Etruscan Pottery

Etruscan Pottery

  
Introduction   |    Orientalizing Period   |    Red Figure   |    Bucchero   |    Greek/Etruscan Vessels   |    Art   |

Most pottery found at Etruscan burial sites follows very closely on the contemporary Greek (notably Corinthian and East Greek) designs. From the 7th Century geometric and Proto Corinthian ware were most prevalent, some imported, and some copies by local immigrant artists.

The Geometric style lasted from about 1000 to 700 BC. This period is further broken down into a Proto-Geometric transition from Mycenaean forms.

Geometric style is characterized by such devices as the meander (key pattern), checker, triangle, herringbone, and swastika. and by the gradual appearance of animal and finally human figures. These too were geometrized, being given angular silhouettes and arranged symmetrically, usually in strips around the pot. Figures were invariably portrayed from the side, i.e. in profile. The pots made at this time were the earliest in Greek art to show narrative scenes from popular myths, particularly those about Heracles.

The Orientalization Phase

The Orientalizing phase is first apparent in works made in Corinth in about 700 BC. At this time Oriental motifs found their way onto all makes of Greek pots. Curvilinear patterns, sometimes of wild exuberance, supplant the older, rectilinear ones. New subjects appear, especially such monsters as the sphinx, siren, griffin, gorgon, and chimaera, as well as such exotic animals as the lion. The Corinthian painters created a silhouette technique in which figures painted in the characteristic black glaze were incised with thin lines to show detail.


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Black Figure and Red Figure Styles

This style known as black-figure pottery style started to appear around 630 BC but emphasized human figures rather than Oriental animal motifs as pictorial themes. The superior quality of their clay, pigment, and decoration quickly enabled the Athenian artists to overtake those of Corinth.

From 600 BC on, Athens increasingly became the dominant centre for Greek pottery, eventually exporting its ware throughout the Mediterranean world. It was during this period that the practice of signing of pots by potters and painters first became common. Athenian pottery of the 6th century BC often features narrative scenes composed of black figures painted on a light inset background panel, while the surrounding vase surface is a deep, lustrous black. The method by which this distinctive colour was achieved, involving a complicated three-stage process.

Red-figure pottery, invented at Athens about 530 BC, is just the reverse of the black-figure style in that the reddish figures appear light against the black background of the pot surface . Details of the figures such as eyes and interior lines were painted on in black, the brush allowing more subtle characterization than did an incising tool. The red-figure technique allowed a more naturalistic and aesthetically appealing treatment of human figures. The red hues mimicked the colour and tone of sun-bronzed skin and dramatically spotlighted the figures against the dark background. Around 500 BC Greek artists abandoned the convention of using only profile views and began to use three-quarter frontal poses, as well as foreshortenings and the carefully depicted overlapping of one figure on another. These advances ushered in the zenith of Greek pottery design and also give some idea of contemporaneous achievement in large-scale painting.

The drawing on Greek ware of this period is often of the highest quality, and the subject matter is an inexhaustible mine of information on Greek life and thought. Greek artists sought to endow their figures with mood and character, as well as the capacity for action. Etruscan copies of Red Figure started off a crude imitations but gradually improved in technique. From 630 BCE to 540 BCE, the Etrusco-Corinthian series predominated. This is represented now by thousands of pots, with coherent schools of vase-painters. Archeologists can date most of this ware very accurately based on the painters. These are given such names as the "Bearded Sphinx Painter", "The Bobuda painter", "The Swallow Painter" all from Vulci, and "The Knot Painter" from Caere.
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Bucchero Ware



The famous Bucchero earthenware which is most often associated with the Etruscans, became common between about the 7th and early 5th century BCE. Characteristically, the ware is black, sometimes gray, and often shiny from polishing. The colour was achieved by firing in an atmosphere charged with carbon monoxide instead of oxygen. This is known as a reducing firing, and it converts the red of the clay, due to the presence of iron oxide, to the typical bucchero colours.

Although opinions vary about the precise times at which certain features of bucchero appeared, there is a scholarly consensus about the overall development of the ware. The finest products, the light, thin-walled bucchero sottile, appear to have been made in the 7th and early 6th centuries. In these wares technique is excellent, form tends to be refined and controlled, and decoration, usually incised or in relief, is generally subordinate to form. The shapes and motifs of the mid- to late 7th century are derived largely from Oriental models, especially metalwork imported from Phoenicia and Cyprus. In the 6th century the influence of the Greeks emerges and forms change:
alabastrums, amphoras, kraters, kylixes, etc., decorated with incised, modelled, or applied birds and animals in friezes or in association with geometric schemes appear. Decoration is sometimes limited to continuous bands of narrative figure reliefs, like those on painted Greek vessels. These were produced by rolling a cylinder with a recessed design over the soft clay. Eventually the Greek black pigment came to be used. Stylized human and animal figures were painted on the surface of bucchero in black, red, and white; and the black-figure style was expertly copied. Technique and workmanship declined from about the mid-6th century onward, when bucchero sottile was replaced by bucchero pasante, a heavy, thick-walled ware, overly complex in form and ostentatiously decorated with reliefs.

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Different types of Etruscan/Greek vessels

Reference Perseus Encyclopaedia

Alabastron

Amphora

Aryballos

Hydria

Kantharos

Krater

Kylix

Lekythos

Oinochoe

Psykter

Pyxis

Skyphos
Click on vessel for a detailed description
  
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Alabastron

An elongated, narrow-necked flask, used as a perfume or unguent container. The Greek alabastron has no handles but often lugs (ear-shaped projections), sometimes pierced with string holes. There are three types of classical alabastron: a basic Corinthian bulbous shape about 8 to 10 cm high that appeared from the mid-7th century BCE and was common in Greece; a long, pointed version found in eastern Greek, Etruscan, and Italo-Corinthian pottery; and an Attic type, from 10 to 20 cm high, with a rounded base and occasionally two small lugs, common from the late 6th to the early 4th century BCE. All three types are found in pottery form. The last two types are justifiably named alabastron, as they were made of alabaster.

Examples of alabastrons in opaque glass exist from 1000 BCE in Egypt, 600 BCE in Assyria, and the 2nd century BCE in Syria and Palestine. The earliest Egyptian alabastron is columnar, with a palm capital and a small plinth as a stand, and is circled with wavy bands of glass thread. Later examples, in dark-blue glass or milk glass, have a funnel-shaped opening or a broad disk-lipped neck; decoration consists of scallops, festoons, or, more commonly, ringed patterns, among which combed zigzags are especially effective.

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Aryballos

A small, narrow-necked, spherical or globular vase. Commonly used as a scent or oil bottle, particularly by athletes at the baths, the aryballos derives from the globular wine pourer or oinochoe of the Geometric style (9th century BCE), evolving its distinctive shape in the early Proto-Corinthian style (8th century BCE). From the many aryballoi that have been found dating from the late 8th and 7th centuries BCE, an evolution can be traced from a round to an ovoid shape, then to a pointed, top-heavy version, and finally to a round shape; the round, Corinthian type has a broad, disklike mouth, often nearly matching the circumference of the flask, and one small handle. Later aryballoi have a bell-shaped mouth, two handles with slight projections at the bases, and a flat bottom.
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Amphora

The amphora is one of the most common vessels in Etruscan pottery, and was common throughout the Mediterreanean. It is a two-handled pot with a neck narrower than the body. There are two types of amphora: the neck amphora, in which the neck meets the body at a sharp angle; and the one-piece amphora, in which the neck and body form a continuous curve. The first is common from the Geometric period (c. 900 BCE) to the decline of Greek pottery; the second appeared in the 7th century BCE.
Shipping amphorae typically had no flat base but continued down to a point. These were stored in racks with specially designed holes aboard vessels or in Emporiae. They have been referred to as the 200 litre drum of Antiquity.The height of amphorae varies from large Geometric vases of 1.5 metres to examples of 30 cm or even smaller (the smallest are called amphoriskoi). The average normal height is about 45 centimetres. Amphorae, which survive in great numbers, were used as storage and transport vessels for olives, cereal, oil, and wine (the wine amphora was a standard Attic measure of about 39 litres and, in outsize form, for funerals and as grave markers. Wide-mouthed, painted amphorae were used as decanters and were given as prizes.
Amphora from "Tarquin's
ship", Giglio

The neck amphora, prefigured in Mycenean (14th-century-BCE) pottery and remodelled as a main shape in the Protogeometric style (1000-c. 900 BCE), has about 12 distinct shape variations, determined as much by utilitarian as by aesthetic considerations. Noteworthy are the Nolan type (from Nola, Italy), some of which had triple handles popular in red-figure pottery; the Panathenaic amphora, painted in black-figure and presented as a prize (filled with olive oil and having the inscription "I am one of the prizes from Athens") at the Panathenaic Festivals from the 6th to the 2nd century BCE; and the loutrophoros, slender-bodied, with a tall neck and flaring mouth, used from the 6th century for ritual purposes at weddings and funerals. The one-piece amphora maintained a more consistent shape, with cylindrical handles, flaring lip, echinus foot, and amply curved belly. Amphorae, such as wine containers, continued to be made in profusion during the Roman Empire.

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Hydria

A large water vessel of the Archaic period (c. 750-c. 480 BCE) and the Classical period (c. 480-c. 330 BCE). It is found in both the black-figure and the red figure pottery styles. The hydria is distinctive in having three handles: a pair of small, horizontal handles at the sides for lifting and a large, vertical handle at the neck or shoulder for dipping and pouring.
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Kantharos

A drinking cup in Attic Greek pottery from the period of the red-figure and black-figure styles. The kantharos is in the form of a deep cup, with loop-shaped handles arising from the bottom of the body and extending high above the brim.
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Kylix

A wide-bowled drinking cup with horizontal handles, one of the most popular pottery forms from Mycenaean times through the classical Athenian period. There was usually a painted frieze around the outer surface, depicting a subject from mythology or everyday life, and on the bottom of the inside a painting often depicting a dancing or drinking scene.
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Krater

The Krater was used for diluting wine with water. It usually stood on a tripod in the dining room, where wine was mixed. Kraters were made of metal or pottery and were often painted or elaborately ornamented. In Homer's Iliad the prize offered by Achilles for the footrace at Patroclus' funeral games was a silver krater of Sidonian workmanship. The Greek historian Herodotus describes many enormous and costly kraters dedicated at temples or used in religious ceremonies to hold libations.

Kraters are large, with a broad body and base and usually a wide mouth. They may have horizontal handles placed near the base, or vertical handles rising from the shoulder. Among the many variations are the bell krater, confined to red-figure pottery, shaped like an inverted bell, with loop handles and a disk foot; the volute krater, with an egg-shaped body and handles that rise from the shoulder and curl in a volute (scroll-shaped form) well above the rim; the calyx krater, the shape of which spreads out like the cup or calyx of a flower; and the column krater, with columnar handles rising from the shoulder to a flat, projecting lip rim.

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Lekythos

A type of oil flask used at baths and gymnasiums and for funerary offerings. The flask has a long, cylindrical body gracefully tapered to the base, and a narrow neck with a loop-shaped handle. Its decoration was often superior to the sentimentality of most late Attic pottery.
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Oinochoe

(or Oenochoe) - A wine jug from the classical period of Greek pottery. A graceful vessel with delicately curved handle and trefoil-shaped mouth, the oinochoe was revived during the Renaissance and again during the Neoclassical period of the 18th century.
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Psykter

A vessel with a tall, cylindrical foot, rounded body, and short neck, used for cooling wine. Filled with wine, it could be placed inside a larger vessel, such as a krater, which had been filled with snow; or the psykter itself might be filled with snow and placed inside a larger vessel containing the wine.
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Pyxis

A round box with a cover used to hold cosmetics or drugs. History: Ultimately derived from Corinthian types of covered boxes, the Athenian pyxis has various forms. But the form can be traced in pottery back to the Protogeometric period in Athens. In the early Geometric period there are two varieties: the pointed, which hardly outlives the ninth century; and the flat bottomed, which continues to the late Geometric. This type continues to grow larger and fatter, and carries rather elaborately sculpted handles on the cover . The walls of this early type tend to be convex. During the sixth century the style changes, and Athens is producing a box with a concave wall. The pyxis persists in Attica, to the fourth century, and is adapted and modified by the potters in Apulia.
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Skyphos

A deep, stemless drinking cup with two handles and a low foot, if any. Shape: The Corinthian type is characterized by its inward curve of the lip. In the Attic types A and B, the lip is slightly concave and the foot is heavier (Type A illustrated here). During the fourth century both types grow narrower and more concave in the lower part of the body. There are early Geometric cups similar to this vessel, though the Corinthians set the conventions, which the Attic potters borrowed and modified. Both the Corinthian and the Attic skyphos enjoyed long popularity, from the early black figure down to the Hellenistic period.
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