Black Figure Pottery

Black figure Pottery

Although first produced in Corinth, it would be the potters and painters of Attica who would excel above all others in the black-figure style between the 7th and 5th century BC.

In this style, the figures were painted black on the reddish orange surface of the vases. Details within the silhouetted figures were incised before firing.



Black figure amphora featuring Odysseus,
the hero of "Odyssey", as he returns
home to Ithake.
About 450 B.C., National Archaeological Museum, Athens


Black figured Chalkidian krater featuring a scene from the Trojan War
540 B.C. Wuerzburg University, Germany.

Not all figures were painted black as certain colour conventions were adopted, such as white for female flesh and purple-red for clothes and accessories.

A greater interest in fine details such as muscles and hair, which were added to the figures using a sharp instrument, is characteristic of the style.


However, it is the postures of the figures which also mark out black-figure pottery as the zenith of Greek vase painting. The finest figures are given grace and poise and often illustrated in the moments before actual movement or resting after exertion.

The famous vase by Exekias, with Ajax and Achilles playing a board game during the Trojan War, is an excellent example of the dignity and energy black-figure painting could achieve.



Black figured Amphora,
by the painter Exekias.
Achilles and Ajax are playing a board game during a break of the Trojan war.
About 540 BC. The Vatican Museum, Italy..

Black figured Kylix
500 BC. Antikensammlung Munich, Germany.

The stories were drawn by myths, the Trojan war, the adventures of Odysseus, the Argonauts and other great heroes of the Greek Mythology. Very popular were also the capering satyrs and maenads in the retinue of god Dionysus.

Black-figure vases are one of the most important sources of mythology and iconography, and sometimes also for researching day-to-day ancient Greek life.


Sources : Wikipedia, Greek Ministry of the Aegean, Livepedia.gr , Ancient History Encylopedia