Art Finder Text Detail  
Item Actions
Ratings (0)

: Attic Vase Added to Collection


Minneapolis Institute of Arts



Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
It is common knowledge that the little we know about Greek painting has been surmised from that branch of Greek art which is found in the decorations of vases and funeral urns. During the great period—520 to 400 B.C., when such artists as Polygnotos were painting frescoes in public buildings at Athens and perhaps were joining forces with great sculptors, like Phidias, in the decoration of sculptured temples, the vase painters felt that influence on their work and reproduced the characteristics of the time.The Institute has been fortunate in acquiring, through the Edmund J. Phelps Fund, a white ground Lecythus, dating from the beginning of the IVth century. It is 11 1/4 inches tall, painted with a black glaze at top and bottom, and covered about the middle with a thin white wash on which is painted in red with traces of black a figure standing before a grave stone. Round the neck of the vase is an arabesque design also in red paint. On the shoulder is a band of meander pattern in red, underscored with two lines of yellow. The material of the vase is of course baked clay.Vases of this type were used exclusively for tombs, to hold aromatic oils probably. They appeared first in the middle of the Vth century and continued popular through the first quarter of the IVth century. The subjects represented on them were four in number: the laying out of the body of the deceased; the placing of the body in the tomb; the journey to Hades; and the cult of the tomb. This last subject is the most usual. Generally two figures were shown, one representing the dead person and the other a living person bringing an offering in his honor. The vase now in the Institute contains the figure of the dead person and the grave stone clearly drawn; traces of a second figure, standing on the other side of the grave, must have represented the living person who brings a bird of some sort as an offering.The drawing of the figure is done with much freedom. The simplest means are enough to reveal a graceful pose, the structure of the body and the spirit of calmness associated with the Greek idea of future life, in which heroes mingled with lesser figures in a dim and unreal existence.The fine style of the drawing, less rigid than the earlier severe style, and less careless than the later more decadent style, places it in the early years of the IVth century. At that time the archaic influences had passed, though we still see signs of the former mannerism in the simple profile of the head. The more realistic drawing, shown here in the lines of the throat and shoulder, prepared the way for a period of still greater freedom and less grandeur. It is entirely an Athenian development, marking the close of the famous age which saw the beginning of the black-figured vases in the VIth century and the popularity of the red-figured cases of the century following. The white-ground type is a subdivision of this last class, being contemporary in time.Referenced Work of Art
  1. Greek Lecythus, IVth century B.C.
    Edmund J. Phelps Fund, 1926
Comments (0)
Tags (0)
Source: "Attic Vase Added to Collections," <i>The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin</i> 15, no. 10 (March, 1926): 46-47.
Rights: ©MIA
Added to Site: March 10, 2009