Artful Crafts: Ancient Greek Silverware and Pottery

Artful Crafts: Ancient Greek Silverware and Pottery

Artful Crafts: Ancient Greek Silverware and Pottery

Artful Crafts: Ancient Greek Silverware and Pottery

Synopsis

Exciting and provocative in its argument, this book challenges the widely held view that Greek pottery vases were objects of great value in antiquity, commissioned by rich patrons from the greatest artists of the day. Instead, they are shown to have been simply low cost versions of tableware originally made in silver and gold. This book demonstrates how Greek pottery first came to be regarded as a high value commodity in the eighteenth century thanks to clever, if not fraudulent, sales techniques; it examines the primary sources, both literary and epigraphic, to find what materials the ancients did consider to be important; and it explores the ways in which work in gold and silver influenced painted pottery.

Excerpt

'Nor is ignorance the reason why we do not allow our potters to repose on couches, and feast by the fireside, passing round the glittering bowl, while their wheel is conveniently at hand, and working at pottery as much as they like and no more . . . for if we listen to you . . . the potter will cease to be a potter' (Plato, Republic 420f-421a). We wish that we had been aware at an earlier stage of this statement by an Athenian who, for all his faults, was in a position to know how social and artisanal life was conducted in classical Greece. Similarly, Aristotle's observation that 'some objects change their colour and assume a variety of hues when polished by rubbing or other means, like silver, gold, copper and iron, when they are polished' (de Coloribus 793) should have been known sooner. Between them, these quotations vindicate the case we have made in Artful Crafts for the low status of workers in clay in classical Athens, and for the tolerance of oxidized silver in Greek antiquity. We are grateful to kind friends for having drawn them to our attention, and to generous reviewers for having pointed out minor errors which have been corrected in this reprint.

January 1996 M.V.

D.G.

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