Kerch style

Last updated

The Kerch style /ˈkɜːr/ , also referred to as Kerch vases, is an archaeological term describing vases from the final phase of Attic red-figure pottery production. Their exact chronology remains problematic, but they are generally assumed to have been produced roughly between 375 and 330/20 BC. The style is characterized by slender mannered figures and a polychromatism given to it by the use of white paint and gilding.

Apollonia Painter - Late Classical Red-Figure "Kerch"-Style lekythos, c. 350 BC, height: 35.5 cm (14 in), diameter: 16.7 cm (6.6 in) Apollonia Painter - Red-Figure "Kerch"-Style Lekythos - Walters 4884 - Right (cropped).jpg
Apollonia Painter - Late Classical Red-Figure "Kerch"-Style lekythos , c. 350 BC, height: 35.5 cm (14 in), diameter: 16.7 cm (6.6 in)

The vases are thus named because a large quantity of them were found at Kerch (ancient Pantikapaion) on the Black Sea coast of Crimea. The majority of these are now in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. It is not possible to set formal criteria which separate them stylistically from the contemporary plain style of late classical vase painting around painters like the Jena Painter or the Meleager Painter. The end of the Kerch style coincides with the end of red-figure painting as a whole. The identification of individual painters is often difficult.

At the time of their production, Kerch style vases were exported to all of the Mediterranean region, but unlike earlier phases, the Black Sea area was the main market for this late phase of Attic pottery export. Most of the previously current vase shapes were still painted, but kraters , lekanes (see Typology of Greek Vase Shapes) and pelikes were especially popular. The motifs are mostly scenes from the life of women (often exaggeratedly idyllic), dionysiac themes and subjects to do with Artemis and Demeter. Fighting griffins are another common subject. The figures are often elegant and highly decorated, and in some cases painters have emphasized certain stylistic qualities at the expense of naturalism. Details and ornamentation played an important role, the best works resemble examples from the fifth century BC. White, yellow and red were often used as additional colours. The casual painting of the backs of vases is another typical feature.

Maenads Eros Louvre M70.jpg
Dionysos (here unseen), maenads and Eros, hydria by the Louvre CA 928 Group, ca. 375 BC, Louvre.
Arimaspos griffin woman Louvre M74.jpg
Hydria by an unknown painter, a woman and Arimaspos riding a gryphon, circa 370/50 BC. Paris, Louvre.

The Marsyas Painter, the Eleusinian Painter and the Painter of Athens 12592 mark a short and final flourish in the quality of Attic vase painting. Shortly afterwards, the activities of the YZ Group painters produced a multitude of vases of inferior quality in a number of workshops. Their end is also that of the Attic red-figure tradition. Recent research has thrown new light on this long-neglected field. The vases were first studied systematically by Karl Schefold. The most important scholar of Attic vase painting, John D. Beazley, only developed an interest in them late in his career; he did not agree with all of Schefold's views. In recent years, the analysis of fourth-century BC Panathenaic amphorae from Eretria has provided new results. Additionally, it has been demonstrated that Kerch style vases were also produced outside Attica, for example in Chalkidiki. Generally, the South Italian red-figure vase production of the time was superior to the Attic Kerch Style. The South Italian production also continued somewhat longer.

Representatives of the style include:


Related Research Articles

Pottery of ancient Greece Pottery from Ancient Greece

Ancient Greek pottery, due to its relative durability, comprises a large part of the archaeological record of ancient Greece, and since there is so much of it, it has exerted a disproportionately large influence on our understanding of Greek society. The shards of pots discarded or buried in the 1st millennium BC are still the best guide available to understand the customary life and mind of the ancient Greeks. There were several vessels produced locally for everyday and kitchen use, yet finer pottery from regions such as Attica was imported by other civilizations throughout the Mediterranean, such as the Etruscans in Italy. There were a multitude of specific regional varieties, such as the South Italian ancient Greek pottery.

Black-figure pottery Style of painting on ancient Greek vases

Black-figure pottery painting, also known as the black-figure style or black-figure ceramic, is one of the styles of painting on antique Greek vases. It was especially common between the 7th and 5th centuries BC, although there are specimens dating as late as the 2nd century BC. Stylistically it can be distinguished from the preceding orientalizing period and the subsequent red-figure pottery style.

Exekias Ancient Athenian vase painter

Exekias was an ancient Greek vase painter and potter who was active in Athens between roughly 545 BC and 530 BC. Exekias worked mainly in the black-figure technique, which involved the painting of scenes using a clay slip that fired to black, with details created through incision. Exekias is regarded by art historians as an artistic visionary whose masterful use of incision and psychologically sensitive compositions mark him as one of the greatest of all Attic vase painters. The Andokides painter and the Lysippides Painter are thought to have been students of Exekias.

Red-figure pottery Ancient Greek painted pottery style

Red-figure vase painting is one of the most important styles of figural Greek vase painting.

Kleophrades Painter Athenian vase painter

The Kleophrades Painter is the name given to the anonymous red-figure Athenian vase painter, who was active from approximately 510–470 BC and whose work, considered amongst the finest of the red-figure style, is identified by its stylistic traits.


Euphronios was an ancient Greek vase painter and potter, active in Athens in the late 6th and early 5th centuries BC. As part of the so-called "Pioneer Group,", Euphronios was one of the most important artists of the red-figure technique. His works place him at the transition from Late Archaic to Early Classical art, and he is one of the first known artists in history to have signed his work.


Nikosthenes was a potter of Greek black- and red-figure pottery in the time window 550–510 BC. He signed as the potter on over 120 black-figure vases, but only nine red-figure. Most of his vases were painted by someone else, called Painter N. Beazley considers the painting "slovenly and dissolute;" that is, not of high quality. In addition, he is thought to have worked with the painters Anakles, Oltos, Lydos and Epiktetos. Six's technique is believed to have been invented in Nikosthenes' workshop, possibly by Nikosthenes himself, around 530 BC. He is considered transitional between black-figure and red-figure pottery.


Lydos was an Attic vase painter in the black-figure style. Active between about 560 and 540 BC, he was the main representative of the '’’Lydos Group’’’. His signature, ό Λυδός, ho Lydos ", inscribed on two vases, is informative regarding the cultural background of the artist. Either he immigrated to Athens from the Lydian empire of King Kroisos, or he was born in Athens as the son of Lydian parents. In any case, he learned his trade in Athens.

Brygos Painter

The Brygos Painter was an ancient Greek Attic red-figure vase painter of the Late Archaic period. Together with Onesimos, Douris and Makron, he is among the most important cup painters of his time. He was active in the first third of the 5th century BCE, especially in the 480s and 470s BCE. He was a prolific artist to whom over two hundred vases have been attributed, but he is perhaps best known for the Brygos Cup, a red-figure kylix in the Louvre which depicts the "iliupersis" or sack of Troy.

Providence Painter

The Providence Painter is the conventional name given to a painter of the Attic red-figure style. He was active around 470 BC.

The Jena Painter was an ancient Greek vase painter, active in Athens around 400 BC. He mainly painted kylikes in the red-figure technique. His stylistic and chronological place was first determined by the British Classical archaeologist, John D. Beazley. Beazley chose the conventional name "Jena Painter" because a large proportion of the artist's surviving works were in the possession of Jena University. The majority of his 91 known vessels were discovered in the Kerameikos, the potters' quarter of ancient Athens, in 1892. Many of his vessels were exported, for example to Etruria and North Africa. The Jena Painter appears to have had two assistants whose work is described as style B and style C. The Jena Painter would paint the internal images of bowls, and the style B assistant their outsides. The work of the style C assistant is known only from, bowl skyphoi and footless bowls. In contrast to his assistants' rather casual drawings, the Jena Painter is distinguished by his fine and careful drawing style and the vividness of his compositions. The Q Painter and the Diomedes Painter worked in the same workshop as the Jena Painter.

The Marsyas Painter was an ancient Greek vase painter of the red-figure style active in Attica between 370 and 340/330 BC. The Marsyas Painter is sometimes considered the best of the Attic red-figure painters of the late 4th-century Kerch Style.

The YZ Group is an assumed group of ancient Greek Attic vase painters of the red-figure style.

Painter of Berlin A 34

The Painter of Berlin A 34 was a vase painter during the pioneering period of Attic black-figure pottery. His real name is unknown, his conventional name derived from his name vase in the Antikensammlung Berlin. He is the first individual vase painter of the style in Athens recognised by scholarship. His works are dated to circa 630 BC. Two of his vases were discovered in Aegina. Since the 19th century, those pieces were on display in Berlin, but they disappeared or were destroyed during the Second World War.

Rycroft Painter

The Rycroft Painter was an Attic late black-figure vase painter, active in the final decade of the sixth century BC. His real name is not known.

Perizoma Group

The term Perizoma Group describes a group of Attic black-figure vase painters and a type of vase. They were active approximately 520–510 BC.

The Beldam Painter was an Attic black-figure vase painter, active from around 470 to before 450 BC.

Boeotian vase painting

Boeotian vase painting was a regional style of ancient Greek vase painting. Since the Geometric period, and up to the 4th century BC, the region of Boeotia produced vases with ornamental and figural painted decoration, usually of lesser quality than the vase paintings from other areas.

Etruscan vase painting

Etruscan vase painting was produced from the 7th through the 4th centuries BC, and is a major element in Etruscan art. It was strongly influenced by Greek vase painting, and followed the main trends in style over the period. Besides being producers in their own right, the Etruscans were the main export market for Greek pottery outside Greece, and some Greek painters probably moved to Etruria, where richly decorated vases were a standard element of grave inventories.

Lucanian vase painting

Lucanian vase painting was substyle of South Italian red-figure vase painting, produced in Lucania between 450 and 325 BC. It was the oldest South Italian regional style. Together with Sicilian and Paestan vase painting, it formed a close stylistic community.