Thursday, October 28, 2010

Greek pottery 1

I showed you an ancient Greek panel painting last night. I mentioned that there is almost know existent classical Greek painting existent (well, there are frescoed wall decorations, but we will get to those). Unlike the dearth of surviving work by Greek easel painters, there is an almost unbelievable amount of ancient pottery out there. When you think about it, that makes sense. The piece above is from the protogeometric period 1050-950 B.C. I won't show more of this because I am seeking to show paintings and this earliest pottery of the Greeks didn't include much of that.

I am going to do a short series of posts on this and I am beginning tonight with the earliest period called the geometric. Made from about 1100 to 750 B.C. ( I have lumped the protogeometric and the geometric into one era for convenience ) this pottery was turned on a wheel.

It is called geometric because it's decoration was in geometric shapes rather than figures, which later came to dominate the form. Much of it was used for funerary purposes, sometimes as markers for graves or as knick-knacks to console the deceased.

Pottery is a sort of artificial stone. It doesn't rot and won't burn. It breaks, but the pieces then remain. So there is an enormous amount of this material in our museums and private collections.

As you can see in the example above the patterns are arranged in bands running around the circumference of the pot. On a wheel, drawing a line around a pot was as easy as just holding something pointed up against the product as it turns on the wheel.

The decoration of the pottery progressed from a few simple designs in bands around the piece towards ever increasing complexity. Eventually every inch of the pottery was covered with decoration. The piece below illustrates a favorite motif called a meander. The wave design like a sine wave about the neck of this vase is a meander. Notice also the swastika designs about the waist of the piece this was another common design of the era. When we see that we think of Hitlers Third Reich, the ancient Greeks did not. It is a common folk decorative motif in many places and cultures around the world.

Later in this period the potters began adding figures of animals and then humans into their decorations. The figures are quite stylized. Here is an example of that below.

Much of this pottery was made in Athens but it was a trade good and ended up throughout the Mediterranean world.

Here is an oddity for you, do you know what this thing is;


Mary Bullock said...

A protogeometric steering wheel? Good for wheeling round Athens in a hot rod chariot?

cmv... said...

generally i can't ever add anything comment wise to your blog (which i love) but this i know... it's the antikythera mechanism...basically an ancient computer used to calculate the positions of the stars/planets etc. very cool and very very old. i watch the history channel. a lot. :]

Anonymous said...

Antikythera device...indeed it is. I saw it on HC too. Well done cmv!

René PleinAir. said...

It looks like some gear parts form my Morris Minor!

Jeremy Elder said...

I love that pottery with the meander, even if it has a pot leaf with swastika surrounding it... ;)

Lucy said...

I thought it was the potter's wheel. It's amazing to think of ancient societies producing such beautiful works and spending so much time on decoration when life itself took so much effort. It says something about the need for craft, art and beauty to feed the human psyche.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Mary; Good guess, but no.

Stapleton Kearns said...

You got it.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Perhaps TV is good for something.

Stapleton Kearns said...

What year was that Morris, was it built before the birth of Christ?

Stapleton Kearns said...

Pot and Swastikas,
Good name for a biker bar maybe.

Stapleton Kearns said...

This thing was actually a tool. It is beautiful though in a sort of MIT way.