The Red-Figured Kylix with Athlete is typical of the Greek terracotta pottery produced during this period. Upon viewing it closely, it appears to be in very good condition, and there is not much proof regarding its age since it is practically brand new. The terracotta material lends itself to beautiful work, especially in the way it is portrayed. The Greek and Roman cultures had exquisite pieces of art in their curriculum and one of the most famous of the artists was Euphronios whose workshop was constantly on the lookout for talented artists to produce such works. The Kylix is round in shape and was probably used for storing food. It may be compared with the Greek Psykter, that was a wine cooler and which used a technique that was known as black figuring. This describes figures that are portrayed on the Psykter in black on a red background. This background colouring is derived from a type of clay that is used to make the kylix. One immediately notices that the kylix is an extremely sturdy and powerful piece of pottery.
Red-figure vase painting is known as one of the most important styles of painting that hailed from the Greek city of Athens, beginning around 520 BCE. This style of painting continued to be used until around the Third Century BCE. This style of painting was the dominant style in Greece and Athens and replaced black figure vase painting in around a century. The name is based on the depictions of figures that come in red and which are superimposed on a background that is black. Several pottery items have been discovered in areas such as Attica in Southern Italy as well as Etruria, apart from Greece.
These types of red figure vases were very popular not just in Greece but also outside of the country. They dominated the market for fine ceramics for quite a long time with Athens being the main centre for this type of pottery work. Athens was an important centre for innovation, quality as well as production style. There are several thousand pieces and fragments that survive, with more than 40,000 pieces being found in the area of modern day Athens while in the Apulia area of Italy, more than 20,000 pieces have been found. Scholars such as Beazly and Trendall have added substantially to the body of knowledge on these pottery works, and it has been discovered that some pieces may be attributed to schools of art as well as particular artists. This Red-figure Kylix may be attributed to the Euphronius workshop that was one of the most popular in Athens at the time. The imagery of the kylix also provides an opportunity to study the iconography of everyday life that was an important feature of pottery in those days.
The Red-Figure kylix is quite detailed in its portrayal of a man who is attempting to fish. The male body is beautifully delineated and the anatomical features are quite pronounced. One can also observe the fish at the left of the man – this is undoubtedly some sort of symbolism since the fish provides a link with prosperity and munificence.
The Red figure technique is quite simply, the opposite of the black figure painting process. The process took place in three phases with the paintings applied to a properly shaped and unfired vessel with the paintings then drying to a texture that was quite brittle as well as being leathery. The technique differed in the different areas of production, for example in Attica, the unburnt clay was of the orange variety. Closer examination reveals that the outline of the figures was drawn with a blunt scraper thus leaving a minute groove. Charcoal was also used in some cases (this is probably the case with the Kylix under discussion) and this would completely disappear after the kylix was fired. The contours of the painting would then be completely redrawn with a brush and a clay slip was also used. Sometimes, the painter would make changes to the original painting, and if the groove system were used, the original sketches would still remain, albeit appearing quite faintly. A close examination of this kylix does reveal some grooves, so it can be assumed that the artist decided to change certain aspects of the painting before committing himself to the final version. The final details with red or white colours were then applied. This kylix also has very bold contours that were drawn with a thick slip; there is also a protruding outline while the other lesser lines are drawn with glossy clay.
Further study of the techniques used in the period indication that the process of applying the relief outlines was essential since when it dried, the clay would end up as being very dull. The initial phase of development also varied with some alternatives being used such as reduction and re-oxidisation. The final phase of oxidisation used was usually performed using low temperatures – this allowed the fine surface to melt and sinter thus protecting it from possible excess oxidisation.
The kylix is a product of the Pioneer Group who exploited the red figure technique to the full. These artists were probably active in the two decades between 520 and 500 BCE with the Euphronios style particularly important. Further study on the operations of this group has revealed that they experimented considerably with several methods and techniques that were made possible by this new style. Figures began appearing in different perspectives with full frontal or rear views becoming particularly prominent. This kylix also shows some technique with regard to perspective foreshortening that was another of the styles used in the Euphronios workshop. Although the kylix would have principally been used for eating, most of the work done at the workshop in red-figure vase painting would have been done for objects carrying water and other similar vases of all shapes and sizes. This could be due to the fact that the Euphronios artists were also potters apart from being artists.
There were also several other new shapes being introduced into the equation such as the psykter and the pelike, apart from the kylix. Other shapes that used red-figure painting were the krater and the amphorae – these were also very popular in that period. Recent studies have revealed that the group of painters were quite loosely connected and there is no evidence that they formed an art school in the way that we understand this today. However, certain documented records reveal a sort of friendly rivalry between the schools. The Pioneer group was also very active in the using of inscriptions that can be seen on several of their works – this kylix is a case in point. Although the technique of red figure painting was mostly found in vases, the painting of bowls was quite popular as well, with artists such as Epiketos and Oltos using it regularly on the interior of their bowls.
If one had to compare this Red Figure Kylix found in the Menin Museum, the most obvious works would have to be those produced by the Berlin Painter and the Kleophrades Painter. Here, one can observe certain techniques that developed from the Late Archaic period, and one can also note that the substantial improvement in quality went hand in hand with quantity. Again, an important aspect and feature of this bowl painting was the foreshortening technique. This method allowed for a very naturalistic description of the figures in the vessel or bowl. The kylix here is a case in point since we only have two figures that are the man and the fish to analyse. There is less ornamental detail although the background scenes seem to increase with popular myths and legends abounding. Bowl and vase painting also saw an increased use of specialisation with shapes changing according to needs and requirements.
The role of the kylix is very clear – it was used as a serving dish for food during particular events or parties. The piece was undoubtedly a functional one and was intended for public viewing as well as public use. Since it was probably very expensive to own, it must have been in the possession of some rich family who used it during select occasions to serve meals when distinguished guests and company was present. The elaborate design of the bowl probably made it an extremely desired object, so those who owned it would undoubtedly flaunt it as much as possible to ensure that it was seen properly.
The piece is very well displayed at the Menil Collection since it is prominently placed in the Greek and Roman collection with your eyes falling upon it almost immediately. Once can observe the piece in all its power and glory, although its use was probably domestic, the level and quality of the artwork is nothing short of amazing. My first impression on seeing the piece in the Menin Collection was one of awe and disbelief; such is the beauty and technical quality of the work. There is also a detailed description of the bowl in the exhibition catalogue that allows one to understand the history of the piece as well as its social context. Although one should always observe an object in its original context, the Menil Collection is certainly an excellent way to discover such a work. A close examination of the kylix reveals that it is not damaged in any way – this is remarkable considering that it is over 2500 years old.
My selected comparison would be the vase depicting the Passing of Sarpedon that comes from Greece and that was made around 515BCE. This grand vase was painted by the Greek craftsman Euphronios and potted by Euxithos around 515 BCE. Both were extremely animated craftsmen throughout this period and a few works have been uncovered in archaeological burrows through the years. The incredibly gifted craftsmanship that is available in this vase reflects the standing which these two craftsmen were held at the time – they were additionally effective and compelling in Athens. The involved configuration of the painting shows a few perspectives that are regular in Greek incredible painting. The vase was undoubtedly a vital some piece of Greek building design particularly since it passed on a fanciful world that was part and bundle of Greek legends and convictions. The showy and mind boggling craftsmanship on the vase shows specialized capacity of the most elevated request
The dark colored vase is likewise a critical part of processes. There is an outflow of structure and feeling all around the work whilst the exact measurements additionally show symmetry and magnificence in the meantime. The vase is otherwise called a krater and has two scenes on each one side of it. There is a scene from the Trojan War on the converse side of the vase whilst the primary delineation on the front indicates the passing of Sarpedon who was likewise the child of Zeus. The vase that is made out of red figure ceramics is adequately painted in black with the figures themselves made of terracotta earth.
The krater has been credited to the Pioneer Group of Archaic craftsmen with Euphronios recognized as by a wide margin the best. There is likewise a feeling of pressure that emerges between both aspects of the vase since the young people who are planning for war will presumably meet the same destiny of the saint Sarpedon, the child of Zeus. The level of subtle element on both sides of the vase is reminiscent of the Pioneer Group's accomplishments, one promptly notes the level of anatomical point of interest of the bodies as an innate some piece of the craftsman's large amount of system. The two scenes contrast in that the one delineating the warriors planning for war is more established in the present whilst the one portraying the demise of Sarmedon is naturally a piece of the past.
Personally I feel that the piece is a beautiful and highly interesting one. The figures are reproduced with astonishing accuracy and beauty although there is some puzzlement regarding the positioning of the fisherman. The anatomical details of the male figure are amongst the most powerful aspects of the work.
The kylix is an important example of red figure clay painting and is one of the highlights of the Menil collection. We can observe the high standard of craftsmanship in the work that was typical of the red-clay technique of the time with the figure particularly prominent, especially the contours of the male body. The kylix teaches us a lot about the Euphronios workshop techniques with the methods used in those days particularly prominent.
John Boardman: The History of Greek Vases, London 2001, p. 286. The hollow needle, or syringe, was proposed by Noble (1965). First publication of the hair method by Gérard Seiterle: Die Zeichentechnik in der rotfigurigen Vasenmalerei. Das Rätsel der Relieflinien.In: Antike Welt 2/1976, S. 2-9.
Joseph Veach Noble: The Techniques of Painted Attic Pottery. New York 1965. The Process was first re-discovered and published by Theodor Schumann:Oberflächenverzierung in der antiken Töpferkunst. Terra sigillata und griechische Schwarzrotmalerei. In: Berichte der deutschen keramischen Gesellschaft 32 (1942), S. 408-426. More References in Noble (1965).
John Boardman: Athenian Red Figure Vases: The Archaic Period,1975, p. 15-16
John H. Oakley: Rotfigurige Vasenmalerei, in: DNP 10 (2001), col. 1141
Barnet Sylvan: A Short Guide to Writing About Art Longman, 2008