Red-figured vase

Red-Figured Vases

At first sight the sudden reversal of technical method involved in the change from black figures on red ground to red figures on black ground is not easy to explain. That it was a new invention, not a development from the old style, is obvious, seeing that no intermediate stage is possible. The theory has been promulgated by a German writer that the idea arose from the effect of the Gorgoneion painted on the inside of many late B.F. kylikes. Undoubtedly the effect is that of the R.F. style, the face itself being left red, surrounded by black hair, beyond which the black is continued over the whole surface of the interior. But this theory has not really much to support it; the Gorgoneion is in the R.F. technique , and did not therefore suggest it; and the earliest R.F. kylikes usually have B.F. interiors, not R.F. It is exceedingly doubtful that the kylikes had anything to do with bringing about the change.

Much more probable is the suggestion that the class of vases with opaque figures on black ground represents the transition, if transition it can be called. We have seen that some of these correspond more to the B.F. vases, others to the R.F., and that in many cases their appearance  is that of R.F. vases. It may easily be conceived that it occurred to the painter that it was more effective to let the red clay of the background appear through the black wherever he would place a figure than to paint the red on to the black. But these vases are few in number; and as the R.F. vases sprang at once into great popularity, the new invention must have become too general at the very first to have been adopted from such a comparatively rare method. There is also a greater tendency to naturalism in that class than in the earlier R.F. vases. The fact is that there had been going on throughout the course of early art a tendency (to which B.F. vase-painting forms an exception) in favour of drawing figures on a light ground against a dark background. And even in the B.F. vases this tendency is not altogether absent, as seen in the attempts at lightening the figures by making them polychrome, i.e. with purple and white, and also by the practice of covering the rest of the vase entirely with black.

Now, we have already seen that Andokides was a painter who liked to combine the two methods on one vase, and also that he was one who invariably adopted the completely black variety of amphora, for B.F. painting as well as R.F. His Louvre vase with the women swimming is clearly one of the earliest R.F. examples in existence. It is therefore much more likely that he represents for us the author of the new method than Epiktetos or the other artists who painted “mixed” kylikes or who used both styles. On the other hand, it must not be forgotten that it was really in the kylikes that the new style rose into popularity.

Next to the question of how the new style was brought about comes that of when it arose, and the length of its duration at Athens. The chronology of R.F. vases rests on two considerations—the inscriptions on the vases themselves, and the evidence of history and excavations. Until within the last twenty years it had been customary to regard the year 480 B.C. as the line of demarcation between the two methods, and the earliest date for R.F. vases. Yet as long ago as 1834 Ludwig Ross, finding a fragment of R.F. pottery among the debris  of the Persian sack of the Acropolis, acutely deduced therefrom that this style must necessarily have been in existence before the date of the sack, i.e. before 480 B.C. His views, however, fell on deaf ears, and it was not until the scientific exploration of the Acropolis in 1885–89 that his deduction was seen to be justified. The result of these excavations was to show that among the mass of pottery found in the pre-Persian stratum a considerable quantity belonged to a comparatively advanced stage of R.F. painting, including signatures of artists of the archaic and severe style down to Euphronios. Some writers have thought that these fragments may belong to the period between 480 and 460, when the rebuilding of the site was begun; but so many show traces of burning that it is far more probable that the earlier date is correct. Allowing, then, for the necessary stages of development up to the time of Euphronios, the beginning of the style may be placed about 525–520 B.C., the date at which, as we have seen, Andokides may be placed. Besides his name that of Euphronios “the potter” was also found on a base in the Acropolis excavations. The other limit of date will be more conveniently discussed in a subsequent connection, and it may suffice to say here that the gradual pushing back of the terminus post quem  points now to a much earlier terminus ante quem  than was formerly supposed. Reasons will subsequently appear for placing the termination of the red-figure fabrics at Athens in the closing years of the Peloponnesian War (410–400 B.C.).

The evidence afforded by inscriptions is necessarily affected in some degree by that of excavations, and chiefly important for the relative  dates of the vases. It is not palaeographical, but is afforded mainly by one class of inscriptions, that of the καλός-names, so far as they have an historical significance. Thesenames will be the subject of discussion elsewhere, and are only alluded to here for their connection with the question of chronology. It is a well-known feature of these καλός-names that many are those of famous historical personages, such as Alkibiades, Megakles, Miltiades, and Hipparchos. But, on the other hand, any attempts to connect the vases with the historical bearers of the names have met with little success; there is also the danger of arguing in a circle—e.g. of saying that because Miltiades' name appears on a vase, it is therefore to be dated in his youth, and because the vase belongs to the date when Miltiades was young, therefore it bears the name of that individual.

Where the importance of these names really comes in is in their relation to particular artists or groups of artists. In this way, as Klein and Hartwig have shown, connecting-links between the artists can be traced and their chronological sequence assured. This, taken in conjunction with questions of style and our fixed dates obtained from other sources, enables us to extract a fair working chronology from all the data. The subject must, however, be dealt with in greater detail when considering the work of individual artists, and only a few general statements can be laid down here.

Many of the historical καλός-names, such as Hipparchos or Glaukon, were probably very common at Athens, and we have therefore no grounds for attaching importance to their appearance. But in regard to the great painter Euphronios, whose date is fairly certain, it is important to note that two different names are connected with vases in his earlier and later manner respectively, viz. Leagrosand Glaukon. Euphronios began his career about 500–490 B.C., and it probably covered some forty years, from about 495 to 455. Hence we may place the time of Leagros' youth about 495–490, that of Glaukon about 465–460, and it is remarkable that the latter appears as “son of Leagros” in one or two cases. Now, we know that there was an Athenian general Leagros who was στρατηγός in 467, and fell in battle against the Edones in that year. Also that he had a son, Glaukon, who commanded at Kerkyra in 433–432. In this case the historical data fit in so exactly with the evidence of the vases and of the Acropolis excavations that we need hardly hesitate to accept the identity of these two names.

It has been assumed—and the assumption has hardly been questioned—that the καλός-names are necessarily always those of youths, i.e. of about seventeen to twenty years of age; this view is supported both by the general character of the subjects on the vases where they appear, and by the frequent use of the analogous formula ὁ παῖς καλός. Dr. Hartwig has laid down certain conclusions in regard to these names which have met with general acceptance, and may be briefly restated here by way of summarising the subject.

(1) All vases with the same καλός-name are limited to a period of ten years, and consequently all those which are by one artist belong to a definite circumscribed period of his life.

(2) All vases by different artists, but with the same καλός-name, are approximately contemporaneous,i.e. within ten years.

(3) The appearance of two or more καλός-names on the same vase indicates the approximate similarity of age of the persons named, the greatest possible difference being ten years.

(4) All vases with the same καλός-name, whether by one artist or more, can always be linked together by their style; the same name does not appear on a man's earliest and latest vases.

He further impresses the caution that the identity and position of the παῖδες καλοί (i.e. whether or no they belonged to the aristocratic class) is a secondary question compared with that of the development of painting which they help to elucidate.

The question of fabric is one that hardly needs discussion, the evidence pointing so unanimously to Athens in all cases. The apparent exceptions suggested by classes of vases found almost exclusively on one site, like the “Nolan” amphorae or the Gela lekythi, can easily be shown to be no real exceptions. We have already met more than once with instances of particular fabrics being favoured by particular places; and just as Ionian vases were imported to Caere or Vulci, and a special class of Attic B.F. vases made for Cyprus, so we may suppose that certain Athenian makers had a monopoly of export to Nola, to Gela, or elsewhere. Otherwise similarity of style, of technique, of subject, of the alphabet of inscriptions, and all other details point to a purely homogeneous fabric, and that this was located in Athens itself is not a matter to be seriously disputed. To this complete monopoly which Athens enjoyed in the fifth century only one exception can be traced, that of Boeotia, where local fabrics continued to be made at Thebes and Tanagra. Of these one class has already been discussed; the other will be treated of subsequently.

We must next consider briefly the technical characteristics and the forms of the Attic R.F. vases. As regards the former, the method pursued during the period under consideration may be summarised as follows. The artist sketches his design on the red clay with a fine-pointed tool; he then surrounds this outline with black varnish, laid on with a pen or brush, to the extent of about an eighth of an inch all round, this being done to prevent the varnish, when laid on over the rest of the ground, from running over into any part of the design. Finally, details such as features or folds of drapery are added with a brush in black lines on the red, this process representing the incised lines of the old style; and further details are often expressed either in a thinned black pigment which becomes brown and is sometimes only perceptible in a strong light, or by application of white and purple as in the last period. In the severe style purple is generally used; but at a later stage this colour was dropped, and finally replaced by white. The accessory colours were chiefly used for fillets in the hair, liquids, flowers, and other small details, as well as for inscriptions. Thus we see that the technical process of the preceding method is exactly reversed and that the figures now stand out in the natural colour of the clay against the black ground.

The advantages of the new method were obvious. As long as the vase-painters continued content with stiff and hieratic forms and mere silhouettes the black figures were sufficient. The careful mapping-out of the hair and muscles, the decorations, and all the details of shadow in painting and of unequal surface in sculpture could be easily expressed by the new method. But it is evident that these stiff lines were quite inadequate to express those softer contours, which melted, as it were, into one another, and marked the more refined grace and freedom of the rapidly advancing schools of sculpture and painting. By the change of colour of the figures to the lucid red or orange of the background, the artist was enabled to draw lines of a tone or tint scarcely darker than the clay itself, but still sufficient to express all the finer anatomical details; while the more important outlines still continued to be marked with fine black lines. At first the style is essentially the same, the forms precise, the eyes in profile, the attitudes rigid, and the draperies rectilinear. The backgrounds may have been painted in by an ordinary workman, and some specimens exist in which it has never been laid on. The artists seem to have worked from slight sketches, and according to their individual feelings and ideas, and as duplicate designs are quite unknown, there was clearly no system of copying.

The correspondence of style  in the figures on the earlier R.F. vases to those of B.F. technique shows that the two methods must have coexisted for a time, and this is further borne out by the mixed vases of Andokides, Hischylos, and others, and by the work of artists who employed either style, like Pamphaios. The latter, for instance, seems to have adhered to the old style by preference for hydriae and large vases, but preferred to follow the new fashion in the kylix.

To quote a recent writer: “The new method opened up a path for the freer exercise of the imagination,” and we can see in the red-figure vases a gradual development of artistic conception and power of expression, together with the shaking off of all restrictions until the perfection of drawing is reached, and “the red figures stand out against the black, unencumbered with anything that might distract from harmony of colouring or purity of outline.” It is the essential characteristic of the new style that it is drawing rather than painting, and it stands out as the final attainment of what the vase-painters had really been striving after from the days of the Melian and early Ionic wares—namely, the perfection of linear design. The same principle is at work in the vases with white ground which passed through parallel phases of development.

Among minor details of drawing in which an advance is conspicuous is the treatment of hair, eyes, and drapery. In the B.F. style the hair was indicated as a black mass, standing out against the light background; but now that the background had become black, a separation was necessary. At first this was done by adhering to the old engraved line method, for which came to be substituted a narrow unpainted line. Next, an advance was made in the treatment of the hair itself, with a view to more accuracy in detail, and the contours are undulated or separate locks shown on the forehead. Sometimes a kind of stippling process is adopted, by means of which the hair is indicated by rows or clusters of raised dots, representing close curls, such as are seen in Attic sculpture of the late archaic period.

The general contours of the forms are slender; the foreheads are low, the noses prominent, the eyes long, the chins sharp, the legs short and thick, and the folds of the garments stiff and rectilinear. Women are not distinguished in this style either by their colour or by the shape of their eyes, in which respects they are drawn just like the men, but exclusively by their costume and form. The white hair of old men is indicated by white markings on the black ground, and curly hair, as noted, by little raised knobs of black paint (βόστρυχοι). The figures are generally small, but some of grandiose proportions occur even in the earlier stages, though more characteristic of the succeeding “strong” style. The principal outlines are usually finished with wonderful spirit and truth, but sometimes, as in the extremities, great carelessness is visible. The general effect is much enhanced by the fineness of the clay, which in the earlier R.F. vases is of a bright orange-red, as also by the brilliancy of the black varnish.

From B.M. Cat. iii.

The development of the form of the eye is most important, as an aid to chronology (see Fig. 99). In the B.F. period it was invariably treated in two ways,—that of a man as a complete circle, in front view, between the lids, of which the upper is more arched than the lower; that of a woman is almond-shaped. In the R.F. vases the eye in front view is still maintained with figures in profile, but the sexes are not distinguished; the pupil is painted black, and the lids drawn at first like the B.F. male eye, then almond-shaped. The next stage is to shift the pupil (which now becomes a ring with central dot) into the inner corner. Lastly, this corner is opened out till it assumes the correct profile appearance, and then, about the middle of the fifth century, the pupil also attains the correct form. About midway in this development, as we have already seen, the power is acquired of moving the position of the pupil to express looking upwards, downwards, or sideways; the importance of this point as bearing on the new developments of Kimon of Kleonae we have already discussed. The eyelashes are not rendered until the correct profile is attained, except in a few instances, such as the Berlin cup of Euphronios (2282), where the lids are fringed with short, vertical strokes.

In regard to the treatment of drapery, the earlier vases, such as those of the Epiktetos cycle, retain the B.F. method of rendering folds only in the skirts of the chiton, these taking the form of parallel lines. Gradually the folds follow the motion of the body; and finally, under Euphronios, comes a marked advance, whereby contrasts of material are indicated. He uses fine brown crinkly lines to represent the soft transparent Athenian fabric which we also see worn by the archaic female figures of the Acropolis.

Among the many improvements in drawing effected during the R.F. period, a notable one is that of the introduction of true perspective and more than conventional landscape. We know from the shield of the Athena Parthenos that this began to be understood at Athens by the middle of the fifth century, as also from the paintings of Polygnotos, and hence we are not surprised to find it appearing in the vases of the period when that artist's influence began to be felt. A fine example is the krater from Orvieto in the Louvre, with an Argonautic scene; and even more beautiful is the Blacas krater in the British Museum, which shows Selene disappearing over the top of a hill, and the stars setting in the sea (see Plate LIII.). These two vases also illustrate the introduction of the new principle of placing figures at different levels which was elaborated in the Meidias hydria, the vases of Kertch, and to a still greater degree in those of Southern Italy. All these details indicate the growing tendency towards a pictorial style, which in the first instance was due to Polygnotos.

The shapes  of the R.F. period are to a great extent the same as in the last, but most of them are modified to some degree, and some new ones are introduced. Moreover, the relative popularity of certain shapes varies, the amphora and hydria of the B.F. period being now surpassed in favour by the kylix, the krater and lekythos receiving more attention, and certain new forms, such as the askos and stamnos, appearing at different stages.

For the first half of the period, from 520 to 460 B.C., the kylix is pre-eminent, not only in point of numbers, but for the attention devoted to its decoration. It is, as we have seen, doubtful whether it was actually in the kylikes that the new style came into being, but in any case they form the material for the study of its earlier phases. The form is that of the later B.F. varieties, as used by Exekias and the painters who used the large eyes in its decoration, tracing its origin probably to an Ionic source. At first the decoration is often confined to the interior, or the exterior designs are little more than conventional, consisting of the eyes and a simple motive or figure between. In the strong period there is usually a connection between the interior and exterior designs, the whole often forming successive episodes of a story; but subsequently the old principle asserts itself, and the interior subject becomes the important one. Slight variations of form occur, as in the cups of Brygos, with their off-set lip, or the delicate products of Sotades, the handles of which are shaped like a chicken's merrythought. In the latest specimens the stem is often replaced by a flat broad foot, or the bowl becomes flat and ugly, losing all the beauty of the earlier graceful curves.

Among other drinking-cups the kotyle, kantharos, and rhyton are most often found. The former was favoured by Epiktetos and Hieron, and a kantharos is signed by Epigenes, others by Nikosthenes and Duris. The kantharos, though a very beautiful form, is never common in the painted vases, being perhaps oftener made in metal. Among the kotylae we may mention here a series painted with an owl and olive-wreath, which obviously have some reference to the cult of Athena. They have been identified, but on slight authority, with the Παναθηναϊκά mentioned by Athenaeus; but their real meaning has not yet found a satisfactory explanation. The rhyton  strictly belongs to the series of plastic vases, the lower portion being always modelled in the form of a head, human or animal, or two conjoined. Some of these are signed by artists, such as Charinos and Kaliades.

Of the amphora three main varieties are found. The earlier type, which reproduces the “black-bodied” or panel-amphora of the B.F. period, did not long remain in favour, and was mainly used by Andokides and Euthymides and their associates. The panel system of decoration is still retained, the framework being formed of ornamental patterns as in the old style. Secondly, there is the “Nolan” amphora, which came in about 500–480 B.C., and was obviously an improvement on the old “red-bodied” B.F. type. It is a very graceful, slender form, with long neck, distinguished by the surpassing excellence of its black varnish, and the impression of taste and restraint given by its simple decoration of one or two figures each side (see Plate XXXVI.). The third variety is the so-called pelike , a not very successful variation of the amphora, but for some reason very popular in the later stages. With its flat foot and bulbous body it stands in the same relation to the amphora as does the so-called aryballos (see below) to the lekythos.

Two forms that may be connected with the amphora are the stamnos and the psykter. The former is peculiar to the R.F. period in its earlier stages; the first known example is signed by Pamphaios, a “transitional” artist. Most of the known specimens attain a high average of excellence. The psykter or wine-cooler is very rare, but there are two fine examples signed by Euphronios and Duris.

The hydria in this period at first retains the B.F. form, as seen in an example of about 500 B.C. signed by Phintias (B.M. E 159), but the tendency to prefer a curvilinear outline is soon manifested. The new development is conventionally known as a kalpis . The shoulder having ceased to be distinct from the body, the design becomes single, or else is confined to the upper part of the field.

Of the krater we have at least four varieties, all belonging to the more developed stages of the period. The earliest example is the Antaios-krater of Euphronios in the Louvre, about 500 B.C., which is of the form known as vaso a calice ; but this and the other varieties never become really common till the final stages are reached. The bell-krater, or vaso a campana , is only found in the late fine period, and is then almost the only kind of large vase made; the volute-handled krater, which was developed from the old column-handled type, is seen in some fine specimens. At first the design (as in the B.F. example by Nikosthenes, B.M. B 364) is confined to the neck. The treatment of the column-handled type is interesting as a survival of archaism both in design and arrangement, with the bordered panels and occasional B.F. friezes of animals.

Among the smaller vases, the oinochoë and lekythos with their varieties, the askos and the pyxis, are the most important. With the exception of the ordinary form of lekythos these belong chiefly to the later stages, when the preference was for a sort of miniature style. Very few of these bear artists' signatures. The oinochoë differs little from the B.F. examples; the pyxis is practically a revival of an old form favoured in the Corinthian and other early fabrics. The latter are usually decorated with domestic or marriage subjects, in reference to their use by women for toilet purposes (see Plates XLII., XLIII.).

The lekythos was, as we shall see, the form exclusively employed for the funeral vases, and largely also for others with polychrome decoration on white ground. Those painted with red figures belong mainly to the strong period (500–460), and have been mostly found in Sicily, whither they were imported by preference, like the amphorae made for Nola; a fine specimen is given on Plate XXXVI. When this form came to be adopted for the funeral vases, a new type arose with bulbous or spherical body, conventionally known as an aryballos . In the late fine style we have many examples of this form, with rich polychrome decoration and gilding (Plate XLII.).


Red-figured “Nolan” Amphorae and Lekythos (British Museum).

The ornamental patterns  on R.F. vases do not, generally speaking, call for so much attention as those of earlier style; they are on the whole used with great restraint and little variety, and are more subordinate to the designs than at any other period of vase-painting. The principal motives are the palmette, maeander, and egg-pattern; all others are comparatively rare. It is interesting to note, on the early amphorae and hydriae, and on the column-handled kraters down to quite a late date, the survival of the old panel system with its borders of ornament. Strictly speaking, now that the background was black throughout, there was no necessity for enclosing the space on which the figures were depicted; but the conservative instincts prevailed, especially while the old shapes were retained. Gradually, however, as these vases assumed new forms, the borders were almost unconsciously dropped—first the sides, then the top, and lastly the lower border, which maintained its ground longer than the others. The same tendency, from a formal framework to absolute freedom, is in fact to be observed in all the vases; and in the later stages we note a new development, that of an elaborate pattern of palmettes under the handles, which assumes more and more prominence.

The evolution of the palmette on R.F. vases has been skilfully traced by Dr. Winter in reference to the kylikes; but it is no less interesting in the amphorae and similar forms. In both cases it arose from the tendency to make the handles terminate in stylised palmettes, which on the B.F. kylikes of the minor artists are often a prominent element in the decoration. Similarly, on the B.F. red-bodied amphorae we have the symmetrical compositions of palmettes under the handles radiating from a common centre. These were at first reduced to a modest single palmette or a pair, but soon spread out again, preserving at first the symmetrical grouping; subsequently, with an increasing tendency to naturalism, the palmettes, enclosed within graceful tendrils, form unsymmetrical  but highly pleasing compositions without any definite centre. This development of ornament under the handles—to which part of the vase it was almost restricted—can be traced during the first half of the fifth century, till it reaches its height about the middle. Where a band of ornament was required round the base of the design, as on the large calyx-kraters, it takes the form of a row of palmettes enclosed in tendrils, in the style of modern arabesques; or the palmettes are arranged in pairs, set obliquely, and each pair divided by a scroll ending in volutes. Or, again, a row of somewhat squat palmettes, similarly enclosed, alternates with lotos-flowers in the old style, as on B.M. E 169.


In the kylikes the development of the handle-ornament first begins with Epiktetos, who (as on E 3 in B.M.) first draws a free palmette with separated leaves on either side. As the tendency to cover the whole of the exterior space with the design increased, the intervening space under the handle came to be filled in also, by extending the tendrils of the palmettes and terminating them with buds (Fig. 100).Next, a tendency to symmetrical composition each side is seen, the palmettes being doubled in number; or, again, an attempt is made at uniting the two isolated palmette-systems in one harmonious whole, and at the same time to fill the intervening space, by means of interlacing tendrils. The palmettes are further increased to three or four each side, and in the arrangement is seen the tendency to freedom even at the cost of symmetry already noted, as in Fig. 101. Thus is reached the point at which the severe passes into the strong style. In the latter the palmettes are often omitted altogether, especially where the two exterior scenes are connected; or their place is taken by some figure under the handle, as on vases by Hieron or Brygos. Where the patterns do occur, they are often stereotyped, as in the vases of Duris, who on nine examples with handle-patterns repeats the same device in each case. In the fine style, after 460 B.C., the symmetrical arrangement recurs, the usual type consisting of a double palmette between two large ones, with connecting and enclosing tendrils.


Another method of tracing the chronological sequence of the R.F. cups is by means of the maeander patterns which surround the interior design and extend below the outside scenes (Fig. 102). A parallel development of this pattern may also be traced on the amphorae and other vases, where it is used as a border below the figures. In the severe style, as in the cups of Epiktetos, this pattern has not yet made its appearance, and its place is taken by a simple line of red; and in the vases of Euphronios,on which it is first found, a simple maeander is employed. The first to vary this was Duris, who alternates it with squares, the centre of which is “voided” in the form of a red cross, and this practice subsequently became invariable. The square itself shows a development of form, the cross being first filled in with a black centre, then made diagonal; next, the black background is largely diminished, until it disappears, except for dots between the arms of the black cross; finally, it changes into the form of a chequered square, black and red, of which the red squares are sometimes dotted.

The subjects  on red-figured vases may not perhaps be so varied or so full of mythological interest as those on the black-figured, but yet present many features worthy of attention. At the very outset we see the tendency towards scenes from real life in preference to those from mythology; and on the whole throughout the period the ratio of one class to the other is exactly the reverse of the preceding period. Nor are the stock subjects in either class the same. In regard to mythology the cosmogonic themes of B.F. vases, such as the Gigantomachia and the Birth of Athena, are replaced by such subjects as Eleusinian and Attic local cults, the sending forth of Triptolemos or the birth of Erichthonios. In the heroic cycles Herakles is no longer the popular favourite, but is supplanted, for reasons presently to be detailed, by Theseus. The Argonautika frequently provides subjects for vases of the more developed style, in which the influence of Polygnotos is felt; and the Odyssey  begins to rival the Iliad  as a source of epic themes. The influence of the stage is as yet hardly felt, though here and there scenes may be traced to the influence of some Satyric drama.

From B.M. Cat. iii.

In subjects relating to Dionysos and his attendant Satyrs and Maenads a considerable change is to be noted, in the direction of a preference for violent action. The Bacchic revellers of the B.F. vases, even at their highest pitch of excitement, are generally stiff wooden figures, with mechanical and restrained pose or action. But the exteriors of many cups of the best R.F. period, such as those of Hieron or Brygos, are enlivened by throngs of frenzied Maenads and wild drunken Satyrs, given up to the most unrestrained and licentious merriment.

Turning to the subjects of daily life again, it may be observed that on the B.F. vases the preference is for battle-scenes, warriors setting out for battle, or scenes of the chase; even athletic subjects are in a great minority, except on the Panathenaic amphorae. In the R.F. period the preference is for athletic scenes, banquets, and the life of women and children; we also find frequent illustrations of religious cults, and scenes of sacrifice and libations. The R.F. vases of the severe stage in the main follow on the lines of the later B.F. period, except in the interiors of the kylikes of the Epictetan cycle. In these we find very few instances of mythological subjects, unless it be single figures of Satyrs. The main object of the painter was to fill in the circular space as best he might, and this space only admitted of a single figure, the rule being observed that exterior and interior figures should be of similar proportions. Hence the easiest solution was obviously to choose a simple figure, such as that of a nude young man, and depict him in various simple attitudes, running, leaping, carrying a vase or musical instrument, or otherwise engaged in such a way as to fill the space with his limbs or the objects he carried.

In the “strong” style we observe a new principle at work, which may be described in a single phrase as “the glorification of the Attic ephebos or young athlete.” A new impetus had been given to athletics at Athens by the Peisistratidae, who encouraged a more extensive celebration of festivals, and thus we find a growing fondness for the introduction of scenes from the palaestra and stadium, often rendered with considerable spirit and unconventionality, as in a group of boxers quarrelling, or on another vase depicting the humorous side of the armed foot-race.

The introduction of scenes from the story of Theseus, which now begin to be frequent, especially on the kylikes, is no doubt due partly to this cause, though partly also to religious and patriotic reasons. Theseus seems to have been regarded as the typical Attic ephebos and athlete, and his contests as analogous to success in the palaestra. Hence the grouping of scenes from his labours after the manner of groups of athletes variously engaged. It was formerly thought that the popularity of the Theseus legends was due to the bringing back of his bones from Skyros by Kimon, and their solemn burial in the Theseion, which gave rise to a regular cult of the national hero. But this took place in 469 B.C., and recent investigations have shown that many of the Theseus vases must be placed at an earlier date. He was, however, supposed to have appeared at the battle of Marathon in aid of the Athenians, and this event may have been quite sufficient to bring his cult into prominence.

Towards the middle of the fifth century several new types are introduced—such as the youth as distinguished from the ephebos, the girl as distinguished from the matured woman, and the infant playing with toys. Juvenile games, such as the top, hoop, and knucklebones, now become generally popular. The evolution of the types of Eros and Nike virtually dates from this time; hitherto Eros (as, for instance, on the kylikes) has seldom appeared, and Nike is also hardly found before the “strong” style. Meaningless groups of figures, conversing or without particular action, are common on the exterior of cups by Hieron and his contemporaries; and similar groups, though, in accordance with the spirit of the times, more freely and pictorially composed, become the recognised method of decorating the small elegant vases of the late fine style. In some of these an ancient practice is revived of attempting to give interest to the scenes by adding mythological names to the figures. But these are chosen quite at haphazard, sometimes as vague personifications (see Chapter XII., under Aphrodite), sometimes in such anomalous collocations as Thetis and Hippolyte, or Danae, Helen, and Iphigeneia.

In the treatment of mythological scenes it is curious to note how, almost from the first, the well-worn conventional types of the B.F. style are discarded, the painter, with his new-born capacities for drawing and free composition, instinctively forming his own idea of his subject, and departing from the lines on which his predecessors had worked. Some subjects are almost entirely ignored, such as the chariot procession (of Herakles or deities), the contests of Herakles with Triton and the Cretan bull, warriors playing draughts, and Odysseus and Polyphemos. The labours of Herakles are largely replaced by those of Theseus. In other cases the subjects are still popular, but the “type” is no longer preserved, as in the case of the Judgment of Paris or some of the labours of Herakles.

But it must not be supposed that the principle of recognised “types” is altogether absent from the R.F. vases. There are, in fact, certain motives which occur over and over again, only with this difference—that they are not always employed with the same signification. Thus the “pursuing” type, which is as common as any on R.F. vases, may be either mythological or ordinary. In the former case Eos pursues Kephalos, or Menelaos Helen; in the latter a Seilenos pursues a Maenad, or a warrior or hunter a woman. This type becomes almost conventional, and the figures can only be identified when inscribed. Theseus, Ajax, Orestes, Ion, Alkmaion, and Neoptolemos all pursue women in the same manner. Again, the B.F. type of Peleus seizing Thetis, sometimes found on R.F. vases, is used for that of a Seilenos seizing a Maenad, even the snakes into which Thetis transforms herself becoming the ordinary attribute of the Bacchanal.

A different class of subjects, in which the subject remains the same but the type varies, is also found on R.F. vases. In such cases the various artists seem to have drawn their inspiration from the same model; it might be a famous sixth-century painting or sculptured group, but each has treated it according to his own individuality. A good instance is the subject of the sack of Troy, the principal episodes of which we find depicted by the masters Euphronios and Brygos (Plate LIV.), and on a hydria of somewhat later date.

Another characteristic of R.F. vases is the individualising of barbarian types, a new feature in Greek art. It is possible that this is largely the effect of the Persian wars, which rendered the Greeks familiar with barbarian costumes. In any case the fashion of wearing Thracian cloaks and other outlandish garments seems to have been adopted by the young men of Athens at the beginning of the fifth century, and many of the cups of that period represent young horsemen apparelled in this fashion (see Chapter XV.). There was also in the fifth century a fondness for vases modelled in the form of heads of negroes or Persians. Such subjects as those relating to Orpheus, the rape of Oreithyia, Herakles and Busiris, or combats of Greeks with Amazons or Persians, also illustrate the popularity of these new ideas.

The only other class of subjects to which reference need be made is that dealing with religious cults,such as libations or sacrifices to deities or terminal figures, particular ceremonies and festivals, or quasi-religious competitions of an athletic or musical kind.

In regard to style, the Attic red-figured vases fall into four principal groups, which are usually classified as follows (though each group is sometimes subdivided):—

(1) The archaic or severe period  (about 520–500 B.C.), in which there is little advance in the drawing, which is stiff and lacks technical freedom. Apart from the new experiments in technique, it is marked by its wide and novel choice of subjects, with great attention paid to details. The principal artists whose signatures are found in this group are: (a ) cup-painters—Epiktetos, Hischylos, Pheidippos, Pamphaios, Chelis, Chachrylion, Euergides, Epilykos, Hermaios, Sikanos; (b ) other painters—Andokides, Euthymides, Phintias (amphora and hydria), Hypsis (hydria), Psiax and Hilinos.

(2) The strong style  (about 500–460 B.C.), characterised by a great and sudden advance in drawing and power of expression, which leads the painter to attempt difficult subjects with success. The difficulties of front-view or three-quarter drawing, as opposed to the old profile-figures, are also largely overcome. In the amphorae and other forms the compositions are restrained and dignified, being often limited to one or two figures in large style. The principal artists are: (a ) cup-painters—Euphronios, Oltos, Sosias, Phintias, Peithinos, Duris, Hieron, Brygos, Amasis, Onesimos; (b ) other artists—Euxitheos, Smikros.

(3) The fine style  (about 460–440 B.C.) exhibits the culmination of technique and composition, with great breadth and largeness of conception in the larger vases, delicacy and refinement in the smaller. Cup-painting has passed its zenith, and yields comparatively few artists' names. In this period the influence of Polygnotos and the great painters begins to make itself felt, in a tendency to more pictorial composition; landscape is indicated, and figures are placed at different levels. The influence of sculpture may also be traced. The chief artists' names are: Aeson, Aristophanes and Erginos, Epigenes, Hegias, Hermonax, Megakles, Polygnotos, Sotades, and Xenotimos; Meidias and Nikias; Xenophantos.

(4) The late fine style  (about 440–400 B.C.) is marked by a great falling-off in every respect. The extraordinarily rapid advance, both in artistic conception and in power of execution, during the preceding fifty years, fostered by the concurrent advance in sculpture and painting, hastened the vase-painter to his ruin. With the attainment of perfection in drawing, dexterity and grace are his sole aim, and in place of vigour and originality we meet with over-refinement and mannerisms, and florid pictorial compositions executed in a careless manner.

We now propose to speak in detail of the principal artists of this period, a study of whose works will be sufficient to give a clear idea of the achievements of the new style, at all events down to the middle of the century. After that time the signatures become so rare that the later vases are best treated as a whole.

It is important to note, by way of preliminary, the various methods of signature which the artists adopt (see also Chapter XVII.). The ordinary signatures fall under four headings: (1) ἐποίησεν; (2)ἔγραψεν; (3) AἐποίησενBἔγραψεν (4) Aἐποίησε καὶ ἔγραψεν. In the archaic period ἐποίησεν covers the work of the potter and painter, except in the case where the latter is specially mentioned. In the best period we usually find ἐποίησεν on the kylikes, ἔγραψεν on the amphorae. Euphronios and Phintias use either (1) or (2). The vase E 12 in the British Museum has only the inscription, Πάμφαιος ἐποίησεν; but, as will be seen later, there is good reason for supposing that the exterior was not painted by him. Different formulae, it has been suggested, may represent different periods in a man's career, as in the case of Euphronios, who was at first a painter in Chachrylion's workshop, then worked independently, and finally adopted Onesimos as a partner. The use of the imperfect ἐποίει in some cases is characteristic of the transitional period.

In the archaic or severe period the typical name is that of Epiktetos , who, as we have seen, is thought by some authorities to have been actually the inventor of the red-figure style. However this may be, he is the principal representative of the development of cup-painting during this period—a development which has been carefully traced by Klein. We have no B.F. kylikes signed by him, although there are four examples of “mixed” cups with B.F. interiors, three of which were made by Hischylos, the fourth by Nikosthenes, while Epiktetos was presumably responsible for the whole of the decoration. He invariably signs with the formula ἔγραψεν, from which we know that all his signed vases are actually the work of his brush. Besides those already mentioned, he painted two cups which bear Pamphaios' name as potter, and two more with those of Hischylos and Python as potters—all R.F. throughout, one of the Pamphaios cups retaining the old fashion of decoration with eyes on the exterior. The vase made by Python is interesting from its subject—the slaying of Busiris by Herakles. It belongs to an advanced stage of his career, when the exterior designs were assuming more importance and developing from decorative compositions to regular friezes. Thirteen kylikes and ten plates with designs like those on the interiors of the cups (Plate XXXVII.), a kotyle with Pistoxenos' name as potter, and two amphorae, make up the total of Epiktetos' performances.


Interior of Kylix of Transitional Style ; 2, Plate by Epiktetos  (British Museum ).

Murray thus describes the chief characteristics of Epiktetos' work: “No painter is so uniform and at the same time so peculiar in his manner as Epiktetos. His drawing is always characterised by precision and fastidiousness. He loves slim, youthful forms.... He prefers to draw his figures on a small scale, where his minute touches produce at times a startling vividness. He appears to have been influenced in a measure by the older miniature vase-painters [the ‘minor artists'] ... his manner is singularly precise and fastidious ... but his precision never fails him.... He uses skilfully faint yellow lines for the inner markings of muscle and bone.” Hartwig points out that he continues the development of a refined archaism from Amasis. The period of his activity may be placed between 530 and 500 B.C.

Pamphaios , although the majority of his vases are in the R.F. technique, really excelled in the old method. We have from his hand two B.F. hydriae, four B.F. kylikes, two mixed kylikes, fifteen R.F. kylikes (five with interior designs only), two amphorae and a stamnos, and he also made two cups for Epiktetos. He signs consistently ἐποίησεν. In the B.F. hydria in the British Museum (B 300 = Fig. 120), he, as Murray says, has indulged to excess his sense of refinement and grace, in which he was unsurpassed. When he turned to red figures, the new technique seems to have perplexed him, and he found himself unable to use his faculty for minute detail. But though comparatively coarse and decadent, there is a freshness and vigour in his new conceptions, especially in the Museum stamnos (E 437) with Herakles and Acheloos, which atones for other deficiencies.

Most remarkable of all his signed works is the British Museum kylix (E 12), with its exquisite exterior designs, of which Murray says, “Surely in the whole realm of Greek vase-painting there is hardly to be met with a finer conception” than the figures of the two wind-gods or death-deities carrying off the body of the dead warrior. Nor are the figures of Amazons arming on the other side of inferior merit. So marked, indeed, is the superiority of these designs to Pamphaios' ordinary work, that most authorities are agreed in attributing them to another artist belonging to a more advanced school—namely, Euphronios. We have after all no certain proof that the painting  of the cup is Pamphaios' handiwork, and we can only say that, if it is, it betokens a most surprising outbreak of artistic power.

Of the other artists in this cycle Hischylos  appears chiefly as a potter for other artists; for Sakonides he made a (B.F.) kylix, for Epiktetos four, and for Pheidippos one. A B.F. plate, two “mixed” cups, and one R.F. cup bear his name alone. He always signs with ἐποίησεν, but it is not improbable that he was responsible for the interior B.F. designs on three of the cups made for Epiktetos. Pheidippos  is only known from the one cup already mentioned. Euergides  made three cups, Epilykos  three, Hermaios five (one of which bears a figure of Hermes, perhaps by way of a sort of canting heraldry), and Sikanos  one plate. The cups by Chelis  number five, of which one has a B.F. interior.

Chachrylion , who stands on the verge of the next period, calls for more detailed treatment, especially since the exhaustive discussion of his work by Hartwig. Sixteen cups signed by him are known, two having been discovered since Klein made his list; he also acted as potter for Euphronios on one occasion. He always signs ἐποίησεν, but we may assume that this includes the decoration of the vases. With him we enter upon the period in which the use of “favourite names” by vase-painters becomes regular, those employed by Chachrylion being Leagros and Memnon. The former name is also used by Oltos, Euthymides, and Euphronios, and the names of Epidromos and Athenodotos belong to this period, if not to this cycle. A number of vases with the name Memnon have no signature, and these have usually been attributed en bloc  to Chachrylion. But it has been pointed out by Hartwig that some of them must belong to an earlier stage, standing in much closer relation to the B.F. vases. Besides the sixteen signed vases, Hartwig assigns to him seven with the name of Epidromos, and two others with that of Leagros in addition, and another without name. A remarkable number of these cups have no exterior decoration.

Chachrylion's work is in character essentially transitional. Some of his cups are in the style of the archaic decadence, before the new influence of Euphronios, but he never freed himself from the trammels of the severe style. He drops the Epictetan method of decorating the exterior with large eyes and animals bounding the scene, and uses large palmettes under the handles; but his interior scenes are still bordered with a plain ring, instead of the later maeander. He is never altogether happy in his exterior designs; hence his preference for interiors, in which, it may be noted, he is almost the first to introduce more than one figure. His figures, like those of Epiktetos, have slim proportions and small heads, the bodily forms better rendered than the limbs. He seems to strike a medium between the vigour of Pamphaios and the refinement of Epiktetos, combining robustness and grace with a tendency to largeness of style, which shows that he is preparing the way for Euphronios.

In summing up the characteristics of the cups of severe style, we note that they exhibit throughout a development in technique and decoration rather than in style and drawing. The earliest are little removed from the later B.F. kylikes with interior designs and large eyes on the exterior, many having in fact B.F. interiors. With the eyes occupying so much space, it is rare at first to find anything like a composition on the exterior; but gradually the eyes disappear, the palmette ornaments decrease in size, and the figures extend themselves into friezes, with definite action. We have scenes of combat with a marked centre, like a sculptured pediment, group of athletes or revellers, and mythological or heroic subjects from the stories of Herakles, Theseus, and Troy.

In the interiors the development is somewhat different. Beginning with a simple design of a simple figure within a plain circle—at first an enforced necessity, but subsequently due to choice—the tendency is to fill in the space more and more as the power of drawing develops, and the painter casts about for new ideas. Hence, as Klein says, “Here we have carrying, lifting, hurrying, running, stooping, dancing, springing ... and all for the sole purpose of obtaining those movements of the human body which the space of the vase demanded.” We also note the almost entire absence of mythological scenes in the interiors; repose or simple action is all that is aimed at, whereas on the exteriors scenes of activity or even violence are admitted.

Murray has pointed out some interesting parallels between the kylix-interiors and contemporary coins and gems, which show the vase-painter to have been in full accord with the spirit of the times. Thus, to take the coins first, the Sphinx of Chios is repeated on the B.M. vase E 10, the armed warrior of Aspendos on E 11, the Diskobolos of Kos on E 78, and the squatting Satyr of Naxos on a vase formerly in the Bourguignon collection. Among fifth-century gems we find such subjects as a youth kneeling and holding a jug, a woman at a washing-basin, a Satyr with wine-skin, a youth fastening his sandal, and an archer—all of which occur on the interior of R.F. kylikes. The beautiful subject of the body of Memnon borne by two genii (see above), although an exterior subject, may also be mentioned here as paralleled in a fine gem.

In Klein's valuable monograph on early R.F. cup-painting there is a useful table setting forth the development of the Epictetan cycle of cups, both in subject and arrangement. His first class includes the purely B.F. cups of Nikosthenes and Pamphaios, with the Gorgoneion in the interior and large eyes on the exterior, which form the prelude to the R.F. series. In the next stage a B.F. subject, such as a warrior, horseman, or deer, takes the place of the Gorgoneion; the exteriors are R.F., but the eyes are retained, allowing only of a single figure each side. Three of these are painted by Epiktetos, others by Pamphaios and Chelis. The third stage has only R.F. interiors, the exterior preserving the same character; instances may be found among the works of Chelis and Pheidippos. Finally, there is a long series of nearly eighty cups and plates, many of the former with interior designs only, in which the eyes are finally dropped, and the exterior subjects are developed into regular friezes, being often mythological. These include the majority of the works of Epiktetos, Pamphaios, and Chachrylion, the latter of whom marks the transition to the next stage.

Turning now to the works of other artists in this period, and passing over Andokides, whom we have already discussed, we find that Euthymides  is the most conspicuous name after those of the cup-painters. Strictly speaking, he does not belong exclusively to the severe period, at least in point of date, though his style is comparatively behindhand; as we shall see, he was partly contemporary with Euphronios. His style is curiously similar to that of Phintias, as is shown by the fact that the same unsigned vases have been attributed to both by different authorities. Five vases bear his signature (in two cases ἔγραφε, in the others ἔγραφεη), and he gives the additional information that he was the son of Polios. He uses three καλός-names— Megakles, Smikythos, and Phayllos, the first-named being also employed by Phintias. Two of his vases (in Munich; see Fig. 137) are amphorae, one a hydria, one a psykter , and one a circular dish or plate like those of Epiktetos.

The similarity of his work to that of Phintias suggests that they were partners. A vase with the inscription τοὶ τήνδε, Εὐθυμίδες, “This [vase I dedicate] to thee, Euthymides,” has been attributed by Hartwig to Phintias, and may be an interesting instance of the friendship existing between the two artists. On the other hand, Euthymides seems to have viewed with apprehension and jealousy the growing success of his junior, Euphronios. On one of the Munich amphorae he places the boast—by no means with justification—“Euphronios never made the like” (ὡς οὐδέποτε Εὐφρόνιος).

The height of his activity may be placed about 500–490 B.C., a date which suits the use of the name Megakles. This probably denotes the grandfather of Alkibiades and uncle of Perikles, who was ostracised in 487 B.C. The same name, as is well known, occurs on the warrior-tablet found on the Acropolis, and on the strength of this Hoppin attributes the tablet to Euthymides. There is, however, no proof that such tablets, which belong rather to the higher branch of painting at that time, were made by vase-painters.

The style of Euthymides and his preference for the amphora seem to indicate that he was much under the influence of Andokides. He still clings to the old style in his methods of decoration, as in the borders of the designs. His individuality, says Hoppin, is best shown in his draperies, the details of which are faintly indicated in red, and he shows some skill in foreshortening, but his heads are too large. He also exhibits a strong preference for mythological subjects, such as the arming of Hector, but usually balances these subjects with a genre-scene from the gymnasium or symposium.

His partner Phintias  is distinguished from him in one respect—namely, that he painted cups as well as other shapes. But his cups have nothing in common with his Epictetan cycle, and seem rather to have been under the influence of Euphronios. We may therefore regard him as another connecting-link between the severe and strong periods. Eight vases are actually signed by him, though one of these has no subject, being merely modelled in the form of a head; but from his use of Megakles and Chairias as καλός-names, and other indications, Hartwig has been enabled to add to the number no less than twelve cups and eleven other vases.

The cups are mostly small, with interior designs only, and those single figures; his composition is not a strong point, but the single figures are good, especially the nude forms; his draperies are stiff, but effective, and his heads are influenced by Euphronios, as Hartwig notes.

A pair of painters that may be linked together are Oltos  and Euxitheos , the former the painter, the latter the potter, of a kylix in Berlin (2264). We also have a magnificent kylix at Corneto, with the name of Euxitheos as potter, probably painted by Oltos; on one side of the exterior is an assemblage of the gods, on the other a Dionysiac scene. In the British Museum is an amphora, also made by Euxitheos (E 258; signed on handles), with a single figure each side (Achilles and Briseis), and a krater in the Louvre with the καλός-name Leagros seems to be by the same hand. Hartwig, who regards Oltos as the painter in each case, shows his connection on the one side with Andokides and Euthymides, on the other with Hieron. He displays a preference for large figures and for Dionysiac subjects.

The one vase of Hypsis , a hydria, must be of early date; the shape, ornamentation, and arrangement of the designs are purely B.F. in character. We have two vases of the alabastron  form—an unusual one for signatures—made by Hilinos  and painted by Psiax , and a kylix of Epictetan style in Munich signed by the latter. The two former are each decorated with two figures in a simple, severe, yet effective style; the latter has a B.F. interior (figure of Seilenos), and R.F. exterior with the large eyes, and a warrior on one side only. In the latter case the signature is simply ΦΣΙΑΞΣ, without a verb; on the Odessa vase the imperfect tense ἐποίει is used, the casual use of which is a characteristic of the transitional period. Mr. Hoppin has given several reasons for attributing an early date to those two artists (about 520–500), not the least convincing of which is the use of a B.F. technique and of the large eyes.

We now find ourselves at the point where Euphronios  forces his way to the front as the great master in the new school of painting in which the influence of Kimon of Kleonae can be traced. Hartwig compares this new departure of art to the Italian schools of painting in the fifteenth century, in which also naturalism and a knowledge of perspective become the characteristics in which they differ most markedly from their predecessors. The early work of the school of Euphronios, which we may place about 500–480 B.C., is best illustrated by the series of cups with the καλός-name Leagros, which must belong to this time. This name is found on two of the vases signed by Euphronios, the Antaios krater in the Louvre and the Geryon kylix in Munich, of which Chachrylion was the potter. The fact that it is found also on some B.F. vases seems to argue, not for its appearance previous to this date, but rather for the view that at the beginning of the fifth century there was still a preference for the old method for certain shapes—the amphora, hydria, and lekythos. It may also be inferred that Euphronios had already appeared on the scene while Chachrylion, Pamphaios, and Oltos were still painting more in the manner of Epiktetos, and hence we are justified in regarding those artists as belonging to the severe style, even though they overlap with the succeeding period.

The labours of Hartwig and other scholars have now made it possible to associate an extensive series of vases with the school of Euphronios, but there are only ten in existence which actually bear his signature. They are as follows (the order being roughly chronological):—

(1) Krater in Louvre, G 103: Herakles and Antaios; musical performance. Pottier, Louvre Atlas , pls. 100, 101.

(2) Psykter in Petersburg, 1670: Banquet of Hetairae.

(3) Kylix in Munich, 337: Herakles and Geryon. Furtwaengler and Reichhold, pl. 22 = Plate XXXVIII.

(4) Kylix in Louvre, G 104: Theseus' adventures. Furtwaengler and Reichhold, pl. 5; J.H.S. xviii. pl. 14.

(5) Kylix in Bibl. Nat., 526: Scene from Doloneia (fragmentary). Klein, Euphronios ,2  p. 137.

(6) Kylix in Brit. Mus., E 44: Herakles and Eurystheus. Furtwaengler and Reichhold, pl. 23.

(7) Kylix in Perugia: Achilles and Troilos scenes. Hartwig, pls. 58–9.

(8) Kylix in Berlin, 2281: Sack of Troy (fragmentary).

(9) Kylix in Boston: Banquet scenes. Hartwig, pls. 47–8.

(10) Kylix in Berlin, 2282 (polychrome): Achilles and Diomede. Hartwig, pls. 51–2.

In the first three instances he signs ἔγραψεν, in the rest ἔποιησεν.

The Louvre krater shows Euphronios in his early manner, when, as Murray says, “he was in the mood of drawing massive limbs and colossal proportions.” The “type” of the Herakles and Antaios is interesting as a reminiscence of the B.F. wrestling-scheme adopted for Herakles and the Nemean lion. The chief variation is that the figures are posed in a sort of elongated isosceles triangle, no doubt with the intention of showing Herakles' efforts to raise the giant from the earth to which he so strenuously clings. In the form of Antaios we already observe the capacity for rendering a body accurately in different planes which was one of the chief distinctions of the new school. On the otherhand, the agitated female figures in the background are depicted in the old quasi-Egyptian attitudes, with bodies in front view and heads in profile; yet in the treatment of their draperies there is a great advance.

The Geryon cup (Plate XXXVIII.) is a wonderful combination of picturesque and effective grouping with elaboration of detail, and is so far the most naturalistic piece of work that any vase-painter has produced. Here again the old B.F. “type” is retained, at least for the Geryon, who appears as the “three men joined together” of the Kypselos chest, one of whom falls backward wounded. But the whole scene is vivid and instinct with life; even Athena and Iolaos, instead of calmly watching the contest, join in animated comment thereon, and the former seems to be hastening forward to join in the fray. Not the least effective part of the design is formed by the group of Geryon's cows on the reverse, which show that Euphronios was a keen observer of nature and anatomy, and the varied poses and skilful grouping of the herd are striking instances of his art in composition.


Kylix by Euphronios (in Munich): Herakles Slaying Geryon.

As typical of his later manner (about 480–460 B.C.) we may take the British Museum kylix and that in the museum at Perugia. They bear respectively the καλός-names Panaitios and Lykos, while the contemporary Berlin cup (2282) has the name of Glaukon. These clearly form a new group, distinct from the Leagros series, and, if the historical identification of Glaukon is correct, enable us to place them about 470–460 B.C. The interior group of the British Museum cup shows us two figures, a woman standing by the side of a man, who is seated to the front and drawn in a very boldly foreshortened attitude. Their physiognomy, in particular the large prominent nose, is especially characteristic of Euphronios' riper style, and in the treatment of the drapery we distinguish a great advance even on his earlier vases. Not only is it executed with perfect freedom and naturalness, but even different qualities of material are indicated, e.g. by the use of fine crinkly lines. The Theseus kylix in the Louvre, which Hartwig regards as the highest point of the R.F. style, a study in idealism rather than naturalism, is also conspicuous for its excellence in this respect.

The Troilos kylix in Perugia, which as far as can be ascertained is the latest of Euphronios' works, is interesting, apart from its artistic treatment, as an instance of the current tendency to combine interior and exterior scenes in one whole, representing distinct or successive episodes of a single subject. On one side of the exterior, Achilles, having emerged from his ambush, drags the unfortunate boy by his hair to the altar at which the tragedy is to be consummated; his horses betake themselves off with flying reins. Meanwhile, on the other side, Troilos' Trojan comrades, as on the François vase, hastily arm themselves in order to come to his rescue. But the interior scene shows us that their efforts are in vain; the boy, in whose countenance fear and agony are admirably depicted, is about to fall a victim to the sword of his relentless foe, who in a vigorous yet even graceful attitude raises his arm to deal the death-blow. Of the vase as a whole Murray says, “There is no mistaking in it the presence of all the best and strongest qualities of Euphronios, though in a more subdued and more poetic form. His draperies...are full of refinement and beauty.”

It remains to say a word on Euphronios in another aspect—as a painter in polychrome on white ground. The Berlin cup No. 2282, sadly fragmentary as it is, bears not only the signature of Euphronios, but the καλός-name Glaukon, to which we have already referred. The method of painting, to which we have referred on a subsequent page, was one just at its height in the middle of the fifth century. The two heads, which are the best-preserved parts of the cup, are remarkable for their breadth and largeness of style, and for their idealising tendency, which recalls the coins of a slightly later period and such works of sculpture as the ephebos-head from the Athenian Acropolis, to say nothing of the sculptures of Olympia.

We must not, however, omit to notice here the views of some recent writers, who are inclined to doubt whether the paintings on some of these later vases are actually from Euphronios' hand. It is certainly noteworthy that he has ceased to sign ἔγραψε; but to maintain that the ἐποίησε, where no other painter's name occurs, does not include the painting of the vase, is to rest on somewhat negative evidence, and would also lead to the refusal to recognise Chachrylion and other noted artists as the painters of their signed vases. If, however, this view is to be accepted, it would entail the attribution of the scenes on the Troilos cup to Onesimos , who painted a cup of similar style in the Louvre, of which Euphronios was the potter. Hartwig thinks that the Berlin cup is not by Euphronios, but would attribute to him a similar fragmentary cup in the British Museum (D 1). The beautiful Aphrodite cup in the same collection (D 2) bears the καλός-name of Glaukon, but in view of what has been said any attempt to attribute it to Euphronios would be dangerous.

We now have to deal with a trio of his contemporaries, men of marked individuality and capacity, who display the same instincts for naturalism and freedom of style, though no one of them rises quite to the height of Euphronios' genius.

Of these Duris  has left a total of twenty-three signed vases, of which no less than twenty-one are kylikes, the other two being a kantharos and a psykter. He signs almost consistently ἔγραψε, but ἐποίησεν in addition on the kantharos; he employs three potters at different times—Python (who worked for Epiktetos), Kleophrades (who worked for Amasis II.), and Kalliades. Of καλός-names he uses no less than five, the first two of which go together in his earlier period—Chairestratos and Panaitios. The latter name, as we have seen, was used by Euphronios. On the vases in his later manner the names of Aristagoras, Hermogenes, and Hippodamas appear. He seems to have been about ten years the junior of Euphronios, but to what extent he was influenced by him is uncertain. Murray traces the influence of the other in his later manner, when he forsakes his old love of figures in repose for subjects entailing violent action. Hartwig, on the other hand, attributes this change to the influence of Brygos; and in any case, it is certain that he never attained to the vitality and freedom of Euphronios.

His style is so marked that it is possible—apart from the evidence of καλός-names—to attribute to him many vases not actually signed by him, as may be gathered from the study of his work by Hartwig.In his earlier vases he shows a strong preference for scenes from the palaestra, and only two are mythological. According to Hartwig it is these vases that show the closest parallelism with Euphronios, both in choice of subject and in treatment. The later works show a great and surprising falling off, and are frequently dull and comparatively careless. They show, in fact, a change from the perfecting of naturalism to mere mannerism, and this in spite of the change in subjects from repose to violent action. It is probable that he fell away from the influence of Euphronios to that of Hieron and Brygos, lacking entirely, as he did, the genius of the older artist. On the other hand, his choice of subjects becomes much more varied, many being heroic or mythological, and among these scenes from the labours of Theseus take the place of the older athletic types (cf. p. 418). He is also fond of banquet-scenes at all times, and found in them scope for bold foreshortening as applied to figures in repose.

The best-known vase by Duris is a kylix in Berlin (2285 = Plate XXXIX.), on the exterior of which are painted scenes from a school. On one side a boy receives instruction in the lyre, while another stands before his teacher reading from a roll on which is inscribed the first line of an epic poem: Μοῖσά μοι ἀμφὶ Σκάμανδρουν ἐύρρων ἄρχομαι ἀείδειν. On the other side, the five figures on which exactly balance those on the first, we have a lesson on the flute and in drawing or writing; the seated figure in the middle holds a pen and an open tablet. The fifth figure in each case is a bearded man, seated on a stool watching the proceedings. In the field are suspended lyres, writing-tables, and rolls of manuscript. There is also a beautiful cup in the Louvre, the interior of which represents Eos with the body of Memnon; the exterior, Homeric combats. Of the three examples of his work in the British Museum, one is occupied with the labours of Theseus; another (E 49) shows his love of slim nude figures, contrasted with careful and formal drapery. The peculiar shape of the heads should be noticed; also the treatment of the eye, as a circle with a dot in the centre. Like Epiktetos, a slave of precision, he in nearly all these cases avoids violence of action, and seeks after a quiet gracefulness. His peculiarly fine technical skill appears to have been much appreciated in his day.

Hieron  has signed twenty-eight vases, all being kylikes except three, which are kotylae. His invariable formula is ἐποίησεν, and the signature is generally incised on the handle of the vase. Hartwig is inclined to attribute one or two cups with this signature to another master, who had a preference for introducing bald-headed figures; and, in regard to others, there is fairly certain evidence that they were not painted by him. For instance, a very fine kylix with the carrying off of Helen bears the name of Makron as painter, and it is possible that others are actually painted by that artist, who in any case must have been a partner of his. His work is regarded by Hartwig as full of individuality and excellence. Hieron, on the other hand, is inclined to the repetition of certain types, little individualised. He seems to have been trained in the school of Oltos rather than that of Euphronios, except that he learned from the latter the use of foreshortening. His only καλός-name is that of Hippodamas, also used by Duris.

His subjects comprise scenes from myth and legend, musical and conversational groups, and Dionysiac scenes. He is fond of decorating his exteriors with rows of men and women of a somewhat sentimental type, smelling flowers, or in amorous converse. But he rises to higher flights in the Berlin cup (2290), with Maenads sacrificing to Dionysos Dendrites, and still more in the splendid kotyle in the British Museum (E 140 = Plate LI.), with the gathering of the Eleusinian deities at the sending forth of Triptolemos.


1, Kylix by Duris (in Berlin): School Scene.
2, Kylix in Style of Brygos (Corneto): Theseus Deserting Ariadne.

His figures exhibit a strongly marked type of head, large and simple, perhaps developed from those of Duris. But it is in the treatment of drapery that he chiefly excels, especially in the British Museum kotyle and the Berlin cup. Particular mention should be made of the elaborate garment worn by Demeter on the former, with its rich figured embroideries; and the robes of Persephone, though simpler in decoration, show an even greater richness of treatment in the delicate lines of the chiton and the graceful fall of the mantle. On a cup in Berlin with the Judgment of Paris (Fig. 129) he makes a notable attempt at landscape, showing Paris seated on a rock, surrounded by a flock of goats.

Brygos  has only left eight cups, but they are on the whole of a high order of merit. The Acropolis excavations yielded a fragment of his work, showing that the beginning of his career must be placed before 480 B.C. But although he retains some archaisms from his early training, he stands, as Murray has pointed out, on the threshold of the fine style, and in some of his compositions there is a distinctly pictorial tendency. His use of gilding (as on E 65 in B.M.) is also, as with Euphronios in his polychrome cup, an evidence of advanced work. He shows in his work more directness and actuality, as compared with the stateliness and grace of Hieron and Makron, and the infusion of earnestness and animation into his figures is a typical characteristic. He pays more attention to his compositions than to his single figures, but lacks the rhythm of Euphronios.

His subjects are very varied, and cover almost all the vase-painters' ground except the palaestra. Hartwig on this account connects him with the school of Oltos, Hieron, and Peithinos, who preferred erotic and Dionysiac to athletic subjects, and points out that his use of bold foreshortening effects need not connote the direct influence of Euphronios, inasmuch as κατάγραφα were by this time the common property of vase- painters. It is interesting to note that he uses no καλός-name, and both he and Hieron seem to belong to a time when this fashion was dying out; by the end of the “strong” period it had practically disappeared.

To speak of his vases in detail, the British Museum cup has been praised for the composition and drawing of its exterior designs and its clever foreshortening. The exterior subject is interesting as being derived from a Satyric drama. The difference of scale between the figures of deities and those of the Satyrs reminds us (though there is of course no question of influence) of the similar treatment of the east frieze of the Parthenon. It has been suggested by several writers that the name Brygos implies a Macedonian origin for this painter, and on these grounds a kylix in the British Museum (E 68) has been attributed to him which bears inscriptions in the Macedonian or some kindred dialect—Pilon for Philon, Pilipos for Philippos. This cup is interesting for the introduction of a new type, that of the young dancing girl. The beautiful cup on Plate XXXIX. (fig. 2) has also been referred to him. Among other interesting subjects are the Triptolemos cup in Frankfurt, the cup with the Judgment of Paris (which may be compared with that of Hieron), and the Sack of Troy cup in the Louvre (Plate LIV.). This latter subject we have already seen treated as a whole by Euphronios, though previously it had only appeared in the form of isolated episodes; but the growing tendency to pictorial treatment of such subjects is well illustrated by the cup of Brygos and the later Vivenzio hydria in Naples.

Peithinos  is a master who has been largely rediscovered by Hartwig. Only one cup with his signature is known, a fine example in Berlin (2279) with the Euphronian καλός-name Athenodotos, and the interior subject of Peleus seizing Thetis, treated with great decorative effect. Hartwig traces his style in eight more cups, chiefly with erotic and banqueting subjects, and points out among the former an early instance of sentimentality in vase-painting in the figure of a love-sick man. He characterises his style as “over-ripe archaism,” with a slight reversion to the mannerisms of Exekias, and great attention to detail in general. He sees in Peithinos the first instance of the pictorial tendency of which we have spoken, contrasting him with Euphronios and other painters who were always in the first instance draughtsmen.

In the Berlin Museum there is a magnificent cup (2278) purporting to be made by Sosias , a name which does not otherwise occur. In the absence of indications of the painter, Hartwig and Furtwaengler are inclined to think that the decoration may be the work of Peithinos; but this can hardly amount to more than a matter of individual opinion. It is one of the most sumptuously decorated cups of this period that we possess, but the exterior is unfortunately greatly damaged. In the interior Achilles is represented binding up the wounded arm of his comrade Patroklos. The expressions of the figures and the remarkable foreshortening of Patroklos' right leg are indications of the admirable skill of the painter, whoever he may have been. On the exterior is an assemblage of gods and goddesses to receive Herakles on his entry into Olympos, including seventeen figures in all, distinguished by inscriptions.

In the later chapters of his great work Hartwig has disentangled the styles of several masters of this period, though not in every case is he able to give their names; but some vases can be grouped together by means of καλός-names or by special peculiarities, such as the use of a conventional foliage-ornament. They are, however, for the most part of inferior merit to those of the painters hitherto discussed. Among the painters' names are those of Amasis II., Apollodoros, and Onesimos; the latter has already been mentioned in connection with Euphronios.

Generally speaking, the chief characteristic of the cups of this period is the tendency to treat the interior and exterior as representing successive episodes of one theme, as in the Troilos cup of Euphronios, or at least as having some connection, more or less definite, as in the Theseus cup of the same master.

Both in exterior and interior designs the development of composition is very strongly marked, and there is a notable tendency to enhance the effect of interior scenes by rich decorative borders. Even in the work of individual painters a great development is to be observed, showing how rapid the growth of artistic power was at this time; and thus we are able to distinguish in Euphronios and Duris an earlier and a later manner. As Hartwig has said, the period of progress associated with the names of Euphronios and Brygos is characterised by an individuality and freedom which were partly the cause and partly the effect of a closer study of nature and an increased capacity for rendering it.

Among other artists of the time, almost the only conspicuous name is that of Smikros , the painter of two stamni, in the British Museum (E 438) and Brussels, and also most probably of a “Nolan” amphora in the Louvre (G 107), which is inscribed ΔΟΚΕΙ ΣΜΙΚΡΩΙ ΕΙΝΑΙ, “This is evidently Smikros' work.” He signs in both the former cases with ἔγραψεν. He appears, says M. Gaspar, as a rival of Euphronios and Duris, but fails in the attempt to equal their achievements in vividness, originality, and faithful reproduction of the human figure. The Brussels stamnos is interesting as representing inscribed persons from ordinary life, just as Phintias introduces on a vase figures of the artists Tlenpolemos and Euthymides. Klein also attributes to him a krater at Arezzo with the καλός-name Pheidiades, which occurs on the signed vases. It is remarkable for the treatment of the subject (Herakles and the Amazons) in the style of the B.F. vases.

The next development of R.F. vase-painting, which presents all the characteristics of the best period of Greek art and of the highest point to which that art attained, is that called the fine style . In this the influence of painting first really begins to manifest itself, especially that of the Polygnotan school, which covers the years 470–440 B.C. It is shown alike in composition and in drawing, and to a lesser degree in the colouring; but the general use of colours and gilding on vases really belongs to thesucceeding stage. As regards the drawing, the figures have lost the hardness which at first characterised them; the eyes are no longer represented obliquely, but in profile; the extremities are finished with greater care, the chin and nose are more rounded, and have lost the extreme elongation of the earlier schools. The limbs are fuller and thicker, the faces noble, the hair of the head and beard treated with greater breadth and mass, just as subsequently the painter Zeuxis gave more flesh to his figures in order to make them appear of greater breadth and grandeur, like Homer, who represented even his women of larger proportions.

The great charm of these designs is the beauty of the composition, and the more perfect proportion of the figures. The head is an oval, three-quarters of which forms the distance from the chin to the ear; the disproportionate length of limbs has entirely disappeared, and the countenance assumes a natural form and expression. The folds of the drapery, too, are freer, and the attitudes have lost their old rigidity. It is the outgrowth of the life and freedom of an ideal proportion, united with careful composition. Before the introduction of the Polygnotan style of composition, the figures are generally large, and arranged in groups of two or three on each side, occupying about two-thirds of the height of the vase; but the pictorial influence is more in the direction of smaller figures, grouped at different levels. Figures in full face are now much less uncommon. In some of the larger vases with figures on both sides, such as the kraters, the reverse side is not finished with the same care as the obverse, being intended to stand against a wall, or at least to be less prominently seen.

The career of Polygnotos extends from 478 B.C. to 447 B.C., as far as can be gathered from the various works on which we know him to have been engaged. In 478 he painted frescoes for the temple of Athena Areia at Plataea, in 474 he decorated the Theseion and Anakeion at Athens, in 460 he worked with Mikon on the Stoa Poikile, and from 458 to 447 he was engaged on his great paintings of the Ἰλίου Πέρσις and Νέκυια for the Lesche at Delphi. As all these paintings are described more or less in detail by Pausanias, their subjects form a valuable clue to the investigation of his influence on the vases.


At first, indeed, this is limited to single figures or motives; it is not until about 470 that his method of composition, with its rough perspective and variety of level, finds its way on to the vases. The oldest vase on which these new features appear is the krater from Orvieto in the Louvre, which has usually been placed about 470, though at first sight it appears to be later; but certain small details of an archaic character point the other way. The main subject is a group of Argonauts, which has been variously interpreted, but Robert suggests that the scene represents their preparations for departure, and is thus able to associate it with a painting by Mikon in the Anakeion, on which that subject was employed. The various vases which depict the story of Theseus' visit to Amphitrite are referred also by Robert to an original by Mikon in the Theseion (about 470 B.C.). The cup of Euphronios and the Girgenti krater represent a stage of the subject contemporary with that painter; on the Bologna krater we have a reduced version of his work; and on the Tricase vase from Ruvo, which belongs to the school of Hermonax (see below) a simpler form of the myth occurs, contemporary with the preceding.

The technique and colouring of Polygnotos' works find their reflection principally in the polychrome vases (see below, p. 455). On the red-figured vases of this period we must look for his influence rather in the arrangement and poses of the figures, the methods of indicating locality, and the attempts at perspective. Professor Robert's ingenious reproductions of his paintings may be profitably compared with such vases as the Orvieto krater, the Blacas krater in the British Museum (E 466 = Plate LIII.), or the somewhat later hydria of Meidias (see below). The principle adopted was that of arranging the figures, not in even rows or in proper perspective, but at different levels, those in the background being sometimes half hidden by rising ground. It is a principle which we shall find even more fully developed in the South Italy vases of the succeeding century; but it was at the time of its appearance quite sudden and unexpected, contradicting at first sight the decorative principles of vase-painting. Polygnotos was also fond of indicating characteristics of his personages or allusions to their history by means of subtle touches or actions. Thus Phaedra was represented in a swing, Eriphyle with her hand on her neck (with reference to the necklace), Theseus and Peirithoos in sitting postures, and so on. This is quite in the manner of the fifth-century vase-painter. Finally, the late F. Dümmler has pointed out that his influence is possibly to be traced in another manner on certain vases, viz. in the use of the dialect of Paros and Thasos for the inscriptions instead of Attic forms. It should be borne in mind that he was a native of Thasos, and would naturally have used his native dialect for the inscriptions over his figures.

The following is a list of vases showing Polygnotan influence:

(1) In types and motives only (470–460 B.C.):

B.M. E 170, 450, 469; Berlin 2403 = Reinach, i. 450; Naples 2421 = Reinach, ii. 278 and 3089 = Millingen- Reinach, 33; Reinach, i. 184 (two vases), 218, 221; Jahrbuch , 1886, pl. 10, fig. 2; Millingen-Reinach, 49–50; Furtwaengler, 50 tes  Winckelmannsfestprogr. pl. 2; Louvre A 256 = Jahrbuch , 1887, pl. 11 (Dümmler).

(2) In method of composition (460–440 B.C.):

B.M. E 224, E 466, E 492; Berlin 2588 = Reinach, i. 217 and 2471 = Coll. Sabouroff , i. 55; Naples R.C. 239 = Reinach, i. 482; Jatta 1093, 1095, 1498 = Reinach, i. 175, 119, 111; Petersburg 1792, 1807 = Reinach, i. 1, 7; Reinach, i. 522, 5 (in Bologna); Ant. Denkm. i. 36 (ibid.); Reinach, i. 191; and reflecting the style of Polygnotos or of Mikon: Reinach, i. 226–27 = J.H.S.x. p. 118 (Louvre); Reinach, i. 232 = J.H.S. xviii. p. 277.

To these may perhaps be added:

Naples 2889 = Raoul-Rochette, Mon. Inéd. pls. 13–4; Athens 1921 = Reinach, i. 511; Berlin 2326 (see Jahrbuch , 1887, p. 172).

In this stage, as has been noted, artists' signatures are far more rare than in either of the two preceding, and cup-painters in particular are few and far between. The καλός-names, too, have almost entirely come to an end. Of the cup-painters the only known names are those of Aeson, Erginos and Aristophanes, Hegias, Hegesiboulos, Sotades, and Xenotimos, and of these four (Aeson, Hegesiboulos, Hegias, and Xenotimos) are only represented by single specimens. Two very fine cups, made by Erginos  and painted by Aristophanes , are in the museums of Berlin and Boston respectively,—the former decorated with scenes from the Gigantomachia within and without (Fig. 112); the latter has in the interior Herakles rescuing Deianeira from Nessos, on the exterior a battle of Centaurs and Lapiths. An unsigned duplicate of this vase was acquired by the Boston Museum at the same time. The vase by Aeson  is decorated with scenes from the labours of Theseus.


Cups by Sotades.
1, In Boston ; 2, Brit. Mus.Polyeidos in the Tomb of Glaukos.

Sotades  stands apart from his contemporaries as an artist of much individuality, with a tendency to great refinement and delicacy in his work. He has left one R.F. kantharos and some half-dozen vases of the white-ground type, two with very interesting subjects (see also p. ); all but the first were formerly in M. van Branteghem's collection, and these are now divided between the British and Boston Museums. He is remarkable for his extremely delicate cups, with handles in the form of a chicken's merrythought, and he also made two phialae with white interior and moulded exterior painted in rings of red, white, and black; on the interior of one of these a cicala (τέττιξ) is ingeniously modelled so as to appear resting there (Plate XL.). Hegesiboulos , one of whose vases was also in the Van Branteghem collection,seems to have been an artist of similar tendencies.

Of the rest, Epigenes' name appears on a small kantharos in the Bibliothèque Nationale, and those of Megakles  and Maurion  on pyxides. Among the painters who exercised their skill on larger vases the most noteworthy is Polygnotos , who has left an amphora and two stamni. The similarity of his name to that of the great contemporary painter has naturally led to conjectures as to a possible connection of the two, which has been discussed by Professor Robert in publishing two of the vases with his signature.His conclusion is that they belong to the period 460–450 B.C., in which the influence of the painter is beginning to make itself felt, but only in isolated figures and motives, not, as in a class of which we shall presently speak, in the composition of scenes. The earliest of the three is the stamnos in Brussels, with the subject of Kaineus overwhelmed by the Centaurs; next comes the stamnos with the combat of Herakles and the Centaur Dexamenos; and lastly the British Museum amphora, which retains an archaic form, but in its style and drawing presents no traces of archaism. In the reverses of his vases, with their tendency to meaningless and carelessly drawn figures, we seem to trace the beginnings of the decadence. Hermonax , who painted four stamni and a “pelike,” seems to be closely associated in style with Polygnotos. Professor Robert would also attribute to a pupil of Polygnotos three fine R.F. cups of about 445 B.C.—the Kodros cup in Bologna (Chapter XIV.) and two in Berlin (2537–38), with the subjects of the birth of Erichthonios, and Aegeus consulting the oracle of Themis.

Nikias , of whom we have only one example, a bell-shaped krater in the British Museum (formerly in the Tyszkiewicz collection), is evidently, from the form of the vase and the style of the paintings, an artist of the latest stage of R.F. vase-painting at Athens. He is, however, remarkable in one respect, namely the form of his signature, which gives not only his parentage but—a unique instance among vase-painters—his deme:

Νικίας Ἐρμοκλέους Ἀναθλύσιος ἐποίησεν.

The subject of the vase is the torch-race, one often found on late Athenian kraters, and seldom at an earlier date.

Lastly we have a hydria from the hand of Meidias , in the British Museum, which originally formed part of the Hamilton collection (Plate XLI.). Winckelmann estimated it above all other vases known to him, and regarded it as illustrating the highest achievement of the Greeks in the way of drawing. His criticism is hardly even now out of date, in spite of the enormous number that now challenge comparison with it, as far as concerns the beauty and richness of the drawing and of the composition. The artist, says Furtwaengler, “revels in a sea of beauty and grace; youth and charm are idealised in his work.” In point of style it belongs to the epoch of the Peloponnesian War, about 430–420 B.C., but so admirable is the work that it can hardly be placed so low as the contemporary vases of “late fine” style, with their patent evidences of decadence. Meidias may therefore fairly be included with the foregoing.


Hydria by Meidias  (British Museum ).

The subjects represented are arranged in two friezes all round the vase, the upper containing the rape of the Leukippidae by the Dioskuri—a subject which had been chosen by Polygnotos for his painting in the Anakeion. Not only this, but all the vases with the same subject are doubtless largely indebted to the painting for their ideas, especially in the system of composition with figures at different levels. On the lower row the front view shows Herakles in the garden of the Hesperides, and at the back is a group of Athenian tribal heroes. All the figures have their names inscribed; these, together with the artist's signature, were only first noticed by Gerhard in 1839. Among the details of treatment are to be noted the exquisitely fine lines for the folds of drapery, and the elaborate chequers and other patterns representing embroidery, the occasional use of gilding, the attempts to impart expression to faces by means of wrinkles, and the characteristic rendering of the hair with wavy dark lines of thinned black on a brown wash.

The last artist of Athenian origin who remains to be mentioned is Xenophantos , a contemporary of Meidias, whose name appears on a vase found at Kertch and now in the Hermitage at Petersburg.Here he expressly calls himself an Athenian, and it has therefore been supposed that the vase was made on the spot, otherwise it would not be obvious why he should proclaim his nationality (see below, p. 464). The chief feature of the vase—a lekythos of the “bellied” type so common at this stage—is the use of figures moulded in relief and applied to the surface, in conjunction with gilding and a lavish use of white colour. The subject is the Persian king hunting.

The vases of the late fine  style, into which the “fine” style merges about the year 430 B.C., may be divided into two classes,—that of the larger vases, chiefly kraters, in which the pictorial traditions of the Polygnotan vases are carried on and developed, and the influence of contemporary art makes itself felt; and that of the smaller types, such as the pyxis and the wide-bellied lekythos, in which new features and new subjects are introduced (cf. Plate XLII.).

The former class is chiefly made up of the vases found in Southern Italy, in the Crimea, the Cyrenaica, and the Greek islands, which are apparently of Athenian, not local, fabric; but they are comparatively rare at Athens and in Greece Proper, where the smaller vases have been found in considerable numbers. It may be found convenient to deal first with the latter, as more typically Athenian, while the larger vases serve as a connecting-link with the succeeding fabrics dealt with in the next section.

In these vases linear drawing reaches its limits in respect of perfect freedom and refinement of detail; but it is at a severe cost. The artist seems to have lost interest in his subject when it no longer required an effort to execute it, and is content to decorate his vase with a few stock figures in conventional attitudes, uncharacterised by action or attribute. Frequent faults of design may be observed, such as coarseness of drawing or negligence in the laying on of the black varnish. The artist works by routine, and appears to be nonchalant and bored. Mythological scenes become exceedingly rare, and are confined to Dionysos or Aphrodite with their attendant personifications, and the compositions are fanciful or decorative in character, without any suggestion of particular events or actions. The all-pervading presence of Eros is another feature which is new to vase-painting, but henceforward his position is established. An even greater novelty is the preponderance


(British Museum ).

of subjects connected with the daily life of women or children—the toilet, the occupations of every-day life, or nuptial ceremonies; and a whole series of small jugs, themselves in all probability toys, depicts the various games in which the Athenian child delighted—the hoop, the go-cart, and the ball, or his pet animals (cf. Plate XLII.).

The shapes most popular in this group are, as we have indicated, the oinochoë, the wide-bellied lekythos, and the pyxis (Plate XLII.). Milchhoefer, in a most important article, regards the lekythi as more instructive than any other group for illustrating the later developments of R.F. vase-painting. Beginning with early examples of the fine style, they extend to the very end without any gaps, the tradition being further continued in Apulia. They exhibit a development from simple to rich compositions, from “strong” style to perfect freedom. In the latest examples, such as that by Xenophantos, we see the straining after novelty which marks the decadence, in the introduction of figures in relief applied to the surface of the vase, as well as in the increase of polychromy and gilding. Among the finer vases we may note a hydria at Karlsruhe (259) with the Judgment of Paris, in which may be traced the hand of Meidias; the lekythos in the British Museum from Cyprus (E 696), with Oedipus slaying the Sphinx, in which the figure of Athena with its white coating is clearly reminiscent of the gold-and-ivory Parthenos statue; and two pretty lekythi from Apollonia, in Thrace, with the subject of incense-gathering. There are also two pyxides in the British Museum (E 773–4), on which are groups of women, with fancy names added to give interest to the scene: thus Klytaemnestra, Danae, and Iphigeneia occur all together, and the Nereids are engaged in the every-day occupations of the women's apartments.

From a technical point of view, the principal change is in the increased use of gilding and polychrome colouring. The former, employed exceptionally by Euphronios and Brygos, now becomes the rule, and concurrently the use of white for flesh-tints, as in the figure of Athena just mentioned, and of red, green, and blue for draperies, becomes more and more general. The gilding was applied for small details, such as wreaths, and for the hair; and the places where it was to be applied were marked by low relief. It was fixed in the form of gold-leaf by means of a yellowish gum. Jahn, who some years ago collected the list of vases with gilding, reckoned fifty-one known to him, chiefly from Kertch; and Heydemann and Collignon have since added several to the list, chiefly from collections at Athens. They have been found not only in Athens and Kertch, but at Corinth, Megara, Hermione, Thebes, and in Acarnania and Thrace.

In the larger vases of this period the pictorial method of the preceding phase is, as might have been expected, greatly developed. Among the vases of undoubted Attic origin we have, first of all, the Meidias hydria and its companion vase, the Karlsruhe hydria with the Judgment of Paris; and, secondly, the great Gigantomachia vase from Melos in the Louvre, which contains no less than forty-seven figures. Another fine instance is the polychrome Kameiros vase in the British Museum with the subject of Peleus and Thetis. Robert sees in the two latter a possible influence of Parrhasios, who is known to have paid great attention to drawing, and, in reference to the Kameiros vase, draws attention to the plastic silhouette effect of the figures. Parrhasios' art consisted in giving this effect by his linear drawing. The influence of Zeuxis is less apparent, though from his earlier date it might more naturally have been expected.

It is, however, still more instructive to trace in this group the influence of the Parthenon sculptures, which, where it can be observed, enables us to date the vases approximately as at any rate not earlier than 438 B.C. On the other hand, it must be borne in mind that sculptor and painter may often have gone back to the same original type. This explains the appearance of apparently Pheidian motives on vases of an earlier style—such as riding youths, water-carriers, etc.—or the similarity of composition on one of the Parthenon metopes and a vase of undoubtedly earlier date. But in one or two instances there can be no doubt of such influence, most notably in the Athena and Poseidon vase from Kertch (see below, p. 464). It cannot be without significance here that the two figures are actually in relief on the vase, and the parallelism with the pediment (so far as we know the design) is so close that a copy of it was manifestly the vase-artist's intention. Mention has already been made of a figure of the Parthenos on a vase of this period, and another instance, though not on a painted vase, may be noted in the polychrome bust of the goddess in terracotta from Athens, now in the British Museum. Some instances of this type on vases may be earlier than the statue; it was not created by Pheidias.

It has already been mentioned that there is one exception to the Athenian monopoly of vase-making in the fifth century, and this is in the local fabrics of Boeotia. Of the Kabeirion vases, which, though in the B.F. technique, belong to this period, we have already spoken. There remains a small class—only five examples are at present known—which appears to have been made at Tanagra. All five evidently came from the same workshop, and in three cases the provenance is certainly known. Two are in the British Museum (E 813–4), and three in the Museum at Athens. With the exception of E 814 in the British Museum, which is a pyxis, all are small two-handled cups, with low feet. The designs are outlined on a background of yellow clay in a black-brown pigment, the lines being coarsely drawn. Inner details are indicated by means of thinned-out pigment. That they are of Boeotian origin is further shown by the ornamentation: the pyxis has round the sides rows of vertical wavy lines, such as are often seen on the Boeotian geometrical fabrics (p. 288), and also an ivy-leaf which recalls the Kabeirion ware. The ornamentation of the hangings round the chair on Athens 1120 exactly resembles the patterns indicating the drapery on some of the early Boeotian terracottas. The subjects, on the other hand, seem to suggest Athenian prototypes: in the designs much archaism is to be observed—such as defects in perspective, the rendering of the eyelashes, and the drawing of the feet in profile, but with toes in front. Numerous small details point to a date late in the fifth century, which, in view of the conservative tendencies of Boeotia, is not unlikely.


The subjects are of some interest, and include two figures of Herakles, one bearded, the other youthful; a girl playing kottabos (Fig. 104); and a cultus-image of an enthroned Chthonian goddess (Demeter or Persephone), holding a torch, ears of corn, and poppies. These vases have been collected and fully discussed in an interesting article by Dr. S. Wide.