Classical Studies 3400E Chapter Notes -Kylix, Fellatio, Polychrome
I. Literary All our authors are elite males, and therefore present only a certain (very
limited) viewpoint. Each literary genre has its own specific problems: satire may
exaggerate social ills or situations for its own purposes, for example. Love poets look
more favorably on sexual practices than the moralists. Most tend to proscribe the same
sorts of sexual activities (such as fellatio). The study of sexual content in ancient art may
counteract this prohibition to some degree, and it is one of the course objectives to
compare and contrast literary and artistic evidence.
A. Vase Painting There are two kinds of vases or pots, for our purposes: Athenian Black
Figure and Athenian Red Figure (ABF, ARF, or Black Figure/ Red Figure). Technology:
Athenian clay turned a warm deep reddish-orange when fired. Pots were made in several
pieces (body, spout, foot, handles). The pieces were allowed to partially dry, then put
together with slip (clay in liquid form). Decoration was achieved by special clay slips.
The most important colors were black, white, and purplish-red. These color producing-
slips were applied with different kinds of brushes and then fired (an all-important step) in
the kiln. The body of the pot turned red, and "painted" parts black/white/purple in the
course of firing, depending on the temperature of the kiln and the amount of oxygen
inside. Early vase-painting was black-figured (figures are silhouette); women are white-
limbed. Red-figured painting is just the reverse of black-figure. The background is black
and the figures are the color of the clay, contoured or detailed by lines. Red-figure pottery
has more emphasis on clothing and flowing drapery, and it is the type in which we see
more depictions of sexual activity. Functions of vases: amphorae for storing, kraters for
mixing, kylikes for drinking, etc. Sexual scenes often occur on certain types of pots. See
B. Sculpture: marble We will also be looking at sculpture for evidence of body ideals,
beauty, and sexual practices. Technology: Lifesize statues in Greece were always a
luxury; transport was expensive; the statue might take a year to make.
Marmaros is derived from the verb marmarein, "to shine or sparkle;" marble bodies
appear rocklike, hard, brilliant. Marble is translucent and soaks up the light. Some marble
statues were painted (wholly or in part); this also allowed unpainted sections to shine out
more brilliantly. Colors on statues have disappeared, being merely vegetable matter;
sometimes gold paint was applied, jewelry.
But in fact much of our "Greek" sculpture is actually Roman (“indifferent Roman
copies”). Why? Because of the Roman attraction to Greek art. Collecting art at Rome was
stimulated by vast quantities of loot taken from Greece in the second and third centuries
BC, from the capture of Greek cities. Art was used to adorn triumphs and the houses of
generals, indicating one's power and wealth. Possessing a collection was a badge of
sophistication, and the drive to acquire gradually spread beyond the generals to the elite
of Rome, or those who wished to be considered so. When the supply of Greek
masterpieces dried up, sculptors and artists were brought over from Greece at great
expense and original works commissioned from them, or they were paid to copy the old
Marble requires struts, braces, and accessories brought in close to the body. And
the Greeks made marble statues too, themselves, and copied them. Also, it is possible that
the Romans did not always quote a specific prototype, or that they copied and collected
selectively. It is therefore difficult to tell whether the marble statue in question represents
a Greek original, a Roman copy, a Greek copy, or a Roman adaptation. There are
technical problems as well. Were plaster casts taken from the original? Or free-sculpted
from the original, another replica, or copybooks? This would influence accuracy.
C. Sculpture: bronze: this presents few problems.
Technology: Hollow casting saved on the metal used. A life-size statue could be
made in pieces which were later joined with solder. Projecting features (heads, noses,
penises) were sometimes cast separately and soldered on. A bronze statue was finished
with tooling, polish, polychromy. Color: difficult to determine. Some bronzes were
lacquered to prevent corrosion. Were bronze statues gilded? (some vessels have a gold
patina). Much of the Greek art we possess has been deprived of its finishing touches.