White Ground Technique

White Ground Technique

The White Ground Technique of vase painting flourished between the late 6th century BCE until the end of the fifth century in Athens and Etruria. The earliest surviving example of the technique is a fragmentary kantharos of ca. 570 BC signed by the potter-painter Nearchos, and found on the Athenian Acropolis (Akropolis 611) [Cohen, "Colors of Clay", 2006, p.187] . The method consists of a white slip of the local calcareous clay applied to a terracota vase and then painted. In the later development of the technique, a coloured wash was often applied to the clothing or flesh of the figures depicted. The earliest incidence of the technique was used to create strobing bands of colour that emphasize the shape of the vase (as on Nearchos, NY Met 1926,26.49), the use of a white ground in conjunction with outline painting did not develop until ca. 520 and is associated with the workshops of Andokides, Nikosthenes and Psiax [Cohen, "op. cit.", p.188] . By the Classical period white ground can be identified most closely with three principle shapes: lekythoi, cups and kraters [Cohen, "op. cit.", p.190] . That the emergence of this form of painting can be explained as emulation of the more prestigious medium of wall painting has been conjectured [See Tiverios and Tsiafakis, "Color in Ancient Greece", 2002, for a survey of opinions on this.] but not demonstrated.



*E. Pottier, "Étude sur les lécythes blancs antiques", 1883.
*J.H. Oakley, "Picturing Death in Classical Athens: The Evidence of the White Lekythoi", CUP.

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