Red Figure Vases


Red Figure Vases

  • Technique: draw outline of figure, paint background black so figure is left red. Started around 530BC in Athens
  • Easier to express finer features when adding detailing 
  • Easier to get subtlety across when you arent etching and scratching away. 
  • Artists had been finding black figure technique too restrictive
  • Sense of depth easier to achieve with red figure - can overlap with more clarity
  • Bodies are more realistic - the terracotta colour is similar to a tanned skin
  • Able to get line in relief - build up pain to get subtlely prominent line - used this for hair etc. 
  • Could get variation in colour and have shading - greater sense of realism and more lifelike
  • Red figure much better for things like twisting 3/4 pose 
  • No longer needed decoration and space fillers. the glaze on red figure vases is shiny black so dont need random patterns/figures to fill space and make it more interesting. 
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Influence of Wall Painting

  • Polygnotos - particularly renowned wall painter. 
  • He seems to be the one who came up with idea of humanising the gods and depicting moments of stillness and reinterpreting traditional stories (we see these three elements with Hercules at temple of Zeus at Olympia)
  • Particularly interested in inner passions of characters. One of his famous pieces showed the day after sack of Troy - not the climatic moment but one where you could show real emotion. 
  • Tried to depict figures on different levels creating sense of perspective and depth and gave interest in the image. 
  • Vase painters attempted to adapt technique of wall painters onto vases but doesnt work quite as well...
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Apollo and Artemis Slaying Niobids by Niobid Paint

  • Kalyx krater Second quarter of 5th C
  • Wiggly lines supposed to represent different levels of ground. 
  • Much easier to paint hills/rocks etc on wall, harder with red figure vase painting
  • Bold move taken by Niobid Painter but it doesnt really work out. 
  • Figures and drapery themselves however are actually well done. 
  • Hercules in middle characterised by club, bow and lionskin. Athena identified by helemt and spear
  • Much smaller figure on right trying to give sense of perspective - not enough spacial difference as there would be on a wall so it doesnt look quite right
  • Two youths on lower half - one perched on edge of rock holding leg up looking quite melancholy. leans back slightly showing how hes keeping away from everyone, not making eye contact etc, and just going into his own world  <-inner emotions being shown (another aspect of Polygnotos' work)
  • Anatomically beautifully executed - chest on reclining figure at bottom shows use of glaze for musculature. Athena's drapery nice fluid lines. 
  • Everything quite intelligible, minor overlapping. 
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Orpheus Playing Lyre for Thracians by Orpheus Pain

  • Column krater middle of 5th C BC
  • Emotion and Characterisation was something vase painters could effectively bring into their work - had just learnt how altering length and angle of eyelids and varying pupil position can help convey emotion. 
  • Two on left, one with eyes closed, both look sad and completely taken away by the music. Holding onto spear suggesting he's been there listening for a while. 
  • Man on right actually looks quite confrontational staring straight at Orpheus. Perhaps trying to fathom the secret of the spell he has cast over everyone with his song. 
  • Orpheus looks up to the heavens completely ignoring surroundings. Lips parted in song
  • Man on far right - one foot shown facing forward as if he's starting to move, the other trailing back and he faces back to Orpheus like he cant quite tear himself away.
  • Quality of painting isnt that great - badly drawn anatomical lines e.g. Orpheus' arm merges into shoulder, terrible feet. Not much effort put into anatomy its all about conveying emotion here. 
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Polyneikes and Eriphyle by Chicago Painter

  • Pelike 460-450BC
  • Story: Eriphyle given power to adjudicate between husband and brother. Polyneikes wants to support his son in law and let him go on expedition against Thebes so gives Eriphyle beautiful necklace as a bribe. Her husband knows however that he will die on this trip.
  • Vase shows moment Polyneikes shows Eriphyle the necklace. The bird below is a symbol of the household - reminder that her husband will die if she accepts the necklace.
  • Bird looks small and insignificant and Eriphyle outstretches her hand, eyes locked with Polyneike. Emotional connection achieved yet no physical interaction.,
  • Can see the motivations of the characters - excellent narrative.
  • Beautifully painted, drapery very natural and realistic. no repetition of excess decoration
  • Detail on Polyneikes' hair and beard 
  • Not much action on the vase so not exciting unless you understand the story but this is the moment of climax in the story. 
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Boreas Pursuing Oreithyia by Pan Painter

  • Oinochoe second quarter of the 5th C
  • Pan Painter, although was quite playful in some of his work, was also touched by new emotional depths artists had begun to explore with this piece of Boreas God of the north wind pursuing a girl. 
  • Reminiscent of Prian figures in fall of troy and Achilles pursuing Troilos in the way girl's father sits in his grief
  • Oreithia's leg and Boreas's leg are both cutting across different time periods = must suspend our belief
  • Boreas's drapery not very realistic - folds are over the top and elaborate. Drapery better on father figure. 
  • Can understand some of the emotions of father figure -wrapped up in his grief
  • Shows how far artists have come - all the skills of red figure vase paintings but harking back to archaic period ideas
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Perseus and Medusa by Pan Painter

  • Hydria second quarter of 5th C BC
  • Technique and ability of red figure vase painters was in style of an archaic piece. 
  • Unrealistic: dying medusa looks artificial - very graceful fall and archaitc in its arrangement.
  • Heavy drapery on Perseus and Medusa - Athena's dress has no drapery
  • Meant to be comical - like pantomime almost. Manner in which Perseus runs away, Athena holding skirt up to help her run, Medusa's head peeking out of Perseus' bag.
  • Brilliantly exectued twist in Perseus' body - ability of red figure vase painters is there 
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Odysseus Meets Elpenor in the Underworld by Lykaon

  • Third Quarter of 5th C pelike
  • Odysseus seated at edge of underworld next to sheep he has sacrificed watching companion Elpenor emerge from reeds to ask for a good burial. 
  • Od sits and listens attentively 
  • Rocky landscape indicated by thin lines 
  • Hermes on far right, not present in Homer's account but painter decided to include him because he as conductor of souls to the underworld. 
  • 3/4 view of Elpenor's face shows great skill. The drawing is effective and convincing but there is a lack of decorative beauty like in earlier vase painting. 
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Red Figure Hydria by Meidias Painter

  • Last quarter of 5th C BC
  • Divided into two friezes. Lower scene shows Herakles in the garden of Hesperides. 
  • When doing black hair on black background the best artists make the line really fine but this is not really achieved here. 
  • Can see painter's skill though - Herakles sat at angle 3/4 chest one leg in front facing us, one behind. Also 3/4 view of girl's face next to Herakles rendered with accomplished ease. 
  • Top scene shows girls abducted from sanctuary of Aphrodite by the dioskouroi
  • Seems like chariot is behind in background but also looks like its floating about heads of people in front - not particularly clear. 
  • Drapery very fluid on this vase e.g. drapery of girls on chariot blowing in the wind. 
  • Contours and characterisation not as good on this vase.
  • Horses quite well drawn - similarity in horses' pale expanse of skin and Herakles' naked body compared to everyone else in drapery. 
  • Arguably not very realistic the way the two horses turn to each other. 
  • In top half figures are scattered with seemingly no awareness of spacing. 
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