Document Type


Date of Award



Vase-painting, Greek, Italy

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Art History

First Advisor

Vincent J. Bruno

Second Advisor

Katherine Abramovitz

Third Advisor

Andrew Ramage


Greek vase painting of the archaic and classical periods emphasized purity of line and draughtsmanship characteristic of the engraver’s art rather than of painting. The lines in vase painting were made with incision or glaze, either diluted or undiluted. Each method produced a unique effect. The Attic white lekythoi of the second half of the fifth century B.C. introduced into vase painting a technique in which a broader range of color was employed, although the painter still often relied mainly on contour in order to express form. Later on, particularly in the workshops of Greek cities in South Italy during the fourth century B.C., the possibilities for more colorful, more painterly rendering in the vases, opened up by the white-ground techniques of the fifth century B.C., were further explored, although the red-figure technique remained popular. Although fourth-century South Italian vases continue the basic formulae of Attic red-figure, some important workshops relied on painterly effects and on the use of added colors in a way that radically departs from the techniques of red-figure. These South Italian vases reveal pictorial qualities that are truly painterly in the sense that all feeling of an engraving or graphic technique is lost, thus contrasting with earlier Greek practices. A new taste for more varied color developed, especially in the centers of Magna Graecia and Sicily, breaking a long Attic tradition in which the aesthetics of vase painting seem to depend on the concept of restraint and color restriction, a tradition in which black and the earth red colors of the clay itself constituted the special and typical color harmony of the highly characteristic art. In the white-ground lekythoi and in South Italian products we begin to see more “florid” colors for the first time in vase painting, colors such as the blue of the Lipari painter and the crimson red of the Centuripe urns. These striking and unexpected changes are almost certainly a reflection of conflicting aesthetic attitudes which seem to characterize the history of art in the late classical and Hellenistic periods, conflicting attitudes that have only lately begun to be explored and discussed. Such changes in the practice of Greek vase painting have never been systematically described, and we have at present only a nebulous idea of their real significance in the history of ancient art.

The changes in color and painting techniques in late classical and early Hellenistic vases are accompanied by a parallel increase in the importance of landscape and settings or backgrounds in the designs on vases. Thus in order to limit the discussion to a manageable group of motifs, in order to follow a sequence of stylistic changes through an extended period of time, I propose to contain my analysis of color and techniques within the context of the landscape elements themselves. This study will provide an examination of landscape elements in Greek vase painting with a view towards tracing simultaneously the history of color and other painterly qualities as they appear in various types of pictorial settings and narrative compositions. We will explore the manner in which the execution of such pictorial details characterizes the picture field in the archaic, classical and Hellenistic periods, with particular emphasis on the little known masters of the fourth and early third centuries in South Italy and Sicily. The purpose is to put into an art historical perspective the most striking of the changes in aesthetic controls that show themselves in the vases.