Greece Ceramics Part I
Pottery had a wide development throughout the long Cretan-Mycenaean age, in Crete and in Argolis, and at the same time, with other aspects, it manifested itself in other parts of the Greek world (see Cretan – Mycenaean, civilization ; Greece: Prehistory).
The Hellenic Middle Ages or the period of the new origins succeeds the Mycenaean civilization, which covers approximately three centuries (1000-700 BC); it is the period of the so-called geometric art. In some early products, and especially from Crete and Argolis, the memories of Cretan-Mycenaean art are noted, especially in the persistence of curved lines; then it is the realm of the straight line, with the decoration distributed with rigid harmony, with the human figure and the bestial figure reduced to mere abstract expressions, thread-like in appearance. It is the pottery that is known to us especially from the Attic production of the Dípylon, from the place of the most significant finds (see attics, vases). These are large funeral vessels (one specimen reaches a height of 1.75 m) with zoned decoration and representations, given the funerary purpose of these vessels, mostly of a mortuary character. The human figure is always represented naked and there is the horror vacui in the highest degree ; sometimes, especially in the lid of pyxes, there is the manifestation of the choroplasty in equine figures, which are the favorites of these potters of the geometric period. Next to the Attic geometric we have that of Tem, of Rhodes, of Boeotia, of the north-eastern Peloponnese, that is the proto-Corinthian (v.), Which was fixed either to Argos, or to Sicyon, or to Corinth, and which is expressed in graceful products tiny for oils and perfumes.
Little by little, vegetal elements, monstrous animals, infiltrate the severe geometric decorative patrimony, in which however one of the salient features of Greek art, that is the sense of eurythmy, is expressed in a very clear way; it is no longer the absolute realm of the straight line, curves appear; it is no longer the prevalence of inanimate geometric forms over animated ones; the human and bestial forms begin to acquire corporeality; in a word, it is the transition from the geometric to the orientalizing style. The zoomorphic and teratomorphic decoration of oriental origin is assimilated and reworked with its own aspects by the Hellenic spirit. We have, starting from the century. VII, the various families of vases: the very fine rhodi vases, often pitchers with the various areas adorned with figures of grazing goats; the vases of Naucratide and Dáfnē with exuberant plant decoration; the Corinthian vases, tiny, for oils and perfumes, the vases of the Aegean islands, Delos, Milos, Aegina, the protoactic vases, the Boeoticians.
Greater rudeness is first of all in the protoactic vases, in which, unlike the others, the human figure is almost never excluded and is not subordinate to the bestial or monstrous one (sphinx, centaur, chimera, siren or harpy, etc.). But towards the end of the century. VII we witness in all this orientalizing production the gradual ascent of the human figure, which is, for example in the amphorae of Milo, completely triumphant. And we see that no longer, as in geometric ceramics, the human figure is represented in events of daily life, but is portrayed in mythical episodes. In the meantime, the skill of the potters is also expressed in the production of vases in relief or in molded parts or in fully configured vases. The relief vases are usually large, they are píthoi or amphorae from Rhodes, Crete, Athens, Boeotia, while exquisite vases, partly configured and partly painted, are of Corinthian and insular manufacture, and while Corinthian pottery is especially expressed in the manufacture of fully configured vases. The major export in this orientalizing period is of Corinthian products, which flood the markets of Etruria, Sicily and Magna Graecia.
The sec. Street. C. is the period of Ionic art and that of the full pre-eminence, in the vascular decoration, of the human element over the bestial element with the flourishing of scenes of mythical content.
Several centers continue their activity; some (Rhodes) decay from their prosperity and atrophy, others (Laconia, Attica), already humble and modest, now have a luxuriance of life. The factories of Asiatic Ionia and Corinth flourished, but in the second half of the century they too decayed; Athens remains absolute, exclusive dominatrix. And the technique of the figure and the ornaments in a dark color continues, or rather black on the white or yellowish background of the clay. There are rare exceptions: one is given by a polychrome plate by Tera with two female figures in animated conversation. But for Tera, as for Crete and Rhodes, we can add very few examples.
In Corinthian ceramics we can see the maintenance of small vases adorned with vegetal forms and of being bestial and fabulous; but there is already the myth, as in the lágynos, bottle, signed by Timonidas with the ambush of Achilles in Troilus. Indeed, the signatures on the Corinthian vases begin: in addition to Timonidas we have Carete. Milonidas appears in the series of those pínakes or clay pictures, which in large numbers have been found in Penteskoúfia near the Acrocorinth, curious and precious pictures that show us various aspects of Corinthian life of the century. Street. C. But then in Corinthian pottery we see the appearance of vases of great proportions, especially craters, adorned with mythical scenes. This evidently to compete with the Attic pottery, which begins, from the middle of the century. VI, to take over the markets of Italy; and perhaps also under the influence of the great Corinthian painting. But towards the end of the century. VI Corinthian pottery atrophies and dies.
In the first half of the century. The pottery that we can call laconic, better than Cyrenaic, has vigor, and whose development goes from 700 BC. C. to about 350 a. C., but which acquires importance only in the fifty years from 600 to 550, when it is exported to Magna Graecia and Etruria; the most notable relic is the cup of Arcesilao from the Cabinet of Medals in Paris. They are mostly cups, but also craters and hydries, and the decoration with the pomegranate fruit is peculiar.
For Ionia we have various families of vases, all with scenes and figures full of vivacity: the amphorae of the Fikellura type, the vases of Clazomene, together with the clay sarcophagi of that city, the vases, especially situlae, of Dáfnē, the fragments of Naucratides, the Cereto hydries, perhaps of the Ionian-Asian current, the so-called “pontic” amphorae, the Chalcidean vases, in which recently it was wanted to include vases perhaps of Cycladic manufacture, such as the cup called Fineo of the Museum of Würzburg. The Chalcidian factories seem to have had, together with that of the Clazomenî sarcophagi, a longer duration, perhaps reaching up to the year 507-6, in which Chalcis suffered a serious defeat by the Athenians. The black figure on a light background is in all these vases, but sometimes, for example, there is polychromy in the clazomenî and in the Cereto hydries more than in the Chalcidian vases; more strictly black-figure is the Attic pottery.
From the middle of the century. VI onwards, Attic pottery predominates absolutely.
From the magnificent Nesso amphora in the Athens Museum to the famous François vase, signed by Clizia and Ergotimo, there is continuous progress, especially through the so-called Tyrrhenian amphorae. After the François vase is the virtuosity of execution, since the arduous and patient work of the metal tip helps that of the brush. Numerous painters and manufacturers are known to us by their signatures: Amasides, Exechia, the series of “little masters”, Nicostene. We also have painted clay panels, votive gifts, next to which, as a manifestation of clay painting, we must place the polychrome metopes of the temple of Apollo at Thérmos.
Around 530-520 the transformation of Attic ceramics takes place from the conventional black-figure technique (the man in black and the woman in white), to the red-figure one, a transformation that opens up to Attic ceramics, now the exclusive master of markets of Italy, the way to the greatest and most brilliant conquests with the emancipation from conventionalism. However, the black figure remains in an andante genre of production, which also penetrates into the 5th century BC. C. and lasts for almost the entire fourth century, that is, in the Panathenaic amphorae. Leaving Attica, we note the permanence of the black figure in the Boeotic production of the sanctuary of the Cabiri near Thebes. As a transition to the full triumph of red-figure ceramics we have the dual technique vases, black-figure and red-figure, from the decade between 530 and 520, vases for which the name of the ceramist Andocide recurs. Then comes the flowering of severe-style ceramics, mainly characterized by the frequency of the cup (k ý lix), so this period of the severe style has also been called the period of the great cup masters. It is divided into two phases or cycles: that of Epictetus, rather short, where the attachment to tradition is more pronounced, and that of Euphronius, which from the last years of the sixth century goes down to the decade between 480 and 470 BC. C., and in which there is audacity of compositions, schemes, motifs, there is the epic accent, the tragic inspiration, the humor of real life. Never before as in this phase has ceramic painting risen so close to great art, and never as now do we have a crowd of potters, or workshop owners or painters, who have signed many of their works: in addition to Euphronius, Olto, Eussiteo, Smicro, Euthimide, Finzia, Gerone, Macrone, Duride, Brigo, Sosia; amphorae of Berlin, of the crater of Pane, of the oinochó ē Dutuit, of the water of Troilus of the British Museum, and so on. Sometimes for the reconstruction of certain groups of vases, joined together by a commonality of artistic formula, the laudatory writings in honor of this or that ephebe of a noble family or splendid life are also needed, the writings in which next to the name is the epithet “beautiful” (kalós), in the sense of our ” hurray “. Almost all the vases for the banquet are in the severe style, both for storing wine, for pouring it or for drinking it, but there is no lack of funerary vessels, the so-called loutrofóroi. And there is no shortage of vases configured of exquisite workmanship: female, silenic, black, animal heads; objects such as talus, etc.