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  • Writer's pictureEfthimios Sifounios

The History of Greek Ancient Pottery

Ancient Greek pottery is known for its high quality, intricate designs and its historical and cultural significance. The art of pottery-making in ancient Greece dates back to the Neolithic period, around 6000 BC. Ancient Greek pottery was produced in various forms, including amphorae (large storage jars), kraters (bowls used for mixing wine and water), lekythos (oil flasks), hydria (water jugs), and kylikes (drinking cups). These were used for everyday household and religious purposes, as well as for trade and export.




Greek Ancient Pottery
Ancient Greek Pottery

One of the most famous styles of ancient Greek pottery is the black-figure pottery, which was produced between the 7th and 5th centuries BC. The designs on these potteries were created by incising the clay with a sharp tool before it was fired, and then painting the details with a slip (a mixture of clay and water). The background was then painted black, which made the designs stand out. Another famous style of ancient Greek pottery is the red-figure pottery, which was developed in the later part of the 5th century BC. The designs on these potteries were created by painting the background with a slip and then scratching away the slip to reveal the underlying clay, creating a red figure. Ancient Greek pottery not only served functional purposes, but it also played a significant role in ancient Greek culture and art. Many pottery pieces were decorated with scenes from Greek myths and legends, making them valuable historical and cultural artifacts. Ancient Greek pottery has had a huge influence on the art and culture of the Western world, and it continues to be studied and admired by scholars and art enthusiasts today.


Black-figure pottery is a style of ancient Greek pottery that was popular between the 7th and 5th centuries BC. The technique for creating black-figure pottery involves incising the design onto the clay with a sharp tool before it is fired, and then painting the details with a slip (a mixture of clay and water). The background is then painted black, which makes the designs stand out. One of the unique features of black-figure pottery is that the design is created on the clay before it is fired. This means that the artist had to have a good understanding of the final product before starting to create the design. They had to anticipate how the clay would shrink and change during firing, and how the slip would react to the heat. Black-figure pottery was used for a variety of purposes, including religious and household use, as well as for trade and export. Many black-figure potteries were decorated with scenes from Greek myths and legends, making them valuable historical and cultural artifacts. The black-figure pottery style was invented by the Corinthians, a city-state in ancient Greece, and it was later adopted by other city-states such as Athens. Some of the most famous black-figure pottery artists include Exekias, Lydos and the Amasis Painter. Black-figure pottery reached the peak of its popularity between the late 7th and early 6th centuries BC, and it eventually gave way to the red-figure pottery style, which was developed in the later part of the 5th century BC. Despite this, black-figure pottery continues to be admired for its technical skill and artistic beauty, and it remains an important part of ancient Greek art and culture.


Red-figure pottery is a style of ancient Greek pottery that was developed in the later part of the 5th century BC as an alternative to the black-figure pottery style. Instead of painting the designs on the clay before firing, the design was created by painting the background with a slip (a mixture of clay and water), and then scratching away the slip to reveal the underlying clay, creating a red figure. One of the key advantages of the red-figure pottery technique is that it allowed for greater detail and more realistic depictions. The artist could create more fluid and natural lines and shapes, and the details of the figures were more visible. Red-figure pottery was used for a variety of purposes, including religious and household use, as well as for trade and export. Many red-figure potteries were decorated with scenes from Greek myths and legends, making them valuable historical and cultural artifacts. The red-figure pottery style was developed in Athens, and it was quickly adopted by other city-states such as Corinth. Some of the most famous red-figure pottery artists include Euphronios, the Berlin Painter and the Kleophrades Painter. Red-figure pottery reached the peak of its popularity between the late 6th and early 5th centuries BC, and it eventually gave way to other styles of ancient Greek pottery such as the white ground technique. Despite this, red-figure pottery continues to be admired for its technical skill and artistic beauty, and it remains an important part of ancient Greek art and culture.

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