The Ancient Library

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On this page: Pottery (continued)



exported in large numbers to the countries on the Mediterranean and Black Seas. The high estimation in which Greek, and espe­cially Attic, pottery was held is proved by the numerous vases which have been dis­covered in tombs, chiefly in Italy. More­over they represent almost every period. The excellence of the workmanship lies in the material, which is very fine, and pre­pared with the utmost care ; also in the execution and in the baking. Its thinness, as well as the hardness of its sides, even in vessels of large dimensions, astonishes experts in such matters. The shapes are mostly produced by the potter's wheel, but also by hand in the case of vessels too large to be conveniently placed on the wheel; for example, the largest wine-jara. [The prehistoric pottery from Mycenae, the Troad, and other Hellenic sites, was also made by hand.] Whereas small vessels were made of a single piece, in the case of large ones, the body, handles, feet, and neck, were fashioned separately, and then united. They were first dried in the sun, then twice baked, before and after the painting. The colours are no less admirable than the workmanship. The clay shows a beautiful bright reddish yellow, which is produced by the addition of colouring matter, and is also further intensified by a thin coating of glaze. The black colour, which often verges upon green, and is of a brilliant lustre, is then applied. Either (1) the design stands out black against the bright background, or (2) the figures appear in red on a black ground, the former being the earlier method. Other colours, espe­cially white or dark-red, were applied after the black glaze had been burnt into the clay by the second baking, and served as a less lasting adornment. In later times yellow, green, blue, brown, and gold were also used.

[In the case of vases with Mack figures, the vase was first turned on the wheel, and, in order to give it a surface of deeper red, clay finely ground and mixed with water to the consistency of cream, technically known as "slip," was applied by a brush or other­wise while it was still revolving. The out­line of the design was next roughly sketched, either with a point or in light-red ochre with a brush. The vase was then dried in the sun, and again put on the wheel, and the glaze, finely powdered and mixed with i water, was applied to it with a brush as it ; revolved. The vase was then in some cases ( fired for the first time in the kiln in order .

to provide a smooth, almost non-absorbent surface for the use of the painter. The painter then put on the black enamel figures and ornaments with a brush. After the firing of the enamel, the details were drawn in by incised lines, cutting through the enamel down to the clay body of the vase. In vases with red figures instead of the figures being painted in black, the ground is covered with black enamel and the figures left, showing the glazed red " slip " which covers the whole vase. This method pro­duced a great artistic advance in the beauty of the figures, the details and inner lines of which could be executed with freedom and ease by brush-marked lines, instead of by the laborious process of cutting incised lines through the very hard black enamel (Prof. Middleton on "Pottery" in Encyc. Brit, xix 608, 609).]

Lastly, the form deserves all praise. The vases of the best period present the most tasteful elegance of form, that is at once fine and strong, and the most delicate pro­portion of the various parts to each other and to the whole, without interfering with their practical utility (see cuts under vases and vessels). It was not until the times when taste had begun to degenerate that the fashion was introduced of giving to clay ware, by means of moulds, all kinds of grotesque forms of men and beasts, and of furnishing them with plastic (as well as painted) ornamentation.


(Gem from Millin, Pernt. i,


[The technique of ancient pottery is illus­trated by figs. 1 and 2. The first repre-


(Gem from Millin, feint, ii,


sents a youth seated in front of an oven, from the top of which he takes with two sticks a small, two-handled vase which has been newly glazed. The second shows the potter giving the last polish to a finished vase, while two other vessels are standing to dry on an oven, the door of which is closed (Guhl and Koner's Life of the Greeks and Romans, p. 141, Eng. ed.). Among the votive tablets in the Louvre there are two from Corinth The first of these re-

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