Ancient Greek Pottery

Various types and forms of ancient Greek vases were utilized at these locations. Some were employed as grave markers, some ancient Greek vases acted as tomb gifts, and others appear to have been regarded partially as objects d’art, as did later terracotta figures. Some were extremely ornate Greek vases designed for aristocratic consumption and home adornment as much as they served storage or other duty, such as the krater, which was traditionally used to dilute wine.

With the emergence of vase painting, there was an increase in embellishment in Greek pottery art.

Styles such as West Slope Ware were typical of the later Hellenistic era, which witnessed the demise of vase painting.


The rebirth of interest in Greek art began quite a while after the revival of classical study throughout the Renaissance, and it was renewed in the 1630s by the intellectuals around Nicolas Poussin in Rome. Despite the fact that tiny collections of vases unearthed from ancient graves in Italy were formed in the 15th and 16th centuries, they were considered Etruscan.

It is probable that Lorenzo de Medici purchased many Attic vases straight from Greece; nevertheless, the link between them and the ones discovered in central Italy was made considerably later.

Most of the initial research of Greek vessels took the form of making books of the pictures they depicted, however, neither D’Hancarville’s nor Tischbein’s folios record the forms or attempt to provide a date, making them untrustworthy as archaeological records. Real efforts at academic research made steady progress throughout the nineteenth century, beginning with the establishment in 1828 of the Instituto di Corrispondenza in Rome.

Finally, Otto Jahn established the norm for thorough study and analysis of Greek pottery art, meticulously noting the forms and inscriptions. For many years, Jahn’s work was the classic reference on the chronology and dating of Greek vessels, although, like Gerhard, he placed the advent of the red-figure method a hundred years later than was actually the case.

In 1885 The Archaeological Society of Athens explored the Acropolis and discovered “Persian rubbish” of red-figure jars destroyed by Persian conquerors around 480 BC. With a more solidly defined chronology, Adolf Furtwängler and his pupils were able to date the layers of his archaeological investigations by the character of the pottery found inside them in the 1880s and 90s, a technique of seriation Flinders Petrie would subsequently apply to undecorated Egyptian pottery.

Whereas the nineteenth century was a time of Greek discovery and the establishment of first principles, the twentieth century was a time of stability and academic industry. Efforts to document and publish the entirety of public vases began with Edmond Pottier’s construction of the “Corpus vasorum antiquorum” and John Beazley’s “Beazley Archive”.

Types and Uses

The names we give to Greek vase designs are generally based on custom rather than historical truth; some are marked with their original titles, while others are the product of early archaeologists’ unsuccessful attempts to match the physical item with a recognized name from Greek literature.

To better comprehend the link between form and function, ancient Greek pottery may be split into four major categories, each of which is represented here with examples of common types: storage vessels, mixing vessels, and greek vessels for oils and perfumes.

In addition to their practical uses, certain vase forms were linked with rituals, while others were associated with athletics and the arena. Although not all of their applications are known, academics make fair near approximations as to what purpose a component would have had when there is doubt. Some, for example, serve only a ceremonial purpose.

Some of the containers were made to serve as burial markers. Males were designated by craters, while females were marked by amphorae. This enabled them to live, and it is for this reason that some will show funeral processions. The oil used as burial gifts was found in white ground lekythoi, which appear to have been produced specifically for that purpose.

Since the 8th century BC, there has been a global market for ancient Greek vases, which Corinth and Athens controlled until the end of the 4th century BC. The breadth of this commerce may be estimated by charting the location maps of these vessels outside of Greece, although this does not allow for presents or immigration.

The number of Panathenaic discovered in Etruscan graves could only be attributed to the presence of a second-hand market. As Athens’ political influence diminished throughout the Hellenistic period, South Italian products started to control the Western Mediterranean export market.

Greek Vase Patterns and Painting

The most well-known characteristic of ancient Greek pottery is finely decorated vases. These were not the typical types of pottery used by most people, but they were inexpensive enough to be affordable to a wide variety of individuals.

Because few instances of ancient Greek artwork have survived, modern historians must uncover the advancement of ancient Greek art through ancient Greek vases designs, which endures in huge volumes and is also the best reference we have to the conventional soul and actions of the ancient Greeks, along with Ancient Greek literature.

Development of Greek Pottery Art

Ancient Greek pottery designs, such as those unearthed at Dimini and Sesklo, dates back to the Stone Age. More intricate painting on Greek pottery dates back to the Bronze Age’s Minoan and Mycenaean pottery, some of which display the ambitious figurative art that would become highly advanced and characteristic.

After several years dominated by geometric decorating styles that became increasingly intricate, figurative features resurfaced in the 8th century. From the late seventh century until around 300 BC, emerging forms of figure-led paintings were at their pinnacle in terms of output and quality, and they were extensively exported.

Throughout the Greek Dark Age, which lasted from the 11th to the 8th century BC, the dominating early form was protogeometric art, which mostly used circular and wavy ornamental motifs.  This was followed in mainland Greece, Anatolia, the Aegean, and Italy by the geometric art pottery style, which used clean rows of geometric forms.

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