Artist: Left: Phanyllis Group; Right: Unknown
Left: Black Figure Lekythos (520-510 BCE, Greek, Athens, Terracotta, 12.5 in. x 7 in., Given in honor of Christine Coggins Rowland by her husband and daughters Lisa and Anne, 92.51)
Right: Red-Figure Pelike (599-550 BCE, Greek, Terracotta, 14.24 in. x7 in., Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., 77.401)
Compare these two vessels. What similarities and differences do you notice?
What people do you see? Animals? What details do you notice?
How do you think these vessels were made?
A chariot driver, four horses, and warriors decorates the container to the left, a lekythos, used for storing oils. Above the charioteers flies a bird. The scene is intended to appear as if it is going around the vase in continual motion.
The vessel to the right is also a storage container, known as a pelike. Similar to the amphora with its two handles and narrow neck, the pelike has a wide lip around the bottom that allowed it to stand on its own. Decorating the pelike is Eros, the Greek god of beauty, seated on a rock holding a shallow bowl known as a phiale. A woman stands to left holding wreath and tympanum, or drum. Upon closer inspection, details included in the woman’s dress provide clues about ancient Greek fashion, from clothing and shoes to jewelry and hairstyles.
“Black-figure” describes the process of painting a solution of clay and water, known as slip, onto an unfired terracotta pot. An incisor tool helped the artist to insert smaller details into the decoration. In addition to black, white and red/purple slip were also used to paint decoration and detail. In contrast, human forms and decoration on the red-figure vases (the pelike) remained the color of the clay while the background was painted with slip to turn black. In both cases, the pots were baked in a kiln in three stages: the oxidizing step where air was let into the kiln; the second phase, in which wood was placed in the kiln to reduce the oxygen and turn the kiln smoky; and last stage in which air was reintroduced.
Imagine the figures on the lekythos and pelike moving. How would they move? What would they do?
Do the scenes remind you of something you see today? How do they compare with comic strips or graphic novels?