The pottery of ancient Greece is a great archeological record which is characterized by particular styles of vase painting, manufacture and inscriptions. In this analysis, we are taking into account the exhibits that represent four Greek periods: Geometric, Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic. The objects of each of these styles are characterized by both similarities and differences as they were developed in different time frames, and thus were influenced by various external and internal factors. As we know, the Ancient Greece of the times before Christ (B.C.) consisted of poleis or, as we call it now, autonomous city states. Those areas are nowadays the territories of Italy, North Africa and even Spain.
The information about the periods and the objects for analysis is based on the information available on the website of The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2012). The historical development of the chosen four styles starts from the Geometric Art and finishes with the objects of Archaic Period.
The Geometric Art with the chronological age of 900 to 700 B.C. is mostly associated with the establishment of the poleis and the Homer’s epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey and Hesiod’s Erga. The exhibit for the analysis of this style is terracotta Neck amphora from the fourth quarter of the eighth century B.C. that represents Late Geometric period.
The Hellenistic Age of the Greek Art is associated with the strong figure of Alexander the Great, which allowed Greece to extend its boarders to Asia having influences from Egypt, Persian and Indian trends. The Hellenistic art is very diverse including sculpture, ceramics, mosaics, paintings, metallic and glass arts. The exhibit for this period is the Herakles and Geryon on an Attic black-figure amphora from the late Hellenistic Age: 540 B.C (Eke 2012).
The Archaic Period is mostly naturalistic style with Egyptian and Persian motives. Trade during those times had a huge impact on Greek artists as well so metalworking gem cutting, ivory carving and jewelry making and metalworking added a lot to the existing objects as well. The long-scale naturalistic sculptures of human figures were predominant in that time frame as well. The chosen exhibit from this period is terracotta Panathenaic amphora as of 530 B.C.
The Classical style is mostly associated with the political, economic and cultural dominance of Athens and the city of Acropolis that was transformed into the wealth and power center of the Ancient Greece. The exhibits of this area are associated with clarity and harmony and no wonder that period was established as the Golden Age of Greece. The object for the analysis and comparison with other styles is terracotta Amphora with the chronological age of 490 B.C.
Comparing those four amphorae from various periods, we can definitely notice the differences both in the shapes of the objects and the images with various backgrounds depicted. The clarity of the image is the most vivid on the object from the Classical style. With its perfect interconnection of the shape and decoration, it presents a clear message of the author of this work: focus of our attention to the young musician, which is the solitary figure of a vase. It is important to notice that the hero is presented not still, but in the action ready to sing and start playing. On the reverse side of the vase, we can find his listener who could possibly be his tutor. His right arm is extended towards the musician who he is listening to very attentively and maybe is trying to advice or directs his attention so the player is following the correct tunes.
The exhibit that is close to the classical style one would be Archaic Panathenaic amphora, which has the same background and clear decoration. As we see, it has the same fat body but a bit smaller neck and foot as the object from the Classical style. Here we can also notice a black-figure technique, which is typical for this period. The decoration is also the presentation of the moves associated with the competitions of the Olympic games of those times. We can clearly see the muscles of sprinters and their face expressions. This amphora with such decoration can be a great indicator of prize of any cup tournament.
The Hellenistic period is presented by the exhibit which moves us further from the Classical and Archaic styles with the decoration and background although there are some similarities found as well. The main idea of the decoration of the amphora is the action – the war and the peace as symbol of a white pigeon in the center; it clearly traces us back to the Alexander the Great times and the expansion of the Greek areas. Although the fight is depicted there, this amphora makes us to admire the choice of the chosen colors and general composition of the whole ensemble. As on the objects for the previous analysis we can clearly see the movements of the heroes and their facial expressions.
The last of the chosen exhibits is the Neck amphora, the representation of the Late Geometric style. It is the most different from the other chosen objects for analysis: its shape, colors, the main illustration and its background clearly indicate the representation of different art style. There is a great combination of abstract design and the human figure so that it can be hard to recognize what is predominant on this amphora: various crosshatching, zigzag and dots or the demonstration of animals. Unlike the above described exhibits, the picture on this amphora goes around the vase. It is important to admit that even warriors, horses, charioteers and birds acquired the geometric forms as well so it is hard to understand the initial meaning of those characters: whether the author of this piece refers to the peace or war as it was clearly shown on the exhibits from the previous styles. There is no background as such and each element can be viewed as separate and independent piece of art although the live characters are meant to be in the centre of attention.
The analysis of the objects represented by the chosen four styles clearly shows particular tendencies and circumstances of corresponding art periods. Looking at the illustrations on the amphorae, for example, one can easily recognize the style and the periods the vase was made in. The combination of colors, the shape of the characters, the painting of the details of each vase and the background of the illustration played an important role in demonstrating the mood of certain period.
Even on the examples of only four periods: Hellenistic, Classical, Geometric, and Archaic, we can clearly conclude that Greek pottery is beyond any doubts comprises a great archaeological record with its exhibits not only for Greek history but for the whole world. Every exhibit is special in its own style, in its own message and even within the same time frame we can find a really particular to certain period objects.
The history, the political and economic state of the country, it is external and internal influences, the country’s leaders and cultural (literature) figures gave a push to new trends in the Ancient Greek Art Pottery. There is a saying that globalization absorbs a culture of certain country. Greek is the best example of strong characters and influences, which did not plunge into the atmosphere of their conquests, but were able to take everything the best from them and adjust it into their art exhibits.
Greek pottery is the best example of demonstration of country’s trends, traditions, daily life and special circumstances like war should have a continuous evolution so the other people can further learn from it. And the exhibits from the ancient times shall be respected as they comprise a great source for knowledge of our past, and since there is no future without out past, they are our future.