Above: Fragment of a terracotta neck-amphora (jar) depicting a woman with a basket on her head standing in a funerary structure; ca. 360–350 BCE.
Source/creator: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. License: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

The Early Black-Figured Pottery of Attika in Context (c. 630–570 BCE)

Alexandra Alexandridou, 2010

Setting as a starting point the introduction of the black-figure technique in Attic workshops at around 630 BCE, this book attempts a contextual analysis of Attic pottery until late in the first quarter of the sixth century BCE. The shapes and their functions, as well as the iconographic themes are explored through this perspective. This offers an interesting insight into funerary, cultic and profane activities in Athens and the Attic countryside, which is completed by an extensive study of the trade and distribution of Attic vases during this period. The result is a complete overview of early black-figure Attic production, enabling an afresh archaeological approach to late seventh-and early sixth-century Attic society.

Greek Vases: Lectures

J.D. Beazley, ed. D.C. Kurtz, 1989

John Davison Beazley is responsible for making the study of Athenian vase-paintings a branch of art history. His lists of artists and groups, published in great volumes and widely circulated, have become standard reference books; but his lectures have never been available to a wide audience. The eight lectures collected here are fully illustrated and include a lively account of 6th-century B.C. Athenian vase-painting, a survey of peculiarly Athenian vase forms, a look at the historical, literary, and visual evidence for the art form, and a concluding lecture which gives timeless advice to the young.

Athenian Red Figure Vases: The Archaic Period

John Boardman, 1975

In his sequel to Athenian Black Figure Vases, John Boardman, Professor Emeritus at Oxford University, covers the invention of the "red figure" technique in about 530 BC. Professor Boardman illuminates the ancient art form by placing the painters and their vases within the history of Athens and the greater tradition of Greek mythology.

The History of Greek Vases: Potters, Painters, and Pictures

John Boardman, 2001

Greek pottery has long fascinated scholars and historians of art. It provides a continuous commentary on all other Greek arts, even sculpture, and the scenes figured on the vases can prove to be as subtle and informative as the great works of Greek literature. In no other art of antiquity do we come closer to the visual experience of the ancient Greeks, or are we able to observe so clearly their views on life, myth, and even politics. John Boardman has demonstrated the stylistic history of Greek vases in other Thames & Hudson titles; as he writes, the subject "is a central one to classical archaeology and art, and dare not be ignored by students of any other ancient medium, or indeed of any other classical discipline." Here Boardman sketches that history but goes on to explore many other matters that make the study so fruitful. He describes the processes of identifying artists, the methods of making and decorating the vases, the life of the potters' quarter in Greek towns, and the way in which the wares were traded far beyond the borders of the Greek world. Boardman shows how Greek artists exercised a style of narrative in art that was long influential in the West, and how their pictures reflected not simply on storytelling but also on the politics and social order of the day.

Below: Terracotta kylix (drinking cup) depicting scene from Book 13 of the Iliad; ca. 540 BCE.
Source/creator: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. License: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Using Ostraca in the Ancient World: New Discoveries & Methodologies

Clementina Caputo & Julia Lougoyaya, 2020

Throughout Egypt's long history, pottery sherds and flakes of limestone were commonly used for drawings and short-form texts in a number of languages. These objects are conventionally called ostraca, and thousands of them have been and continue to be discovered. This volume highlights some of the methodologies that have been developed for analyzing the archaeological contexts, material aspects, and textual peculiarities of ostraca.

As published excavated contexts become more plentiful and as older contexts are reexamined, it has become increasingly possible to consider Greek figure-decorated pottery from the perspective of its use. The essays in this volume explore the relationship between image and use in different contexts, with an emphasis on the user and consumer-that is, they explore the possible meanings images had for the individuals who obtained the objects on which they appear. The essays pose questions concerning why a consumer might choose a particular pot, why it might be part of an assemblage, or why a particular set of pots might have moved in a particular direction. The contributors are Sheramy D. Bundrick, An Jiang, Kathleen M. Lynch, Bice Peruzzi, Vivi Sarapanidi, Tara Trahey, and Vicky Vlachou.

What is a pyxis? Who was the Amasis Painter? How did Greek vases get their distinctive black and orange colors? This richly illustrated book--the latest in the popular Looking At series--offers definitions and descriptions of these and many other Greek vase shapes, painters, and techniques encountered in museum exhibitions and publications on ancient Greek ceramics. Included is an essay on how to look at Greek vases and another on the conservation of ancient ceramics. These essays provide succinct explanations of the terms most frequently encountered by museum-goers. The concise definitions are divided into two sections, one on potters and painters and another on vase shapes and technical terms relating to the construction and decoration of the vases. Featuring numerous color illustrations of Greek vases, many from the Getty Museum's collection, This book is an indispensable guide for anyone wishing to obtain a greater understanding and enjoyment of Greek ceramics.

Greek Painted Pottery

R.M. Cook, 3rd ed. 1997

This book has been used by classics and classical archaeology students for some thirty years. It thoroughly examines all painted pottery styles from the Protogeometric to the Hellenistic period from all areas of Greece and from the colonies in parts of Italy. In each case it covers the development of iconography and the use of colour, decorative motifs and the distinctive styles of each stage. It examines the most utilitarian pottery objects as well as some of the finest pieces produced by a flourishing civilisation. Other chapters cover the pottery industry and pottery-making techniques, including firing, the types of local clay which were used and inscription. This study also considers how one can date pottery and establish a chronology and the various methods by which these artefacts have been classified, preserved and collected. This is the third edition of this classic text, which has been extensively revised and includes a fully updated bibliography. This edition also includes coverage of new evidence and new theories which have surfaced since the book was last revised in 1972. With over 100 black and white photographs and plentiful line drawings, the new edition of this comprehensive text will be invaluable to students studying classical art, archaeology and art history.

Below: Terracotta neck-amphora (jar) with lid and knob, depicting man and woman in chariot accompanied by woman and kithara player; ca. 540 BCE.
Source/creator: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. License: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Image and Myth: A History of Pictorial Narrative in Greek Art

Luca Giuliani, trans. Joseph O'Donnell, 2013

On museum visits, we pass by beautiful, well-preserved vases from ancient Greece—but how often do we understand what the images on them depict? In Image and Myth, Luca Giuliani tells the stories behind the pictures, exploring how artists of antiquity had to determine which motifs or historical and mythic events to use to tell an underlying story while also keeping in mind the tastes and expectations of paying clients. Covering the range of Greek style and its growth between the early Archaic and Hellenistic periods, Giuliani describes the intellectual, social, and artistic contexts in which the images were created. He reveals that developments in Greek vase painting were driven as much by the times as they were by tradition—the better-known the story, the less leeway the artists had in interpreting it. As literary culture transformed from an oral tradition, in which stories were always in flux, to the stability of written texts, the images produced by artists eventually became nothing more than illustrations of canonical works. At once a work of cultural and art history, Image and Myth builds a new way of understanding the visual culture of ancient Greece.

Images of the Greek Theatre

Richard Green & Eric Handley, 1995

Classical Greek theatre survives not only in plays that we still read and perform, but also in artistic images. Depictions of performances, actors, and their masks were frequent in classical times and continued to appear even beyond the fifth and sixth centuries A.D., long after the plays had ceased to be staged. These artifacts, together with the remains of actual theatres and the texts of surviving plays, give us an idea of how Greek drama must have appeared in its heyday. In this book, Richard Green and Eric Handley outline the history of the Greek theatre, drawing on the evidence supplied by the theatres themselves, the surviving plays, and artistic artifacts. They show and discuss painted pottery, notably from fifth-century Athens and fourth-century southern Italy, that records scenes from plays. Terra-cotta figures, mosaics, paintings, metalware, and gems also help them build a picture of Greek theatre. All these artifacts tell the story of Greek drama as seen through the eyes of those admirers who kept its classic moments and traditions alive and who found a place for it in the society of their own times. They help the modern playgoer and reader to imagine what a visit to the theatre in classical Greece might have been like.

Sotades: Symbols of Immortality on Greek Vases

Herbert Hoffmann, 1997

In this book the author explores the work of the fifth-century BC Athenian vase-painter, Sotades, one of the most familiar names in vase painting. Previous scholarship has dealt mainly with questions of attribution, style, and iconographic interpretation, but Hoffman concentrates on inherent meaning: what does the imagery of these decorated vases really signify. He argues that, contrary to widely held conceptions, there is an underlying unity of meaning in Greek vases and their imagery, a unity rooted in the religious beliefs and ritual practices of the society from which they spring. Each chapter discusses a specific aspect of the artist's iconology, placing it in the context of fifth-century BC Greek philosophical and religious thought.

Below: Terracotta column-krater (bowl for mixing wine and water) depicting an artist painting a statue of Heracles; ca. 360–350 BCE.
Source/creator: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. License: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

The Athenian Woman: An Iconographic Handbook

Sian Lewis, 2002

Here Sian Lewis considers the full range of female existence in classical Greece - childhood and old age, unfree and foreign status, and the ageless woman characteristic of Athenian red-figure painting. Ceramics are an unparalleled resource for women's lives in ancient Greece, since they show a huge number of female types and activities. Yet it can be difficult to interpret the meanings of these images, especially when they seem to conflict with literary sources. This much-needed study shows that it is vital to see the vases as archaeology as well as art, since context is the key to understanding which images can stand as evidence for the real lives of women, and which should be reassessed.

Greek vases display a great quantity and a wide variety of images, in particular those vases from Athens in the 5th and 6th centuries BC. With a large number of color illustrations, including many full-page details, this book seeks to explain those images, and to help the viewer of the vases understand both the context in which they were used and the significance of the figures which appear on them. All the different aspects of Athenian culture and society are considered, with an emphasis on their visual treatment. The vase painters did not attempt to reproduce reality; they staged it, through a series of choices each of which had its own social and aesthetic logic. Each image summoned up another, and was clarified by it. This network of imagery is examined and explained in the book's major themes: the banquet, sex, athletics and competitions, war, domestic life, relationships between men and the gods, Herakles as an exemplar of the Greek hero, the mythic identity of Athens, and the special place of Dionysos. The visual story presented here is both informative and entertaining. All those interested in Greek culture and art will find it compelling, as will those interested in the formal study of images and image-making.

The Late Mannerists in Athenian Vase-Painting

Thomas Mannack, 2001

The Late Mannerists were Athenian vase-painters working in the fifth-century BC. They specialized in shapes used during the symposium, and had a particular flair for story telling. Their unusual style of painting combines elements of the Late Archaic period with characteristics of the Classical period. This is a richly illustrated study of the workshop.

Greek Vases: Images, Contexts and Controversies

ed. Clemente Marconi, 2004

This volume deals with Greek painted vases, exploring them from various methodological points of view and moving beyond the traditional focus on connoisseurship and style. The volume, which represents the proceedings of an international conference sponsered by the Center for the Ancient Mediterranean at Columbia University, is an effort to exploit the immense richness of these vases by using them to study general cultural history.

Style and Politics in Athenian Vase-Painting: The Craft of Democracy, ca. 530-460 BCE

Richard T. Neer, 2002

The pictures on Athenian vases of the late Archaic period often play upon the tension between an image and its material support, and between the sense of depth and the sense of surface. Richard Neer's study tracks design and imagery on Athenian vases in four domains: the symposium, with its elaborate riddles and poems; the development of 'naturalistic' techniques, such as foreshortening and shading; the birth of self-portraiture at the end of the sixth century; and the treatment of overtly political subject-matter in the early democracy. In each case, formal ambiguity provided vase painters and their audiences with a means of creating new conceptions of civic identity. Focusing on 'how pictures show what they show' leads the author to a re-examination of basic ideas about Greek art and its history, with particular regard to naturalism, realism, allegory, and the relation of ceramics to social life.

Below: Black-figure Greek amphora (storage jar) showing a scene of olive gathering. Attributed to the Antimenes Painter; dated to 520 BCE.
Creator/source: The British Museum. License: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International.

Greek Vases in New Contexts: The Collecting and Trading of Greek Vases

Vinnie Nørskov, 2002

Greek vases have been among antiquity's most widely collected artefacts since the 18th century. This volume examines trends in the collection and trade of Greek vases in the years since World War II. Norskov combines a detailed historical narrative with case studies of eight major museum collections, plus an analysis of auction and dealer documents listing 18,000 Greek vases, to provide a comprehensive overview of the subject. The volume highlights a major scholarly shift in the 1960s which broadened the gap between museum collections, which adopted the new contextual approach, and the collections of individuals who selected items for their aesthetic value. The growing curatorial emphasis on context also lent weight to emerging ethical concerns as the relation between unprovenanced objects and the destruction of archaeological sites became an international issue.

This richly illustrated volume offers a fascinating introduction to ancient Greek vases for the general reader. It presents vases not merely as beautiful vessels to hold water and wine, but also as instruments of storytelling and bearers of meaning. The first two chapters analyze the development of different shapes of pottery and relate those shapes to function, the evolution in vase production techniques and decoration, and the roles of potters, painters, and their workshops. Subsequent chapters focus on vases as the primary source of imagery from ancient Greece, offering unique information about mythology, religion, theater, and daily life. The author discusses how to identify the figures and scenes depicted in vase paintings, what these narratives would have meant to the people who lived with them and used them, and how they therefore reflect the cultural values of their time. Also examined is the impact Greek vases had on the art, architecture, and literature of subsequent generations. Based on the rich collections of the British Museum and the J. Paul Getty Museum, the exquisite details of the works offer the reader the opportunity for an intimate interaction with the graphic beauty and narrative power of ancient vases often not available in a gallery setting.

The Berlin Painter and His World: Athenian Vase-Painting in the Early Fifth Century B.C.

ed. J. Michael Padgett, 2017

The Berlin Painter was the name given by British classicist and art historian Sir John Beazley to an otherwise anonymous Athenian red-figure vase-painter. The artist’s long career extended from about 505 B.C. well into the 460s, and his elegant renderings of daily life and mythological stories offer invaluable insight into the social, political, religious, and artistic workings of early 5th-century Athens. Since the first published identification of the artist in 1911, the Berlin Painter’s oeuvre has grown to some 330 works, both complete pots and fragments, making him one of the best-known artists of his kind. This lavishly illustrated publication features nine essays by leading scholars who explore the artist’s work, milieu, influence, and legacy, as well as the role of connoisseurship in art-historical scholarship. With an updated catalogue raisonné that includes many newly attributed works, it is the definitive book on this seminal artist.

Below: Terracotta cosmetic vase; 4th quarter of the 6th century BCE.
Source/creator: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. License: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

The site of Karphi, high above the Lasithi plateau, remains one of the most extensively investigated settlements of Early Iron Age Greece; it was excavated by the British School at Athens under the direction of John Pendlebury in 1937-39. In the report that swiftly followed the pottery was not presented in detail, though much was discussed in a later article by Mercy Seiradaki. Consequently there existed serious problems in dating the remains and understanding their meaning. This volume now presents a thorough study of the Karphi pottery, much hitherto unpublished, accompanied by copious new drawings and photographs. The author's expertise with material from contemporary Cretan sites, especially from the Kavousi excavations, provides major insights. The tombs continued in use long after the abandonment of the settlement. Ceramic assemblages also help to determine room and building functions, leading to a reconstruction of social practices at this key site. Thus, this study serves as a significant contribution to our overall understanding of Early Iron Age Crete.

Looking at Greek Vases

ed. Tom Rasmussen & Nigel Spivey, 2009

This is a collection of essays by distinguished scholars that will introduce the student or museum-goer to the study of Greek vases. Although the book is roughly chronological in arrangement--beginning with the appearance of human figures on Geometric vases, and ending with their virtual disappearance from Hellenistic pottery--it is not a history of Greek vase painting, or a handbook. It offers instead a series of suggestions on how to read the often complex images presented by Greek vases, and also explains how the vases were made and distributed. The volume is fully illustrated throughout.

Pots for the Living, Pots for the Dead

ed. Annette Rathje, Marjatta Nielsen and Bodil Bundgaard, 2002

A collection of eleven papers from a series of pottery workshops held between 1995 and 2000 at the Institute for Archaeology and Ethnology at Copenhagen University. Subjects include the Trojan cycle depicted on Tyrrhenian amphorae, Attic pottery imports to Locri Epizephyrii, Genucilia ceramics from Mid-Republican Italy, terracotta house models from Basilicata, Archaic Karian pottery, the distribution of local plain wares in the 6th-5th century BC, Cypriot transport amphorae, Cypriot sigillata, a fake phiale from the J F Willumsen Museum, pottery from the Archaic settlement at Vroulia, Rhodes.

Industrial Religion: The Saucer Pyres of the Athenian Agora

Susan I. Rotroff, 2013

This study focuses on the “saucer pyres,” a series of 70 deposits excavated in the residential and industrial areas bordering the Athenian Agora. Each consisted of a shallow pit, its floor sometimes marked by heavy burning, with a votive deposit of pottery and fragments of burnt bone, ash, and charcoal. Most of the pots were miniatures (including the eponymous saucers) but a few larger vessels were found, along with offerings associated with funerary cult. The deposits represent a largely Athenian phenomenon, with few parallels elsewherre. When first found in the 1930s, the deposits were interpreted as baby burials. Recent zooarchaeological analysis of the bones, however, reveals that they are the remains of sheep and goats, and that the deposits were sacrificial rather than funerary. The present study investigates the nature of those sacrifices, taking into account the contents of the pyres, their spatial distribution, and their relationship to buildings around the Agora and elsewhere. In light of a strong correlation between pyres and industrial activity, the author argues that the pyres document workplace rituals designed to protect artisans and their enterprises.

Red-Figure Pottery in Its Ancient Setting

ed. Stine Schierup & Bodil Bundgaard Rasmussen, 2012

Contributions on a variety of topics, e.g. mantle-figures on Athenian late classical red-figure, white-ground cups in fifth-century graves, late 'Apulian' red-figure vases, an overview of Athenian pottery in Southern Italy and Sicily, the Panathenaic amphora shape in Southern Italian red-figure production and Achilles and Troilos in Athens and Etruria. Contributions by Martin Langner, Annie Verbanck-Pierard, Adrienne Lezzi-Hafter, Athena Tsingarida, Maurizio Gualtieri, Helena Fracchia, Victoria Sabetai, Martin Bentz, Thomas Mannack, Stine Scierup and Guy Hedreen.

Below: Terracotta aryballos (oil flask), ca. 570 BCE. Source/creator: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. License: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Komast Dancers in Archaic Greek Art

Tyler Jo Smith, 2010

Komast figures (literally "revellers") on black-figure vases have long been associated with the worship of Dionysos and the origins of Greek drama. In this fully illustrated study, Tyler Jo Smith takes a fresh look at the evidence for komasts, both on vases and in other artistic media produced throughout Archaic Greece. She concludes that the meaning of the dancing figures differs between different regions, such as Corinth, Athens, and Laconia. Komasts are instrumental to the spread of the human figure in early Archaic Greek art and a vital link in the story of both visual and festival culture in Greece during the sixth century BC.

The Red and the Black: Studies in Greek Pottery

Brian A. Sparkes, 1996

The Red and the Black covers the major stages in the history of Greek pottery production, both figured and plain, as they are understood today. It provides an up-to-date evaluation of ways of studying Greek pottery and encourages new approaches. There is a detailed analysis of the subject matter of figured scenes covering some of the main preoccupations of ancient Greece: myth, fantasy and everyday life. Furthermore, it sets the artefacts in the context of the societies that produced them, highlighting the social, art historical, mythological and economic information that can be revealed from their study. This volume also covers a hitherto neglected area: the history of the collecting of Greek pottery through the Renaissance and up to the present day. It shows how market values have gradually increased to the high prices of today and goes on to take a closer look at the enthusiasm of the collectors.

Reading Greek Vases

Ann Steiner, 2007

Repetition and symmetry are the fundamental aesthetic principles underlying the shape and decoration of ancient Athenian vases. This book is the first comprehensive study of the role of repetition beyond its aesthetic value, and as part of a code that conveys meaning to the viewer. Relying on the theoretical background provided through information theory and narratology, Ann Steiner uncovers the different kinds of meaning that painters created through the use of repetition. Using the reading of painted verbal inscriptions as a springboard, she demonstrates how repetition of imagery in multiple fields of a vase can create narration, paradigm, exploration of perceptual and ideological point of view, and parody. Steiner shows how the results of repetition on Archaic Athenian vases reiterate the activities of the elite symposion and the broader cultural values of the elite Athenians. She provides an entirely new way to read ancient Athenian vases.

The Pronomos Vase is the single most important piece of pictorial evidence for ancient theatre to have survived from ancient Greece. It depicts an entire theatrical chorus and cast along with the celebrated musician Pronomos, in the presence of their patron god, Dionysos. In this collection of essays, illustrated with nearly 60 drawings and photographs, leading specialists from a variety of disciplines tackle the critical questions posed by this complex hub of evidence. The discussion covers a wide range of perspectives and issues, including the artist's oeuvre; the pottery market; the relation of this piece to other artistic, and especially celebratory, artefacts; the political and cultural contexts of the world that it was produced in; the identification of figures portrayed on it: and the significance of the Pronomos Vase as theatrical evidence. The volume offers not only the most recent scholarship on the vase but also some ground-breaking interpretations of it.

Below: Terracotta dinos (mixing bowl); ca. 630–615 BCE. Source/creator: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. License: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Non-Attic Greek Vase Inscriptions

Rudolf Wachter, 2001

The inscriptions on non-Attic vases are an extremely important source for knowledge of ancient Greek, in particular colloquial language. Painted or incised before firing, this corpus of material cannot be held suspect as possible later additions. Wachter provides a detailed catalogue of the inscriptions together with an epigraphical and linguistic analysis and commentary.

Distorted Ideals in Greek Vase-Painting: The World of Mythological Burlesque

David Walsh, 2009

This book examines Greek vase-paintings that depict humorous, burlesque, and irreverent images of Greek mythology and the gods. Many of the images present the gods and heroes as ridiculous and ugly. While the narrative content of some images may appear to be trivial, others address issues that are deeply serious. When placed against the background of the religious beliefs and social frameworks from which they spring, these images allow us to explore questions relating to their meaning in particular communities. Throughout, we see indications that Greek vase-painters developed their own comedic narratives and visual jokes. The images enhance our understanding of Greek society in just the same way as their more sober siblings in “serious” art.

Stories take time to tell; Greek and Roman artists had to convey them in static images. How did they go about it? How could they ensure that their scenes would be recognized? What problems did they have? How did they solve them? This generously illustrated book explores the ways classical artists portrayed a variety of myths. It explains how formulas were devised for certain stories; how these inventions could be adapted, developed and even transferred to other myths; how one myth could be distinguished from another; what links there were with daily life and historical propaganda; the influence of changing tastes, and problems still outstanding. Examples are drawn from a wide range of media--vases, murals, mosaics, sarcophagi, sculpture--used by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The myths are mostly those that are also easily recognized in later works of art. No previous knowledge of the subject is assumed, all examples are illustrated and all names, terms and concepts are fully explained.

Ancient Greek vase-paintings offer broad-ranging and unprecedented early perspectives on the often intricate interplay of images and texts. By bringing together—for the first time in English-language scholarship—an international group of leading scholars in classical art and archaeology who have worked on vase-inscriptions, this book investigates epigraphic technicalities of Attic and non-Attic inscriptions on pottery as well as their broader iconographic and sociocultural significance. The ten chapters in this book propose original and expert methodological approaches to the study of vase-inscriptions and vase-paintings, while also foregrounding the outstanding but not fully examined importance of the area of vase-inscriptions for current research on ancient Greek visual representations. This work constitutes a major contribution to the fields of Greek epigraphy and classical art and archaeology and will prove significant for epigraphists, archaeologists, and art-historians.

Below: Terracotta kylix (drinking cup) with a symposium scene; ca. 480 BCE. Source/creator: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
License: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.