2 - 6 - 2 Early black figure

From Nessos Painter to Sophilos (c.625-570)

In the end of the seventh century, Attic workshops gradually abandoned Orientalizing style and started to produce more elaborate works, such as the amphora in Athens (1002), dated to c.610-590. Although these are classified as the Late Protoattic pottery, they already have characteristics of black figure pottery. On the neck of the Athenian amphora has Herakles fighting against Nessos. Although the body also has Gorgons, Perseus and Athena are omitted. Except for added purple for Gorgons' heads and clothes, all details are represented by engraved lines.

Although owls and water birds on the handles are Corinthian style and some Orientalizing filling ornaments remain, the style of the large figures is Attic and the painter added the names of characters in Attic script. The painter is named the Nessos (or Netos) Painter from this subject [1] and also painted Herakles freeing Prometheus and Bellerophon and Chimaera.

The Gorgon Painter is named after the subject on the dions in the Louvre, dated to 600-580[2]. Although the animal friezes on the lower body and stand are obviously influenced by Corinthian pottery, the scene of Gorgons on the upper body is of Attic.

His style is more developed than that of the Nessos Painter. Especially fallen Medusa is depicted with more realistic posture. Finer clay is used for this vessel and it produces good contrast of vivid orange of clay and shinny black gloss, which becomes the hallmark of the Athenian fineware. Other than this dinos, the Gorgon Painter also painted on both larger and smaller vessels. Although most of them are filled with Corinthian animal frieze, the figures are larger and have freer postures and less space filler is used.

The first Athenian painter who signed his name is Sophilos[3]. Although he left his name as potter on one vessel and as painter on three, the best example is the dinos and stand in the British Museum (london1971.11-1.1). His figures are not detailed and not well postured as those of the Gorgon Painter.

His female figures, however, wear clothes with detailed patterns and white is used for thier flesh, as later Athenian painters did. The subject on the upper frieze is the wedding of Peleus and Thetis and the procession of deities. The painter gives the name of over 30 figures. Other than this vase, Sophilos depicted the funeral game of Patroklos on another dinos, as well as Corinthianized animal figures on many other vases.

Although some other painters of this period are also identified, they have less characteristics. The most florished of this period is Horse-head amphorae[4]. Only the head of a horse is depicted within a panel on either side of a belly amphora, though occasionally female or warrior's head is depicted instead of the horse-head. Cups of this period generally have the shape, so-called Komast cup, on which Komasts, or revellers, are often depicted(harvard1925.30.133) [5]. The best cup-painters of this period are the KX and KY Painter, though the former had never painted on the Komast cup.

Francois Vase, Nearchos and Cup Painters (c.575-550)

Together with the growing influence of Athens against other regions in the second quarter of the sixth century, Athenian pottery overwhelmed Corinthian Pottery. Space fillers almost disappeared and human figures became more important than animal figures. In this transitional period, c.570-560, the masterpiece of Greek pottery was produced. This great volute krater in Florence is so-called Flancois Vase, named after the finder (florence4209) [6]. This is the first volute krater of Greek pottery.

On this vase both the potter Ergotimos and painter Kleitias signed their names twice. Kleitias has the Gorgon Painter's delicacy and Sophilos' miniaturistic composition. This Krater is, however, much more grandeur and has over 270 figures, of which 121 figures have inscriptions.

Each side is divided into seven friezes. Within the uppermost frieze is the Karydonian Boar Hund on one side and Theseus and Athenian youths landing on the other. The second frieze has Patroklos' funeral game and the battle between Centaurs and Lapiths. The third frieze on the shoulder is the procession to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. The fourth has Achilleus' ambush of Troilos and Hephaistos returning to Olympos. The fifth frieze has decorative ornaments with heraldic Sphinxes and the sixth has a ray pattern. The seventh frieze on the foot has the battle between Cranes and Pygmies. Below the each handle is Artemis as the mistress of animals and Aias carrying the body of Achilleus.

There is no example filled with so many mythological subjects and figures like this. This vase is important, not only for the development of Greek vase-painting, but also for the study of Greek iconography. The style of Kleitias was followed not by the painters of large vessels, but by cup painters specialized in miniaturistic representation.

On the other hand, Nearchos is the painter who influenced on the masters of black figures of the next generation[7]. He also sometimes drew figures in miniaturistic style. His style is, however, more clear on the fragmental Kantharos in Athens, on which his own name, Achilleus' and even horses' names are added. The scale of the figures is much larger than that on the Francois vase and the features, hairs and horses are depicted with more delicate engraved lines. This cup is also the first example with white ground technique, though it is only applied to the neck. Only some vessels are attributed to him, his style was followed by many painters.

Siana cups, whose production was started before the Francois Vase, have a short conical foot and concave lip[8]. The C painter is the most typical painter [9] and his younger contemporary, the Heidelberg Painter, introduced figures within tondo (circular panel placed within a cup) and this tradition was followed until the end of Greek vase-painting [10].

Other than these, the Tyrrhenian Group produced large vases, generally neck amphora, in different style. Although the main scene on the shoulder is generally of mythological or genre, the lower body has animals. Since most of them are found from Etruria, it was thought that the workshop is Etruskan. But it is certain that these vases were produced by Athenian workshops of c.5070-550 for Etruskan market[11].

[1] For the Nessos Painter, see, Brommer, F., Berl.Mus.4, pp.1-.
[2] For the Gorgon Painter, see, Scheibler, I., "Olpen und amphoren des Gorgomalers", JdI 76, pp.1-47.
[3] For Sophilos, see, Bakir, G., Sophilos, ein Beitrag zu seinem Stil, (1981).
[4] For Horse-head amphorae and the classification, see, Birchall, A., "Attic horse-head amphorae", JHS 92, pp.46-63.
[5] For the Komast cups and the painters, see, Brijder, H. A. G., Siana cups I and Komast cups, (1983).
[6] For the Francois Vase, see, Maetzke, G. and Cristofani, Materiali per servire alla Storia del Vaso Francois, (1981).
[7] For Nearchos, see, Richter, G. M. A., "Nearchos", AJA 36, pp.272-275.
[8] For Siana cups and the paiters, see, Brijder, H. A. G., Siana cups I and Komast cups, (1983), Brijder, H. A. G., Siana cups II: The Heidelberg Painter, (1991).
[9] For the C painter, see, Beazley, J. D., MMS 5, pp.93-115.
[10] For the Heidelberg Painter, see, Beazley, J. D., "Amasea", JHS 51, pp.257-284.
[11] For the Tyrrhenian amphorae and the painters, see, Thiersh, H., 'Tyrrheniche' Amphoren, (1899), Bothmer, D. v., "The Painters of Tyrrhenian vases", AJA 48, pp.161-170, Carpenter, T., "On the dating of the Tyrrhenian Group", OJA 2, pp.279-293, Carpenter, T., "The Tyrrhenian Group: problems of provenance", OJA 3, pp.45-56.