Lexicon

Black-glazed pottery

New techniques in vase painting 2

Black-glazed pottery appeared in Athens in the 6th century BC. Similarly to the painted vases of the period, this monochrome shiny black ware (1–4) was exported en masse, which resulted in the appearance in Italy of local workshops producing black-glazed vases (5–8).

In the second quarter of the fourth century BC, a new vase-painting (the so-called Gnathia ware) technique appeared in Apulian red-figure workshops. The body of the vases was fired completely black, yielding a surface that was then decorated in a variety of colours, especially red, yellow and white (9–17). The vases were chiefly adorned with floral and geometric motifs, but isolated figures were also present, as well as motifs such as the theatre mask (13), birds (11–12), incense burner (9), or a jug and wreath (11). The female head encircled with floral scrolls (17) was a motif already characteristic of Apulian red-figure vase painting; the painted decoration is here complemented with a plastically modelled female head. The flutes encircling the body of the vessel, like the painted handles of the cup (15), evoke metal models.

Apulian black-glazed pottery decorated with vivid colours was popular in South Italy (cf. After red-figure pottery, fig. 4) and Etruria, and was widely diffused in the Mediterranean: it enjoyed special popularity in Egypt.