Walters, Henry Beauchamp ; British Museum <London> [Editor]
Catalogue of the Greek and Etruscan Vases in the British Museum (Band 2): Black-figured vases — London, 1893

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INTRODUCTION.

The vases catalogued in this volume belong to what is known as the black-
figured style. They fall mainly into two divisions, of which the earlier
comprises fabrics from many parts of Greece (with a few from Athens itself),
together with imitations of the same produced in Etruria and probably also
m Asia Minor. These various local fabrics appear to have died out gradually,
or to have coalesced into one style, thus forming the later division, the centre
of which was Athens.

The term " black-figured " as applied to vases of the kind here catalogued
is in several respects inadequate as a definition. It was introduced at a time
when the Greek vases in public museums consisted mainly of two classes, the
one having figured subjects painted in black silhouettes on the red ground of;
the vase, the other—a later phase—having the figures drawn in outline and-
.surrounded with black colour, so that the figures stand out in red. Between,
these two classes the term "black-figured" or "red-figured" offered, and still
offers, an obvious and useful distinction. The distinction is best seen when we
compare the series of amphorae in the east side of the Second Room with the.
vases in the Third Room. In the former the whole vase stands out in the
natural red colour of the clay of which it is made, with only the addition of a
glaze to give it brilliancy, whereas the vases in the Third Room are covered
with black colour so as to conceal the whole of the red of the clay except
where the red is left to fill in the contours of the figures, which are drawn in
upon it. If we turn to the west side of the Second Room, we shall see a large
number of black-figured vases in which the whole body of the vase is covered
with black colour except a more or less large panel, which is left in the red
colour of the clay on which the figures are painted as black silhouettes.
This class of black-figured vases obviously approaches in general aspect
more nearly than the other to the red-figured vases in the Third Room.
Yet from an artistic point of view it seems impossible to distinguish them
as later products. More probably they represent only a contemporary difference
of taste.

But within a comparatively recent period there have been found in the
island of Rhodes, on the Greek site of Naucratis in the Delta of Egypt, in
Corinth, and many places of Greece proper, large numbers of vases having
designs which include figures painted in black silhouettes on a cream ground, but
ill a manner which clearly. shows that they had been executed in a ruder and
earlier stage of the art. Strictly speaking, these vases should all be reckoned in
the " black-figured " class. That, however, would involve several disadvantages.
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