Red-figure vase painting is one of the most important styles of figural
It developed in
Attic red-figure vases were exported throughout Greece and beyond. For a long time, they dominated the market for fine ceramics. Only few centres of pottery production could compete with Athens in terms of innovation, quality and production capacity. Of the red figure vases produced in Athens alone, more than 40,000 specimens and fragments survive today. From the second most important production centre, Southern Italy, more than 20,000 vases and fragments are preserved. Starting with the studies by
Red figure is, put simply, the reverse of the black figure technique. Both were achieved by using the
Detail in other colours, like white or red, were applied at this point. The relief line was probably drawn with a bristle brush or a hair, dipped in thick paint. The suggestion of a hollow needle seems somewhat unlikely. The application of relief outlines was necessary, as the rather liquid glossy clay would otherwise have turned out too dull. After the technique's initial phase of development, both alternatives were used, so as to differentiate gradations and details more clearly. The space between figures was filled with a glossy grey clay slip. Then, the vases underwent triple-phase firing, during which the glossy clay reached its characteristic black or black-brown colour through
The new technique had the primary advantage of permitting a far better execution of internal detail. In black-figure vase painting such details had to be scratched into the painted surfaces, which was always less accurate than the direct application of detail with a brush. Red-figure depictions were generally more lively and realistic than the black-figure
In black-figure vase painting, the pre-drawn outlines were a part of the figure. In red-figure vases, the outline would, after firing, form part of the black background. This led to vases with very thin figures early on. A further problem was that the black background did not permit the depiction of space in any depth, so that spatial perspective was almost never attempted. Nonetheless, the advantages outnumbered the disadvantages. The depiction of muscles and other anatomical details clearly illustrates the development of the style.