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I am writing a paper on 8th-3rd century Greece. I am trying the distinguish the differences between black and red figure pottery.

Black figure pottery very commonly illustrated the mingling of Greek gods with mortals, and also illustrated many of the events in Greek mythology. Here is an example of black-figure pottery illustrating the Greek hero Heracles with Cerberus.

Here is another example, of Heracles fighting Ares.

Red-figure pottery less often illustrated the mingling of the Greek gods, and more often featured sex, the nude male figure, and every-day life.

Here is an example of the nude male figure, and sex.

Here is a pot featuring Cassandra and Hector. Notice Hector entirely in the nude (not in an erotic manner) while Cassandra remains robed:

Here is one more example illustrating the Athenian athletics competition.

I believe that the shift from black to red figure pottery placed more emphasis on the importance of mortal men, and began focusing less so on the Greek mythological events and gods and turned more toward the everyday life of mortals.

Am I justified in believing this? Is there anywhere else where a more detailed comparison has been drawn?

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    This question would be be much stronger if it included supporting research. – Mark C. Wallace Sep 23 '18 at 0:48
  • If you're writing a paper on it then you should have access to the relevant books in your university library. This short essay gives the basic info on why the two exist. It makes more sense that mundane topics will become more common in art once the art medium becomes more accessible. So easier forms of painting will see more variety. Earlier harder forms will be restricted to less frivolous themes like religion. – Daniel Sep 23 '18 at 2:52
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    There are at least two important differences between Black figure pottery and Red figure pottery. One is that black came before red; the other is that red allowed more precise detail. Each of these might give a plausible explanation for what you are suggesting. – Henry Sep 23 '18 at 11:47
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It is a long time since I studied this and just now I do not have time to research it so must leave it to you to verify but I believe you are right that:

'the shift from black to red figure pottery placed more emphasis on the importance of mortal men, and began focusing less so on the Greek mythological events and gods and turned more toward the everyday life of mortals.'

My recollection (I cannot at this distance in time refer you to specific sources) is that this was thought to be linked to the fact that red figure painting on pottery allowed finer detail, making it easier to capture things like people's expressions to give life to everyday scenes.

The pottery clay when glazed and fired turned out red and about the only paint they had that could stand up to the heat of firing was black, containing carbon.

Hence initially the Greeks did the obvious thing and painted black figures on the red background. Around 530 - 520 BC someone in Athens decided to do the opposite and painted he background black while leaving the figures unpainted, so when the pot was glazed and fired they came out red. This turned out to allow finer detail.

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