Sample Art Paper on Athenian Red-Figure Calyx Krater


Black and red figured methods of decorations were used in Athens, Greece to compose fine pottery and household objects that were used to fulfill daily life activities. For instance, they were used to store and transport foodstuff such as wine. Further, they were used during rituals, pouring libations, drinking wine and carrying bridal water bath. The vessels were transformed to a wheel like structure. Artists reveal that most vases were composed in sections consisting the neck, body and foot, which sometimes was fixed later (Renee n.p).  After which, handles were fixed before the addition of figural and ornamental motifs to turn the objects black during firing process. Vase painters were articulate people who would enhance the appearance of vases through the addition of pigment and clay. Contrarily, notable artists ensured that decorated motifs on red-figure vases remained the color of clay. Then, figures would be articulated and drawn on the surfaces of the vases using a brush. The use of red technique was discovered around 530 B.C. The technique went ahead to replace black figure technique that was widely practiced by many artists. Experts have elaborated that use of brush in the red-figure technique was well suited to the naturalistic depiction of emotions, anatomy and garments (Department of Greek and Roman Art n.p).  Among the notable artworks include Athenian red-figure calyx krater composed by Niobid painter during the period c.450B.C.E. It depicts Apollo and Artemis slaying Niobe’s children. This artwork forms the basis of this paper.

Analysis of Athenian Red-Figure Calyx Krater

The art was composed by the Niobid painter between 460 and 450 BC in Athens. The object measures 54 cm long and 56 cm wide, and is molded clay decorated using red-figure technique with white highlights. The artist was inspired by large vases painted using the mentioned technique. It prompted the artist to compose an exceptional krater that captures two scenes. Considerably, the artist employs the use of lines as a design element to depict major events; most of the figures rise within the compositions courtesy of lines that also evoke an undulating setting. The artist used both black and red-orange color to distinct the main objects from the background. Niobe painter succeeds in differentiating the objects by painting the main figure red on a black background. For that he is able to draw the attention of the audience to the object. The audience immediately dives into the Apollo and Artemis.

Exceptionally, the artist manages to depict the main antagonists in the scene by using a collection of numerous forms and shapes to depict bows and arrows that are used to slay children. Predominantly, on the main side of the object, Apollo and Artemis are depicted decimating Niobe’s children using arrows, while on the other side Heracles is seen surrounded by Athena and others armed heroes; this is a sign of protection. Visual experts have elaborated that the painting borrows stylistic characteristics from contemporary sculpture and wall paintings (Sophie n.p). Key figures in the composition are reminiscence of severe style of statues. This has given the vase an exceptional design character appealing to many art lovers.

Hubris is arrogance. The subject matter and theme of the artwork is the intolerance to arrogance in society. In Greek culture, show of arrogance was detrimental as it attracted punishment that was characterized by grave consequences. The theme still appeals to modern society, where show of arrogance is punishable. Put into perspective, Niobid painter manages to depict the consequences for a mortal being that placed her status above gods and goddesses. Supernatural gods and goddesses were respected in the Greek culture and no one dared to question them, leave alone imitate. Accordingly, Niobe a mortal human had boasted that she was superior to Leto, the goddess because the former had given birth to dozen children. Leto had only two children, Apollo and Artemis. Consequently, Leto decided to punish Niobe for her hubris or arrogance by sending her divine children to maim and kill Niobe’s children using bows and arrows.

Niobid painter has effectively depicted the massacre by capturing the disposing bodies into different levels. In addition, the maimed figures are predominantly reacting well with the setting. The artist has employed the use of ground breaking compositional style of Polygnotos by depicting the entire scene within the countryside. Notably, the pre-Polygnotos would have portrayed the entire event in a single ground devoid of landscape. Slaughter of Niobe’s children is depicted as taking place in different levels. Further, Niobid painter has artistically portrayed tress and rocks within the composition to represent a modest environment.


Black and red figured techniques of decorating vases and vessels were a common practice among artists in Greece. Vases were molded using clay and appearance enhanced through paintings and decorations. After which, artists would be able to depict scenes touching on emotions and garments as a way of communicating to the audience. Athenian red-figure calyx krater depicts how arrogance was dealt with in Greek culture. It portrays children of Leto, a goddess, slaying the children of Niobe because the latter showed arrogance by boasting in regards to the many children she had.



Works Cited

Department of Greek and Roman Art. “Athenian Vase Painting: Black- and Red-Figure

Techniques.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000. Available at: Retrieved March 29, 2018.

Renee M. Gondek. Greek Vase-Painting: an introduction. Khan Academy, n.d. Available at: Retrieved March 29, 2018.

Sophie Padel-Imbaud. “Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities Classical Greek Art (5th-4th

centuries BC)”. Louvre, n.d.  Available at: Retrieved March 29, 2018.