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Case 6: Greek Vases

Making and Decorating Greek Vases


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Wine-jug (oinochoe): Black-figure technique

The painter first sketched the figures of Herakles and the Nemean Lion in charcoal, then painted their silhouettes in clay slip. When this dried, details such as Herakles' muscles and the lion's mane were scratched or incised through the slip with a sharp tool. Other details were added in slips containing red ochre, which turned purplish-red during firing, or kaolin, which turned white.

Production place: Athens
Date: around  500 BC
Fired Clay, black-figure technique
Bequeathed by Shannon, C.H.
Ricketts and Shannon Collection

Object Number: GR.7.1937

see the online collections database




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Wine-jar (amphora): warrior and youth with a horse, taking leave of Athena and a woman: Red-figure technique

Slight indentations in the surface show where a stick of charcoal was used to sketch the figures. Next, the figures were outlined with a thick brush loaded with clay slip. Slip, more or less dilute, was also used for details such as facial features or fold-lines in garments, and to fill in the background. This detail of the vase clearly shows the preliminary sketch lines: the artist first drew the horse and then the young man standing in front of it. He also changed his mind about the position of the reins.

This vase was painted by a craftsman known today as the 'Painter of Louvre G231'.

Production place: Athens
Date: around  470–460 BC
Fired Clay, red-figure technique
Bequeathed by Shannon, C.H.
Ricketts and Shannon Collection

Object Number: GR.21.1937

see the online collections database




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White-ground oil flask (lekythos)

The figures of the man and woman were painted partly in outline, partly in solid areas of black slip; a white clay slip, slightly creamier in tone than the background, was used for the woman’s flesh. The anonymous craftsman who painted this flask, known as the 'Painter of Cambridge 3.1917', is named after this vase.

Production place: Athens
Date: around  475–450 BC
Fired Clay, white-ground and black-figure technique
Given by Murray, C. Fairfax

Object Number: GR.3.1917

see the online collections database




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