Painting by Numbers (Ancient style)

In the museum in Palermo we found this example which begins to show the process of ceramic painting in the old days. The container was only partially painted before the painter stopped and didn’t continue – earthquake? Martian invasion? a deadly lunch break? Some of the figures have letter notations on their partially painted garments (see arrows below). The letters indicate what color the area should be painted. And who decides? Probably the painting master who made the dark line drawing decides. He is busy and needs to move on to the next pot while the apprentice(s) applies the color.

Makes you wonder. The super important ancient ceramic industry probably employed a lot of people each with their own specialty: The people who dig clay and process it, the ceramicists who build the vessels, the master painters, the apprentice painters, and the team who operates the furnace for the final result. More?

"ΑΓ" notation

“ΑΓ” notation

I admit that I never thought much about the ancient ceramic process. I assumed that the same person that built the pot was also the painter. Thanks to the Palermo Museum I see the process as an assembly line with multiple entities each making a contribution to the final result.

The date? Sorry, I can’t remember but sometime during the Magna Grecia (Megali Ellada) period after 745 BCE.


2 thoughts on “Painting by Numbers (Ancient style)

  1. This “red-figure” style of work might be from around 350 BCE. The lack of any “meander” type of repeating decoration other than the figures is interesting. Might there have been a ‘meander specialist’ who did his thing after the figures were painted? There is space for a meander only around the base.

  2. Yes, I agree with the date, second half of the fourth century I would think. The black varnish made by our friend in Skopelos (Rodios) is of a higher quality…

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