Red Figure Essay examples

Submitted By senlinzhu
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Athenian Red Figure vase painting was invented in Athens around 530 BCE and is often attributed to the Andokides painter. (1) The technique used to decorate red figure pots is essentially the reverse of black figure ware. The background of the pot is painted with black slip and the decorative figures stand out as reserved orange-red spaces in which the details are painted in black lines.(2) Eliminating the need for the incised lines of black figure ware greatly enhanced the painter's artistic abilities. The first groups of vase painters to attempt this new technique were called the Pioneers. They experimented not only by simply using this new technique, but by learning to foreshorten the limbs of their figures and attempting new poses to give their figures a more three dimensional appearance.(3)

Once a pot had been thrown it was left to become "leather hard" yet not completely dry, allowing it to be burnished. The process of burnishing a pot involves rubbing it vigorously with a hard, smooth object (probably leather, wood or a smooth stone) to compact and smooth the surface of the clay.(4) A light coating of red ocher was sometimes applied and the pot re-burnished, enhancing the natural color of the clay. (5) Once the pot was burnished a charcoal sketch was made to indicate the positions of figural details. This sketch was then outlined with a relatively wide black-gloss strip referred to as the eighth-of-an-inch-strip.(6) This strip functioned as a dam, preventing black gloss from entering these decorated areas when the rest of the pot was covered in black slip. Once the sketch was completely outlined, the details were then added using, dilute gloss (this is the same as the gloss used to decorate the entire pot, diluted in water, the resulting medium fires to a brown or golden brown color and was used to render fine details such as hair, or fine garments) (7) and relief lines (relief lines are used to outline figures against the background or delineate details such as a lock of hair, the gloss used for these lines is so thick that it leaves a visibly raised line).(8) Added colors were applied next, however, they were utilized considerably less than they were in black figure ware. For example, in black figure ware women's skin was often painted white, while in red figure ware the flesh of both males and females is left in the reserved orange-red clay.

The pot then goes through the same three stage firing process that black figure ware does. It was necessary to achieve the lustrous black gloss and the reserved areas of orange-red to adhere to the same three step firing process, which consisted of a cycle of oxidizing, reducing and re-oxidizing the atmospheres of the kiln.(9)

Oxidizing phase: the