The Vases of Ancient Greece
This research paper investigates The Vases of Ancient Greece in its attempt to shade some light in to this renowned antiquity. The aim of this research paper is to explore deeply the art of pottery and painting in The Ancient Greece. It highlights the origin, development, how the activity was done, why, and who were the main participants involved. Evidently, Greek vases have enjoyed a great deal of publicity and relatively highly regarded. Therefore, aiming to demystify the reason why Greek vases are easily distinguishable and highly regarded compared other work of art is this paper’s primary importance.
The aim of this research is to provide relatively first hand information about vases in the Ancient Greece. Major emphasis is placed on a study of available literature with the aim of shading some light into the topic at hand. In this research, the intention is to achieve credible results on the topic in question. Sadly, more often than not, individuals who deal in this antiquity are focused on the overwhelming price tag attached to these vases. However, it is paramount to look beyond the price tag. In this paper, a close study of this art is paramount in our quest to look into the minds and lives of those who took part in this art. In addition, through this research we get to know the social life of the Greeks through the importance they attached to this art.
Materials and method
Considering the nature of the study, a literature review provides the basis on which to undertake this study. This is because it would not be possible to go back in time and engage in a real life methodology such as observation or experimental studies. Therefore, we embarked on close study of the available information conducted by previous researchers. Alternatively, we could conduct an interview with potential Greeks who are in a position to give a good account of the art. However, due to the time frame and accessibility of our potential respondents, literature review remained to be the most viable and realistic way of conducting this research. The secondary sources at our disposal were mainly books, exhibits, and documentaries.
The literature review was extensive and in-depth. The objective was to find out among other aspects, the importance attached to this art, how it was performed, who took part, how the product was used, as well as the raw materials needed to perfect the art. In addition, describing the social, economic, and religious significance attached to vases in the ancient Greece. The origin of the antiquity is also not to be left unexplored.
Evidently, the art of making and painting vases was fundamental in the lives of the Greeks. The art dates back to the 700 BC and other studies show that the art came into existence back in 1000 B.C. The time between these two periods was referred to as the Oriental period and according to various studies, it is possible that this period had a lot of influence from Egyptian art.
During this period, vases were designed for the purpose of storage. Greeks used them to store virtually everything possible within their homes. For instance, most Greeks used the vases to store whine, water, and wheat. However, with time, approximately between 450 to 250 B.C., the design changed. It was now referred to as the Athenian period. This period was characterized by vases designs that depicted the faces of the Greek gods and goddesses.
Apart from designing vases for storage, the Greeks soon found out that they could engage in vase painting for financial gains. The first vases were decorated with simple ornaments with relatively simple designs. Peppas postulates that pottery was practiced in most parts of Greece with the locals competing with urban porters in their attempts to produce higher quantity and quality vases. At first, the locals appeared to outdo urban designers in the art. However, by around the seventh century B.C., porters from Athens and Attica played a leading role in the art.
First, pots were made by molding clay on a special wheel, making desirable marks as decorative measures on the pots, and heating them in a kiln. It is not clear. However, whether or not the availability of special clay around Athens prompted Greeks to engage in the art or the art has undiscovered intentions. The clay in and around Athens, according to recent studies, had a relatively high amount of iron traces. However, what catches everyone’s eye is the decoration made on Greek vases. From the Athenian style came the geometric style of decoration. In this era, as the word geometry implies, patterns on vases were made by the uses of measuring instruments. In this case, a set of compasses and a ruler were used to make define patterns on the faces of these vases.
With time, vase painting evolved into what was termed as orientalzing period. In this period vase painting moved from simple drawing of lines using compasses and rulers to the use of lustrous ornaments, drawings of beasts, and monsters only known to the vase painters. White and red color was the most used in the painting. In this period, the style allowed painters to draw and design personal figures and imagery. Surprisingly, the style moved from being a mere fashion of art to signatures and in the market, whenever a vase had no signature it was considered the work of an amateur.
Apart from vase painting for the purpose of decoration, most some vases were painted to be used as monuments in graves. It this type, the drawings depicted human figures mainly on the life they led. Vase painting had three distinct categories; the black-figure, red-figure, and the white-figure paintings. The black-figure as studies has shown was a Corinthian invention. This technique involved incising shadow figures on vases. This technique mostly involved depiction of human beings showing day-to-day events in the Greek world. For instance, some vases showed soldiers in the battlefield, the victors, and the losers. The red-figure on the other hand was a painting as opposed to making incisions on vases. In this style, famous Greek gods and goddesses were painted on the vases. Finally, the white-figure and the red-figure bear some degree of similarity in their design and decoration.
Around the ninth century B.C., the art of pottery declined because of the Peloponnesian war. This war affected mainly the urban areas. However, vase painting was practiced in other parts of the country.
The above results show that there is more to this art than decoration and trade. The study provides an opportunity to peer deep into the lives of vase painters. The imagery depicts a wide spectacle of Greeks’ lifestyle. It is evident that potters were very innovative and creative in nature. According to Pomeroy and Donlan, the paintings not only did portray the abilities and mastery of the art, but were also an avenue through which vase painters spoke their minds and kept in touch with their feelings. However, our judgment as it seems may not be objective in some sense. This is because an ancient viewer may not derive similar implications from an incised image, as we would do.
Vases were made in a wide range of shapes and size. Though each of these vases was made for specific purposes, it is evident that most of them had complementary functions. Looking at the black-figure painting one might say that the incised images make no sense owing to the strange appearance, but the red-figure, as well as the white ground would not make sense to an ancient viewer despite the fact that the two resemble modern paintings. Looking at the evolution into which vase painting had turned into between 500- 450 B.C., the mood depicted in these paintings is solemn and that of meditative nature. It is not clear if painters resolved to produce such vases, or it was at this time that spirituality was wide spread. For instance, a famous painting depicting a warrior holding his helmet toward a woman, as they appear to be in a state of immobility may have depicted either an ensuing war or its aftermath.
From the findings of this research, it suffices to say that artists were more of into the art not because of some attachment to it but rather as a highly routinized activity (Pomeroy and Donlan 54). The depiction of myths, gods, and goddesses, and legends of war gives the impression that the Greeks were conservative in nature. Most vases however have paintings of gods and goddesses. It is also evident that most of the vases depicted a male-dominated society. This is arguably true because most vase paintings in existence to date have images of men most of them being the youth. In addition, most of the vase paintings available have images of men shown to be at work rather than at war.