Orientalizing pitcher, 7th century BCE, Getty Museum
BLACK-
AND
RED-FIGURE VASES
OF THE
6TH
CENTURY
In the sixth century BCE--when the Archaic style of sculpture was flourishing--scenes on Greek vases show a stronger
interest in human interactions. Instead of the bands of decoration seen in Geometric and Orientalizing vases, there
is usually a single open area where a particular story is told--similar to a framed picture in more modern times.
Most vases from the sixth century BCE are done in the black-figure technique. As the name suggests, the figures
appear as black silhouettes against the red color of the vase after it is fired. Because an artist using this technique
(for example, Exekias who created the amphora shown below) has to scratch through slip (dilute, colored clay) to
create internal details, the lines have a sharp, even quality. Figures on black-figure vases stand on a ground line and
are usually shown in profile, even though the eyes are drawn as if seen from the front.
Exekias, Achilles and Ajax Playing a Game, amphora, c. 540 BCE
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