Manchester Art Gallery

Etruscan Vase Painters (Alternative Title: Pottery Painting; Greek Potters)

Object description

The setting is a vase painters' workshop in ancient Apulia, in which the principal figure leans back to contemplate the red-figured lekythos that she is decorating from a design traced on parchment. Behind her, a man works on a large lebes gamikos (marriage vase). A glaux (red-figured drinking cup) and an aryballos (oil bottle) sit on the windowsill. Alma-Tadema specialised in historical genre scenes, turning almost exclusively to depicting the ancient world, following a visit to Florence, Rome, Naples and Pompeii in 1863. He drew heavily on his archive of drawings, photographs and watercolours of classical archaeology and architecture to fill his paintings with period details, although these were often an eclectic assortment. The fine building with Doric columns in the background suggests a Greek temple. A thriving centre for vase painting was established by Mycenaen Greeks, who colonised this area of southern Italy from the late 8th century BC.