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Ancient Greek pottery

Ancient Greek pottery

The masterpieces of ancient Greek potters are important archaeological artefacts.

Visual Arts


vase, vase painting, black-figure, red-figure, antiquity, Greek, pot, Ancient Greek, amphora, calyx, clay, ceramics, art, decoration, mythology

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Greek pottery

  • red-figure pottery
  • black-figure pottery

Black-figure pottery

  • Exekias: Achilles and Ajax playing dice - Created around 540 BC by the most important black-figure painter, the amphora depicts two Greek heroes playing dice during a respite in the Trojan War.
  • Exekias: Dionysus crossing the sea - The flat, wide drinking cup with raised pedestal base was formed and painted by the most important black-figure painter around 540-530 BC. The kylix has two horizontal handles and its interior surface depicts a mythological scene.
  • Lekythos vase - The vase has a large cylindrical body gracefully tapered towards the base, and a short flanged neck with a cup-shaped mouth. Showing scenes of daily life, the vase was created around 500 BC.

Red-figure pottery

  • bell krater - A bowl used for mixing wine. Created around 440 BC, it depicts Orpheus playing charming music.
  • Amphora by Andokides - Its creator was a student of Exekias. It was in his pottery workshop that the new vase painting technique emerged, i.e. the red-figure style. This amphora was made around 530 BC.
  • calyx krater - Depicting theatre scenes, it was created around 400-390 BC. It is a krater characterised by low handles protruding from the base of the bowl, used for mixing wine.



Since a large number of Greek wall paintings and other decorations have been destroyed, vases are the most important surviving works of ancient Greek painting.
Clay pots were first fired, then painted and, eventually, re-fired. Very fine, decorated objects are referred to as ceramics. Thus, vases are not only objects for ordinary use, but also pieces of art. The well known, high quality Greek ceramics were characterised by a diversity of shapes.
The first period of pottery painting is called Geometric. The Greeks used simple geometric motifs to create complex and complicated decorations. In this period, both human and animal figures were depicted, but in a simplified form.

With the increasing role of religion, the Archaic Period was marked by pottery that depicted mythological scenes. It was during this period that the black-figure style emerged; artists painted black images silhouetted against a red clay background.
In the later stages of pottery painting, both mythological themes and scenes from everyday life were the most preferred motifs.

The Classical Period introduced a new technique, the red-figure style. The first step in the complex process was painting the entire pot red. Afterwards, it was coated with a black glaze, leaving spaces for the figures. Lastly, the decoration was completed by drawing the details.

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