greek vases essay

            During the 6th and 4th centuries B.C., pottery was the commonly used method to create functional and decorative pieces. One of the famous products of pottery that were produced during this era was the painted vase which was ornamented using “black and red figure techniques.” More so, in Athens, Greece, artisans used this to embellish fine pottery while the plain and undecorated pottery wares were used for domestic functions (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2008).

            An example of the black figure vase is the `Tyrrhenian` neck-amphorae which was made by Timiades Painter as a wine jar. “In black-figure vase painting, figural and ornamental motifs were applied with a slip that turned black during firing, while the background was left the color of the clay” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2008). The story depicted on the vase is about Herakle slaying the Amazon queen Andromache, with help from Telamon, the father of Ajax. The human form was not accurately illustrated because of unequal proportions of some body parts and the exaggerated facial features. Also, the figures seemed to have rigid forms and they lacked versatility. The overall composition looked crowded due to the presence of many visual elements. There were a lot of human figures, highly-ornate decorations and several texts painted all over the vase. Meanwhile, the opposite of black figure vases are the red figure vases and the “Mixing bowl” by Pan Painter is one of them. This vase reflects the death of Aktaion. Compared to Timiades Painter’s vase, this one has a more realistic depiction of the human form. Pan Painter was able to show movement through the angles of the body and the placement of hands and feet. Because of this, the drama of Aktaion’s death was really evident. The blackness of the background created an illusion of space which was further amplified by the solid outlines of the figures and the absence of too much ornamentation.

            Moreover, both vases used human figures as the main focal point of the designs. But the difference between the two is that the black figure vase appeared to be more complex and complicated than the black figure vase which has a more minimalist aesthetic. Despite the disparity, the pictorial decorations on the vases were still able to present insights about the Athenian life (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2008).


Metropolitan Museum of Art. (2008). Athenian Vase Painting: Black- and Red-Figure    Techniques. Retrieved October 19, 2008, from


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