Black gloss pottery

Image["Stemless cup (kylix) decorated with stamped palmettes (GR.2.2008). The cup is completely covered with a very glossy black slip"]

Stemless cup (kylix) decorated with
stamped palmettes ( GR.2.2008).
The cup is completely covered with
a very glossy black slip.
© The Fitzwilliam Museum.

 

Black gloss pottery was first produced from about 600 BC onwards. Athens made it first, but from about 400 BC other areas and production centres started to join in. The biggest non-Athenian producers were the Greek settlers in southern Italy, but potters in many other parts of the Greek world also turned out black gloss. The technique was basically the same as that used for black- or red-figured pottery, as explained in Case 6 in Gallery 21. The glossy black surface was achieved by applying a fine slip of the same clay used to shape the vases.


Image["Black-gloss offering bowl (phiale) with embossed decoration (GR.31.1991)"]

Black-gloss offering bowl (phiale) with
embossed decoration ( GR.31.1991).
© The Fitzwilliam Museum.

In comparison with figured vases, black gloss pottery can sometimes look rather plain. But some of the craftsmen who made these pots were very skilled in applying the glossy slip, usually while the pot was spinning on the wheel. The influence of metal work can be seen not just in the shininess of the slip, but also in the thinness of the walls and, in some cases, in the use of ribbing, stamping and incising. It can be argued that the absence of figures draws attention to the simple elegance of the shapes. More examples of black gloss pottery can be seen in Case 6 in Gallery 21.


Mrs Zangwill's vases

These five small vases and one lamp were recently donated to the Fitzwilliam Museum by Mrs Shirley Zangwill. They had been in her husband's family since about 1880, when his grandmother brought them back from Algeria. The objects almost certainly reached North Africa through trade between mainland Greece and Greek or Phoenician settlements on the North African coast. They were made in Athens around 400 BC and are very likely to have been found in graves.

Image["The five vases and one lamp donated by Mrs Shirley Zangwill in 2010"]

The five vases and one lamp donated by Mrs Shirley Zangwill in 2010.
© The Fitzwilliam Museum.

Above are the six objects: two types of drinking cup, a shallow bolsal and a deeper skyphos ( GR.1.2010 and GR.2.2010). The other pots consist of two small jugs (oinochoai; GR.3.2010 and GR.4.2010), a small, shallow dish ( GR.5.2010) and an oil lamp ( GR.6.2010).


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