Vase painting and the history of art

Experts tend to speak of 'Greek Vases' and 'Greek vase-painting', rather than pottery or ceramics. This terminology has been in use for a long time and reflects the material's long, and indisputably close, relation with the history of art. The scholarship of Greek Vases developed from the early 18th century, when large numbers of examples began to be discovered in Italy.

Berlin Painter's name vase
  • Berlin Painter's name vase

Broad classifications for Greek pottery are the same as for any other: place, time, shape, technique and decoration. Most has been found in graves. Domestic contexts are uncommon because sites were reused; it takes a volcano such as Vesuvius to preserve life as it was lived. Sanctuary contexts are known, but they too are not numerous. Knowing where the pottery was found does not necessarily confirm the function. For example, some found in graves was made for funerals, but some was initially made for another purpose, used, sometimes even mended, and buried with the dead, presumably as a cherished possession.