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ROMAN POTTERY

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Originally appearing in Volume V05, Page 726 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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ROMAN POTTERY.—Roman vases are far inferior to Greek; the shapes are less artistic, and the decoration, though sometimes not without merits of its own, owes most of its success to the imitation or adaptation of motives learnt from earlier Grecian, Egyptian or Syrian potters. They required only the skill of the potter for their completion, and, being made by processes largely mechanical, they are altogether on a lower scale of artistic production. It has been noted that during a certain period—namely, the 3rd and and centuries B.c.—ceramic art had reached the same stage of evolution all round the Mediterranean, painted pottery had been ousted by metal-work, and such vases as continued to be made were practically imitations of metal both in Greece and Italy. These latter we must regard as representing ordinary household pottery, or as supplying to those who could not afford to adorn their houses and temples with costly works in metal, a humble but fairly efficient substitute. There is a terra-cotta bowl of the 2nd century B.C. in the British Museum which is an exact replica of a chased silver bowl with reliefs in the same collection, and may serve as an illustration of this condition of things (Plate II. fig. 56). These imitations of metal were largely made in southern Italy, a district which enjoyed close artistic relations with Etruria, and we have already seen that the same principle had long been in vogue among the Etruscans. Hence it is not surprising that an important centre of pottery manufacture should have sprung up in Etruria, in the 2nd century B.C., which for many years set the fashion to the whole Roman world. But before discussing such products it may be as well to say something on the technical character, shapes and uses of Roman pottery in general. Technical Processes.—Roman pottery regarded in its purely technical aspect is in some ways better known to us than the Greek, chiefly owing to extensive discoveries of kilns and potters' apparatus in western Europe. It may be classified under two heads, of which only the second will concern us for the most part as yielding by far the greater amount of material and interest: (1) the plain, dul' earthenware used for domestic purposes, and (2) the fine, red shining wares, usually known to archaeologists as terra sigillata, clay suited to receive stamps (sigilla) or impressions. For both classes all kinds of clay were used, varying somewhat in different regions, and ranging in colour when fired from black to grey, drab, yellow, brown and red. The clays varied greatly in quality; most of the pottery made in southern Gaul was fashioned from the ferruginous red clay of the Allier district, but at St-Remy-en-Rollat and in that neighbourhood a white clay was used. In Italy we find a carefully levigated red clay in use, great care being devoted to its preparation and admixture. But apart from decoration and style there is a great similarity in the general appearance of the Italian and provincial pottery made under Roman influence, and it is often very difficult to decide whether the vases were manufactured where they had been found or were imported from some famous centre of manufacture. The secret of the glossy red surface seems to have been common property and found its way from Italy to Gaul, Spain and Germany, and perhaps even to Britain. The manner in which this glossy red surface was produced has been a much-disputed question, some, as for instance Artis, the excavator of the Castor potteries in Northamptonshire, claiming that it was a natural result obtained in the baking, after polishing of the surface, by means of specially contrived kilns. But it is now generally agreed that it was artificial. It is true that the Roman lamps and many of the commoner wares have a gloss produced by polishing only, varying in colour and brightness with the proportion of iron oxide in the clay and the degree of heat at which the pieces were fired. But the surface finish of the finer or terra sigillata wares is something quite distinct, and reaches a high and wonderfully uniform perfection. It is possible that the technical secret of the potters of the Roman world was only a development from the practice of the Greeks, but it does seem as if the finer Roman wares were coated with a brilliant glossy coating so thin as to defy analysis, yet so persistent as to leave no doubt of its existence as a definite glossy coat. Repeated at-tempts have been made to determine its nature by analysis, but chemists ought to have known better, for the coating is so thin that it is impossible to remove it without detaching much more body than glaze. Examination shows it to be much more than a surface polish or than the gloss of the finest Greek vases, and we shall have to wait for a final determination of its nature until some one who is at once a chemist and a potter can reconstruct it synthetically. What-ever its nature and method of production, it is certain that the glaze itself was a transparent film which heightened the natural red colour of the clay, until in the finest specimens it has something of the quality of red coral. In the manufacture of vases the Romans used the same processes as the Greeks. They were all made on the wheel, except those of abnormal size, such as the large casks (dolia), which were built up on a frame. Specimens of potters' wheels have been found at Arezzo and Nancy, made of terra-cotta, with a pierced centre for the pivot, and bearing small cylinders of lead round the circumference to give a purchase for the hand and to aid the momentum of the wheel. For the ornamental vases with reliefs an additional process was necessary, and the decoration was in nearly all cases produced from moulds. The process in this case was a threefold one: first the stamps had to be made bearing the designs; these were then pressed upon the inside of a clay mould which had been previously made on the wheel to the size and shape required; finally, the clay was impressed in the mould and the vase was thus produced, decoration and all. Handles being of rare occurrence in Roman pottery, the vases were thus practically complete, requiring only the addition of rim and foot. The stamps were made in various materials, and had a handle at the back (Plate IlI. hg. 64). The moulds were of lighter clay than the vases, and were lightly fired when completed, so as to absorb the moisture from the pressed-in clay. Large numbers of these moulds are in existence (Plate III. fig. 61), and the British Museum possesses a fine series from Arezzo. Those discovered in various parts of Gaul have afforded valuable evidence as to the sites of the various pottery centres, as their presence obviously denoted a place of manufacture, and the value of this evidence is increased when they bear potters' names. Remains of kilns for baking Roman pottery' are very numerous in western Europe, especially in Gaul, where the best examples are at Lezoux near Clermont, at Chatelet in Haute-Marne, and near Agen in Lot-et-Garonne. In Germany good remains have come to light at Heiligenberg in Baden, at Heddernheim near Frankfort, Rhcinzabern near Carlsruhe, and Westerndorf in Bavaria. In England the best kilns are those discovered by Artis in 1821–1827 at Castor in Northamptonshire (see fig. 4). Shapes.—As is the case with Greek vases, a long list of names of 'For a full description and lists of such kilns see Walters, Ancient Pottery, ii. 443-454. 724 shapes may be collected from Latin literature, and the same difficulties as to identification arise in the majority of cases. They may, however, be classified in the same manner; as vases for storing liquids, for mixing or pouring wine, for use at the table, and so on. In addition Varro and other writers have preserved a number of archaic and obscure names chiefly applied to the vases used in sacrifices. The principal vases for storing liquid or solid food were:—The dolium, a large cask or barrel of earthenware; the amphora, a jar holding about six gallons; and the cadus, a jar about half as large as the amphora. The dolium had no foot, and was usually buried in the earth ; it was also used for purposes of burial. The amphora corresponds to the Greek wine-jar of that name, and had, like its prototype, a pointed base. Many examples were found at Pompeii stamped with the names of consuls (cf. Hor. Od. iii. 21. I), or with painted inscriptions relating to their contents. The cadus is mentioned by Horace and Martial. Of smaller vases for holding liquids, such as jugs, bottles and flasks, the principal were the urceus, answering to the Greek oivoX*,t, the ampulla, a kind of flask with globular body, and the lagena, a narrow-necked flask or bottle. Of drinking-cups the Romans had almost as large a variety as the Greeks, and the great majority of the ornamented vases preserved to the present day were devoted to this purpose. The generic name for a cup was poculum, but the Romans borrowed many of the Greek names, such as cantharus and scyphus. The calix appears to have answered in popularity, though not in form, to the Greek kylix, and is probably the name by which the ornamented bowls were usually known. The names for a dish are lanx, patina and catinum. Another common form is the olla (Greek x117-pa), which served many purposes, being used for a cooking-pot, for a jar in which money was kept, or for a cinerary urn. The form of vase identified with this name has a spherical or elliptical body with short neck and wide mouth. Of sacrificial vases the principal was the Patera or libation-bowl, corresponding to the Greek 01.007. Arretine Ware.—The Latin writers, and in particular Pliny, mention numerous places in Italy, Asia Minor and elsewhere, which were famous for the production of pottery in Roman times. Pliny mentions with special commendation the " Samian Ware," the reputation of which, he says, was maintained by Arretium (Arezzo). Samian pottery is also alluded to by other writers, and hence the term was adopted in modern times as descriptive of the typical Roman red wares with reliefs, whether found in Italy, Germany, Gaul or Britain. But it was only accepted with diffidence as a convenient name, and as early as 184o discoveries at Arezzo made it possible to distinguish the vases found there as a local product, now known as " Arretine " ware. The name " Samian " has, however, adhered to the provincial wares and at the present day is often used even by archaeologists. But recent researches have shown that nearly all the provincial wares can be traced to Gaulish or German potteries, and, since it is implied by Pliny that " Samian " pottery is older than " Arretine," the name may now be fairly rejected altogether, as we have rejected the name " Etruscan " for Greek pottery. The Romans probably used it as a generic term, just as we speak of " china," and the real Saurian ware is to be seen in the later Greek pottery, with reliefs, of the 3rd century B.C. There were, as Pliny and other writers imply, many pottery centres in Italy, at Rhegium, Cumae, Mutina and elsewhere, as well as at Saguntum in Spain, but all were surpassed in excellence by Arretium. In more modern times its pottery came under notice even in the middle ages, and discoveries were made in the time of Leo X. (about r Soo) and again in the 18th century. The Arretine ware may be regarded as the Roman pottery par excellence, and its popularity extended from about 150 B.C. down to the end of the 1st century of the Empire, reaching its height in the 1st century B.C., after which it rapidly degenerated, and its place was taken by the wares of the provinces. Its general characteristics may be summed up as follows:—(r) The fine local red clay, carefully levigated and baked very hard to a rich coral red or a colour like sealing-wax; (2) the fine red glaze, which has already been discussed; (3) the great variety of forms employed, showing the marked influence of metal-work; (4) the almost invariable presence of stamps with potters' names. The majority of the specimens have been found at Arezzo itself, but there was a branch of the industry at Puteoli, producing pottery almost equal in merit, and it was also exported to central and eastern Europe and Spain.(ROMAN The earliest examples are of black glossy ware, but the red appears to have been introduced by roe B.c., when the first potters' stamps appear. These are usually quadrangular in form, though other shapes are found, and are impressed in the midst of the design on the ornamented vases, or on plain wares on the bottom of the interior. The number of potters' names is very large, though some appear to have been more prolific than others, and to have employed a large number of slaves, whose names appear with their masters' on the stamps. The best known is Marcus Perennius, whose wares take highest rank for their artistic merit, the designs being copied from good Greek models. He employed seventeen slaves, of whom the best known is Tigranes, the stamps usually appearing as M.PEREN and TI GRAN. The slave-name of Bargates is found on one of his finest vases, in the Boston Museum, the subject being the fall of Phaethon. We may suppose that the stamps for the figures were designed by the masters, but that the vases were actually moulded by the slaves. Other important artists are Calidius Strigo, who had twenty slaves; P. Cornelius, who had no less than forty; Aulus Titius, who signs himself A•TITI•FIGVL• ARRET; the Annii and the Tetii; and L. Rasinius Pisanus, a degenerate potter of the Flavian period, who imitated Gaulish wares. The forms of the vases are all, without exception, borrowed from metal shapes and are of marked simplicity (see fig. 37, Nos. 1, 8, q, 1r). They are mostly of small size and devoid of handles, but a notable exception is a bell-shaped krater or mixing-bowl, of which there is a very fine example in the British Museum, found at Capua and decorated with the four seasons (Plate III. fig. 62). For the decoration and subjects the potters undoubtedly drew their inspiration from the " new-Attic " reliefs of the Hellenistic period, of which the krater just cited is an example. So, too, are such subjects as the dancing maenads or priestesses with wicker head-dresses, or the Dionysiac scenes which are found, for instance, on the vases of Perennius. Others again are distinguished by a free use of conventional ornament, figures when they occur being merely decorative. There is throughout a remarkable variety both in the ornamentation and in the methods of composition. Provincial Wares.—The Arretine ware, as has been noted, steadily degenerated during the 1st century of the Empire, and the manufacture of ornamental pottery appears to have entirely died out in Italy by the time of Trajan. Its place was taken by the pottery of the provinces, especially by that of Gaul, where the transference of artistic traditions led to the rise of new industrial centres in the country bordering on the Rhone and the Rhine. As to the general characteristics of the provincial wares, that is, of the ornamented wares or terra sigillata, the clay is fine and close-grained, harder than the Arretine, and when broken shows a light red fracture; the surface is smooth and lustrous, of a brighter yet darker red colour (i.e. less like coral) than that of Arretine ware, but the tone varies with the degree of heat used. The most important feature is the fine glaze with which it is coated, similar in composition to that of the Arretine; it is exceedingly thin and transparent, and laid equally over the whole surface, only slightly brightening the color of the clay. The ornament is invariably coarser than that of Arretine ware, by which, however, it is indirectly inspired. The vases are usually of small dimensions, consisting of various types of bowls, cups and dishes, of which two or three forms are preferred almost to the exclusion of the rest, and they frequently bear the stamp of the potter impressed on the inside or outside. Although this ware is found all over the Roman world, by far the greater portion comes from Gaul, Germany or Britain, and evidence points to two—and only two—districts as the principal centres of manufacture: the valleys of the Loire and the Rhine and their immediate neighbourhood. In the 1st century A.D. Gaulish pottery was largely exported into Italy, and isolated finds of it occur in Spain and other parts. The recent researches of Dr Dragendorff and M. Dechelette have shown that a chronological sequence of the pottery may be clearly traced, both in the shapes employed and in the method of decoration; and, further, that it is possible—at least as regards Gaul—to associate certain potters' names and certain types of figures, though found in many places, with two centres in particular, Graufesenque near Rodez (department of Aveyron) in the district occupied by the Ruteni, and Lezoux near Clermont (department of Puy-de-Dome) in the country of the Arverni. The periods during which these potteries flourished are consecutive, or rather overlapping, but not contemporaneous, the former being practically coincident with the 1st century A.D., the latter with the znd moulded patterns in slight relief. and 3rd down to about A.D. 260, when the manufacture of terra sigillata practically came to an end in Gaul. There were also certain smaller potteries, some of which mark a transition between the Italian and provincial wares, in the north of Italy and on the Rhine and upper Loire, e.g. St Remy-en-Rollat, and others of later date, as at Banassac and Montans in the latter district, but none of these produced pottery of specialis usually spoken of as No. 29. This is characterized by its moulded rim engraved with finely incised hatchings, and by the division of the body by a moulding into two separate friezes for the designs (fig. 36). Its ornament is at first purely decorative, consisting of scrolls and wreaths, then small animals and birds are introduced, and finally figure subjects arranged in rectangular panels or circular medallions. About the middle of the century a second variety of bowl (known as No. 3o; see fig. 37) was introduced; this is cylindrical in form, and, being found both at Graufesenque and Lezoux, may be regarded as transitional in character. In the latter half of this century a new form arises (No. 37; fig. 37), a more or less hemispherical bowl which holds the field exclusively on all sites down to the termination of the potteries. In this form and in No. 30 a new system of decoration is introduced, the upper edge being left quite plain. The panels and medallions at first prevail, but are then succeeded by arcading or inverted semicircles enclosing figures, and finally after the end of the 1st century (and on form 37 only) we find the whole surface covered with a single composition of figures unconfined by borders or frames of any kind, but in a continuous frieze; this is known as the " free " style (Plate IV. fig. 69). As regards the figure subjects, it may be generally laid down that the conceptions are good, but the execution poor. Many are obvious imitations of well-known types or works of art, and the absence of Gaulish subjects is remarkable. They include representations of gods and heroes, warriors and gladiators, hunters os "^ ~~""i~il ulluur"I iu~i~umoa"` 65 36 54 31 18 1 29 11 merit or importance. The early Rhenish wares are, strictly speaking, of a semi-Celtic or Teutonic character, while the later German terra sigillata, for which the principal centres were Rheinzabern near Carlsruhe and Westerndorf in Bavaria, are of similar character but inferior to the znd-century pottery of Lezoux. A mould from Rheinzabern is illustrated, Plate IV. fig. 66. The ornamented vases produced in these potteries are, as we have said, almost confined to two or three varieties, which follow one another chronologically. A shape favoured at first is the krater, which has been mentioned as one of the characteristic Arretine forms; but this enjoyed but a short term of popularity. Early in the 1st century we find a typical form of bowl in use, which, following the numeration of Dr Dragendorff's treatise,1- 1, Arretine; 18-65, Gaulish and German. and animals, the two latter classes being pre-eminently popular. The potters' names at Graufesenque are nearly all of a common Roman type, such as Bassus, Primus, Vitalis; those at Lezoux are Gaulish in form, such as Advocisus, Butrio, Illixo or Laxtrucisa. This seems to imply that Roman influence was still strong in the earlier centre which drew its inspiration more directly from Arretium. But even the purely Roman names are sometimes converted into Gaulish forms, as Masclus for Masculus, or Tornos for Turnus. The stamps are quadrangular in form, depressed in the surface of the vase with the letters in relief,; on the plain wares they are usually in the centre of the interior, lift on the ornamented vases are impressed on the exterior among the figures. The usual formula is OF (for officina) or M (for manu) with the name in the genitive, or F, FE or FEC for fecit with the nominative. Besides the ordinary terra sigillata with figures produced in moulds we find other methods of decoration employed. In the south of France, about Arles and Orange, vases were made with medallions separately moulded and attached round the body; these have a great variety of subjects, both mythological and gladiatorial or theatrical, or even portraits of emperors. There is a remarkable specimen in the British Museum with a scene from the tragedy of the Cycnus, on which Heracles and Ares are represented, with seated deities in the background (Plate IV. fig. 67). The date of these reliefs is the 3rd century after Christ. Of the same date is a somewhat similar ware made at Lezoux. Here each figure is attached separately to the vase, and the background is filled in with foliage produced by the method known as en barbotine (slip-painting), of which we shall speak presently. The effect of these vases, which are mostly large jars or ollae (Plate IV. fig. 70), is often very decorative, and there is a fine specimen in the British Museum from Felixstowe, on which the modelling is really admirable. Other good examples have been found in various parts of Britain. 'The " slip-decoration " process is practically unknown in Italy, but it is found early in the 1st century of our era in Germany, and appears to have originated in the Rhine district. It is not confined to the red ware, but in the early German examples is applied on a dull grey or black back- ground. On the continent its use is almost limited to simple decorative patterns of scrolls or foliage, but in Britain it was largely adopted, as in the well-known Castor ware made on the site of that name (Durobrivae) in Northamptonshire. Many of the vases found or made here have gladiatorial combats, hunting-scenes, or chariots executed by this method (fig. 38). The decoration was applied in the form of a thick viscous slip, usually of the same colour as the clay, but reduced to this consistency with water, and was laid on by means of a narrow tube or run from the edge of a spatula. The Castor ware appears to date from the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. Painted wares are at all times rare, but were occasionally produced in Gaul, Germany and Britain. A notable class of such ware seems to have been produced in the Rhine district, represented by small jars covered with a glossy black coating, on which are painted in thick white slip inscriptions of a convivial character, such as BIBE, REPLE, DA VINUM, or VIVAS (Plate IV. fig. 68). A very effective ware, obviously imitating cut glass, by means of sharply incised patterns, was made at Lezoux in both the red and black varieties.
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