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The Achilles Painter. White text: p.71 Black text: p.87-89. The Achilles Painter. Achilles Painter was one of the finest painters of the Classical period, but he never signed his name.

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The achilles painter

The Achilles Painter

White text: p.71

Black text: p.87-89

The achilles painter1
The Achilles Painter

Achilles Painter was one of the finest painters of the Classical period, but he never signed his name.

He is the same painter who decorated a red-figure vase showing Achilles, which is now part of the Vatican Museum’s collection. He is therefore named after that vase.

He was a student of the Berlin Painter, and painted red-figure and white-ground ware, as well as several black figure vases.

Shape:Lekythos (funerary)

Function: containers for oil and perfume.

Painter:Achilles Painter (attributed)


Technique:white-ground ware

Date:450-440 B.C


Height: 38.4cm


There is one inscription. It is between the two figures and it reads:

“Deiopathes, the son of Alkimachos, is handsome”.

This has nothing to do with the scene on the vase or the deceased. Kalos inscriptions were common.

Decoration Overview

The neck of the vase has been decorated in black slip with an egg pattern border

Around the base of the neck there is a “schematic” palmette decoration painted in black slip

The shoulder of the vase has been bordered with crude meanders and saltires

The scenes on these funerary lekythoi often had nothing to do with death, but almost all were calm in mood. On this vase, there is a simple scene showing a woman and her maidservant.

Behind the maidservant, a lekythos and a mantle hang from the wall. This indicates that the scene is taking place indoors.

Her hair is coiled on top of her head with a few curls left loose at the front

The young maidservant carries a grey painted casket, which she is offering to her mistress.

Her body (including the eye) is realistically in profile with her left foot slightly forward of her right.

The glaze paint has worn off the tunic, leaving it transparent.

The mistress’ hair is also coiled up on her head, with a few curls left loose at the front.

She wears a yellow chiton with a red/brown himation over the top.

The brow to the tip of the nose is a straight line. This is an elegant face.

She stands in a realistic position, with her feet frontal. She turns to look at the servant girl while gesturing with her right hand.

Overall scene is calm and serene with little attention paid to musculature detailing

Painting technique
Painting Technique few curls left loose at the front.

As lekythoi were almost always used as funerary offerings, the durability of the decoration was not important. This was a good thing, as the white slip background wore off too easily for it to be used every day.

The outlines of the figures were painted on first, using dilute slip. Brighter colours used to decorate the vase were added after firing.

The Achilles Painter was one of the last vase decorators to paint the outlines of the figures in slip.

Towards the end of the C5th BC artists stopped using slip or glaze to paint the outlines of the decoration on, and began to do all of the decoration in different coloured vegetable dye AFTER firing the vase.

Most of these vases have lost all their decoration now – the colours have simply faded away.

Painting style
Painting Style paint the outlines of the figures in slip.

The figures on vases of this time are inspired by fresco painting and also by sculpture, especially that found in the Parthenon at the time.

Sculpted figures were made to look god-like, that is non-human, and totally removed from the human world.

Figures appear sculpted rather than painted, and are realistic in profile. They have long necks.

Unlike earlier vases, there is little attempt to make figures look as though they are moving – they make few gestures.

Faces are cool and aloof. They almost look severe, or god-like.

The profile eye is much more realistic with an almost invisible pupil and a single curved line for the eyelashes.