Ancient Greece, Athens (Attic), ca. 5th century BCE. A lovely Attic lekythos (oil vessel) of a traditional form with a slender, tall body, a tubular neck rising to cup-shaped spout with a flat rim, a single strap handle joining neck to shoulder, all upon a circular foot. The exterior walls are extensively decorated with a charioteer holding the reins of what appears to be a quadriga given the number of horse legs (three visible horses) and an attendant on the opposite end. Between them are two warriors who appear to be debating something given that they are facing one another and the gentleman on the left is making a dramatic hand gesture. Above this scene is a band of staggered dots underscored by a line and shoulder decorated with a band of frets above a band of attenuated strokes. Below the pictorial scene the finish is black with red striations. The black glaze has developed a silvery iridescence. Size: 7.625" H (19.4 cm)
This is a strong example of the black figure technique in which the figural and decorative motifs were applied with a slip that turned black during firing, while the background was left the natural color of the clay. The vase painter also took the time to incise the slip in order to delineate individual features and gestures, and to add some additional red pigment.
Ceramic production and painting took place in the northwest corner of Athens, in Kerameikos, where artisans created beautiful pottery as well as architectural decoration, roof tiles, and figurines. These were generally made on manually turned potter's wheels, and were either the product of one or two workers - there was no mass production. Athenian kilns were fueled by wood, and the temperature controlled the ultimate color of the pottery.
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-Richard Wagner collection, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA, acquired in the 1970s
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