Ancient Greek pottery is significant both historically and artistically for a number of reasons.
Historically, Greek pottery provides an important window into the social and cultural practices of the ancient Greeks. Pottery was used for a variety of purposes, including storage, transport, and serving food and drink. Different types of pottery were produced for different occasions, from everyday use to special events like religious ceremonies and funerals. The decoration of the pottery was also significant, as it often featured scenes from mythology, history, or daily life, providing a visual representation of the beliefs, values, and practices of the ancient Greeks. Through the study of Greek pottery, we can gain insight into the social, economic, and religious practices of the ancient Greeks, as well as their artistic and aesthetic values.
Artistically, ancient Greek pottery is significant for its technical innovation and stylistic development. Greek potters were known for their skill in producing a wide range of shapes and sizes, from small drinking cups to large storage jars. They also developed new techniques for decorating pottery, such as black-figure and red-figure painting, which allowed for more detailed and nuanced representations of figures and scenes. Greek pottery also played an important role in the development of Greek sculpture, as many of the techniques and styles used in pottery were later adapted to create three-dimensional works of art. The decoration of Greek pottery often featured mythological or historical scenes, which were depicted with a high level of skill and attention to detail, making them some of the most sophisticated and visually striking works of art produced in the ancient world. Overall, the significance of ancient Greek pottery lies in its historical and artistic value, providing insight into the cultural practices of the ancient Greeks and their technical and stylistic innovations in the field of pottery and beyond.
The Dionysus Cup is a truly masterful blend of function and design in the black-figure technique, in which figures were painted in black on a red clay background. The vessel is a kylix—a shallow wine-cup—and would have been mainly used at symposia (drinking parties), where the guests reclined on couches. As they drank, the image at the bottom of the cup was revealed. Exekias has chosen as his subject an episode from a Homeric hymn about Dionysus, the wine-god, who was captured by pirates in his youth. To escape, he turned the mast into a vine, complete with clusters of grapes. Terrified, the pirates jumped overboard, where they were transformed into dolphins. Dionysus reclines like one at a symposium, enjoying the scene that he has created. The narrative is condensed into a single, harmonious image, with the seven dolphins balanced by the seven bunches of grapes.
(active Athens, Greece, c.550–520 BCE)
Exekias was the greatest of the Greek vase painters working in the black-figure technique. A potter and a painter, he was highly inventive in both fields. Sixteen signed pieces have survived and, in all, around 40 paintings are attributed to him. He combined great precision and naturalism with imaginative flair, choosing unusual subjects and often endowing them with genuine psychological depth. He also excelled at adapting his designs to the awkward surfaces of different kinds of vessels.
The Dionysus Cup
'Dionysus Cup' by Exekias c.530 BCE Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich, Germany from Art That Changed the World: Transformative Art Movements and the Paintings That Inspired' DK; Illustrated edition, UK, 2013, p.35-36
'Inside of the cup' By Exekias - User:Bibi Saint-Pol, own work, 2007-02-09, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2280960
'Outside of the cup' By Picture taken by Marcus Cyron - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28675513
'Sideview of the cup, focussing on the stylised face and artist signature on bottom base lip' By Exekias - Marcus Cyron, Own work, 18 March 2012., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24274930
October 5, 2022