Pelike (Storage Jar)

A work made of terracotta, decorated in the black-figure technique with touches of paint.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of terracotta, decorated in the black-figure technique with touches of paint.


about 510/500 BC


Greek; Athens

About this artwork

In this scene, the silhouettes of the figures and the dog were painted in black gloss. The artist then incised the details of their anatomy and clothing. The woman’s flesh was covered with white, details such as the dog’s collar and the wreaths worn by the woman and the man on the left were painted red, and red and white patterns were added to some of their clothing. The vase was then fired. Below the picture field, thin red bands encircle the vase.

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.

On View

Ancient and Byzantine Art, Gallery 151


Ancient Greek


Pelike (Storage Jar)




510 BC–500 BC


terracotta, decorated in the black-figure technique with touches of paint


H. 34.9 cm (13 3/4 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Philip D. Armour and Charles L. Hutchinson

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

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