Black-Figure Amphora

Categories: Ancient GreeceArt

The Unknown, Greek, Attic black-figure Amphora, was made in 520 – 510 BCE, during the Archaic period which was from 600-480 BCE. The medium is terracotta, the piece is sixteen inches and it was a Museum Purchase. At the beginning of the transition into the archaic art lost its geometric and rigid style and transformed into a more natural and real. The human figure changed from being triangular to more realistic anatomically correct human forms. These fgures usually represented illustrations of epic tales. Also during this time the notable “archaic smile” was introduced.

Because of this transition, Artists with a concentration in pottery were able to fully become proficient in the skill of the Corinthians, while in Athens. The term “attic” is derived from the word Athenian because of the area that surrounds it. In this location black figure pottery was very high in demand in markets and the rest of the Mediterranean region. Terra-cotta was widely used in pot making during the archaic period.

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There was two different types of techniques that were used to decorate the pot. One was red- figure, and the other was black-fgure. The names describe the processes of how hese types of pieces are made.

The amphora is a black fgure piece. The amphora was a popular piece in Ancient Greece. They style of the Jar was usually sculpted to have a tapering base and neck with a wide body that had two handles. An amphora is a vessel for storing or transporting honey, water, wine or olive oil.

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The process that was used to make this black fgure piece was first you had to sculpt the piece, and then the artist would paint black fgures on the amphora using slip made from clay and water. Then they would take a sharp tipped tool and draw into the black figure to eveal the orange clay below. The piece was fired in three different stages.

The process they used included altering with the amount of oxygen allowed I during the firing processes which allowed some parts of the clay to stay orange and for others to turn black. The scene depicted on the amphora is the procession of Dionysus. Dionysus is the Greek god who is the god of wine and wine making. On one side Dionysus is holding grapevine branches and his Kantharos which is a container shaped like a bowl that is filled with a never ending supply of his wine. He is standing etween two other satyrs while being followed by Maenads who appear on the other side of the vessel.

These creatures are sometimes referred to as the “raving ones”, they are wild women and followers of the wine god who like to become drunk and make bad decisions. During the Archaic period potters used elements of Greek mythology to decorate their pieces of work. One thing that is notably missing is the easily recognizable Greek key. This is usually tound on either the neck or e tn body ot the piece. In this particular piece the artist used black fgure. Black fgure pottery is sually known for its intricate detailing compared to red fgure which is known for its more minimalistic approach.

One could easily assume that it is Dionysus on the amphora because in black fgure he is always portrayed with his wine bowl, long pointy beard, long braided hair and long dress like robe. Although the actually specific design of the robes varies they all have a distinctive key at the bottom of them. Dionysus can also be spotted by the crown of grape leaves on his head. If you were to look closely you can see the big stylized alien like eyes that was synonomyus ith the archaic, along with the exaggerated muscle tone of the body, this was done because physical fitness was very important to Greeks.

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Black-Figure Amphora. (2018, Oct 22). Retrieved from

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