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About This Artwork
Hydria (Water Jar), 460–450 B.C.
Terracotta, red-figure technique
42.4 x 37.6 x 31.8 cm (16 3/4 x 14 3/4 x 12 1/2 in.)
Gift of Martin A. Ryerson through The Antiquarian Society, 1911.456
Black- and Red-Figure Vase Painting Techniques These two vases are decorated in the most popular techniques of ancient vase painting, black-figure (left) and red-figure (right). The black-figure technique, developed in Corinth, was used widely during the Archaic period (700–480 B.C.). Gloss, a slip made from refined clay, was applied to all areas intended to be black. For the figural scene the silhouettes of the figures and other elements were painted in gloss, sometimes following the lines of a preliminary sketch scratched into the surface. Using a sharp tool, the artist created details by incising through the gloss to the light clay ground below. Colors such as purple-red and white, made from a gloss with mineral pigments, were then added. After a three-stage firing process applying alternately less and more oxygen, the gloss turned black. In its finest form, it was quite shiny. Invented in Athens around 530 B.C., the red-figure technique reverses the decorative black-figure scheme. The figures are now red instead of black, and not necessarily confined within a bounded picture field. Sometimes the artist etched or sketched the scene and then outlined the important contours in a gloss that is slightly thicker. Details were painted, sometimes with a dilute form of the gloss, making them lighter, and sometimes with a thicker form, so they appear in relief. Red and white details were sometimes added, and the undecorated portions of the vase were coated with gloss. They were fired in the same process as black-figure vases. Here the figures are reserved, or left in the color of the clay, which was then intensified by the application of an orange overwash. Barely discernible are sketch marks, as well as lines of thicker gloss outlining the contours of the figures. The drapery, jewelry, and anatomy are rendered in gloss that is diluted and therefore thinner. Except for the bands of decoration—for example, the egg motif at the rim, the ivy band around the neck, and the meander pattern below the figural scene—the rest of the vase was coated with gloss. It was so thinly applied in some places that the marks of the brush are visible.
The Art Institute of Chicago, Ancient Art Galleries, Gallery 155, 1994 - February 2012.
Beazley, J.D. Attic Red-Figure Vase-Painters. Vol. II, Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1963, p. 572, No. 88, and ARV I, 399, No. 82. listing brief description.
Clark, Louise. "A Rare Textile Frame on Vases at The Art Institute." (Paper: April 17, 1979), pp. 1-7.
Moon, Warren G. and Berge, Louise. Greek Vase-Painting in Midwestern Collections. The Art Institute of Chicago, 1979, No. 97, pp. 170-171. Entry: L. Berge.
Pedley, John Griffiths. Ancient Art at The Art Institute of Chicago. The Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 1994, Vol. 20, No. 1, pp. 42-45 (ill.).
Alexander, Karen B. 2012. "From Plaster to Stone: Ancient Art at the Art Institute of Chicago." in Recasting the Past: Collecting and Presenting Antiquities at the Art Institute of Chicago, by Karen Manchester, p.26, 38. Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press.