Almond-shaped amphoriskos

This base in the form of an amphora has two handles connected from the neck to the shoulder. This form is known as an amphoriskos. The body of the recipient faithfully imitates the shell of an almond, with a pointed end and a coarse skin, with small dents made in the clay before the baking.

A flask such as this would have contained perfumed almond oil and would presumably have acted as a rather lavish votive offering. Almond vases appeared as a form from around 400 BC, and seemingly, He died out after a century. The most common form of almond vase was that of an amphoriskos, like the present example; however there are a few that have the single handles of lekythoi. Molds for this type of vessel have been found at excavations in the Athenian Agora; the metallic quality of the glaze and the red color of the clay also point to this vase's origin in an Athenian workshop.

Red-figure pottery was one of the most important figurative styles of Greek production. It developed in Greece around the year 530 B.C. and was used until the 3rd Century B.C. It took the place of the previously dominant style of black-figure pottery within a few decades. The technical base was the same in both cases, but in the red-figure pieces the colour was reversed, so that the figures stood out against a dark background as if they were lit up by theatrical lighting, following a more natural scheme. The painters who worked with black figures were forced to keep motifs clearly separated one from the other and to limit the complexity of the illustration. In contrast, the red-figure technique allowed greater freedom. Each figure was silhouetted against a dark background allowing the painters to render anatomic details with greater exactitude and variety.

The technique consisted of painting motifs on a still moist piece, using a transparent glossy slip which, on firing, took on an intense black coloration. The motifs were therefore invisible before the firing and so painters had to work completely from memory without seeing the result of their work beforehand. Once the piece had been fired the zones not covered by the slip retained the reddish tone of the clay, while those that had been “painted” with the slip took on a dense, brilliant black coloration.


- COHEN, Beth. The Colours of Clay: Special Techniques in Athenian Vases. Malibu. 2006. p. 288, no. 88.
- REEFER, E. Figurine Vases from the Athenian Agora. Hesperia 47, issue 4. pp. 357 - 401.

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