry water fromwells, springs orrivers.
Form and Function Kraters were bowlsto mix water andwine in.
Form and Function Wine was ladledfrom kraters intoshallow wine cupscalled kylix.
Form and Function It was also poureddirectly out of winejugs calledoinochoe.
Form and Function Lekythos were usedto store oil
Periods and Styles Pottery is one of the oldestsurviving art forms fromAncient Greece. Works and fragmentssurvive from the 2ndmillennium BC to the end ofthe 1stcentury BC. Greek pottery was tradedthroughout theMediterranean world andbeyond.
Periods and StylesMinoan & Mycenaean Minoan &Mycenaean potteryis the oldest that weknow of. It was exuberantlydecorated. It tends have as atrait “horror vacui” orfear of leaving openspace.
Periods and StylesGeometric The next style to pervadeexhibits a differentsensibility. From the end of the 2ndmillennium the geometricstyle dominates. Regular geometricpatterns and shapes, notanimal forms, arepervasive.
Periods and StylesOrientalizing Contact with Asiabrought newinnovation in design. The next stage istherefore known asthe orientalizingperiod. Plants and animalsreappear in thebands of design.
Periods Periods and StylesOrientalizing During theorientalizing period(roughly 725-650BC) the black figuretechnique isemployed in Corinth. In the 7thcentury BC,this spreads toAthens.
Periods and StylesArchaic The Archaic styleexisted from around700 to 480 BC. Mythology and lifebecame importantsubjects. Some artists signedtheir work.
Periods and StylesBlack-Figure The Black-figure stylereally did not dominateuntil the 6thcentury BC. Artists painted blackimages silhouetted againstthe natural red claybackground. Details were inserted byetching the black figures. White or purple paint couldthen be added.
Periods and StylesRed-Figure The red-figure style appearedbetween 530-525 BC. It was achieved by simplyreversing the manner of blackfigure painting. The red figures are reserved andthe background is painted. This is more difficult but itallowed the design to be seenbetter at a distance and it leavesthe contour of the pot morevisible.
A. Herakles andAthena join Greekheroes. B. Apolloand Artemisavenge theirmother byslaughtering thechildren of Niobewho boasted ofher superiority.
AchillesIn this image, Achilesdice with a friendignoring the call tobattle.Achilles had avulnerable heel on onefoot. When it was hitby an arrow during abattle, it killedhim.
Periods and StylesClassical Interestingly, the classical period sawchange, but not necessarily any improvementin technique. Some observers actually feel that thingsworsen as greater freedom brings lessbalance. Some suggest that pottery artists were tryingto outdo the painters of the day. However,this cannot be confirmed or denied, since nopaintings have survived.
Periods and StylesClassical – White Ground One significantinnovation is thepainting of a large partof the pot with a whitebackground. This creates almost acanvas upon which theartist can easily work.
The End By the end of the 5thcentury BC, potterypainting seems to lose its status as an artform. Some suggest that metal bowls andvases were now favoured by the rich. Outside Greece, local manufacturingcontinued, particularly in what is nowSouthern Italy. In the 3rdcentury BC, the painting of potterybefore firing seems to end. Decoration wasnow separate from potting entirely.