Inspired by the François Vase is a Grade 7 Activity my students enjoy doing!
François Vase is exhibited at the National Museum of Archaeology in Florence. It is “a large black-figure krater, a large vase in Ancient Greece believed to be used for watering down wine, from c. 570 BC. The design is fascinating and, if one looks carefully, you will find both the signature of the potter, Ergotimos and the painter, Kleitias. This krater is named the “François Vase” after the archaeologist who found it in 1844. ” https://www.visitflorence.com/florence-museums/maf-archeological-museum.html
The François Vase Activity
Instructions on what to do: During class, students are introduced to ancient Greek pottery, and more specifically the importance and characteristics of the François Vase. This Activity is based on the classroom lectures, student research on the subject, and ultimately student creativity and imagination. So, ……
My Grade 6 Host Country Studies Class is on the History, Art and Culture of the city we live in, Thessaloniki, and our first RWAP (Research-Writing-Art-Project) is on the Prehistoric Pottery of Thessaloniki.
Archaeologists and Art Historians love Pottery! Even the smallest broken pieces, or sherds as they are called, indestructible as they have been for thousands of years, carry valuable information. They tell us how people lived, cooked, or stored their food, they show us ways of decoration and artistic expression. Pottery helps specialists date a site or relate an archaeological site to specific communities and groups of people. In other words, Pottery, humble as it might be, is of great value!
Prehistoric Pottery of Thessaloniki is a Topic and a Project that can be adapted for any Pottery period you explore in your class!
The Project should cover at least 2 pages in the student RWAP Sketchbook. RWAP stands for RESEARCH-WRITING-ART-PROJECT. I usually ask my students to buy an A4 Sketchbook and all RWAP Projects are done there. An alternative option is to use an A3 sized poster paper.
Each RWAP should include 4 parts: a. Title, b. Coloured or B/W copies of at least 2 artworks related to the topic of the Project, correctly identified, c. Writing, d. Art
For the Prehistoric Pottery of Thessaloniki Project, students are asked to:
a. Title: Think and then apply a representative Title for their Project
b. Research: Find photos of at least 2 Greek Prehistoric Potteries, photocopy them, and use them in their RWAP Sketchbook, correctly identified.
c. Writing: Answer the following questions: 1. Which is more important, the shape of the vase or the decoration? Why do you think so? 2. How were the details of the vases created: with paint or by some other means? Look closely and try to identify patterns in the decoration.
d. Art: Become a prehistoric pottery maker! There is so much to get you inspired!!! BE CREATIVE!
Step 1. Careful Observation – Students are asked to focus on the work of art projected on the screen. They are asked to look carefully and describe everything they see. The process should start with broad, open-ended questions like
What do you notice when you first look at the Minoan Pot? What else do you notice?
Questions should become more and more specific, such as:
Describe the pot’s shape. Where are its handles? Where is the wider part of the pot? Where is the narrower part? Is it symmetrical or asymmetrical? How is the pot decorated? What colours do you see? What patterns?
Step 2. Analysis – Students are asked to answer simple analytic questions that will deepen their understanding of the Ancient Greek Geometric Style Pot on view.
What might the figures on the top register of the pot be doing? How are the figures represented? Who might the figure on the top register and the centre of the vase be? Is it male or female? How is this figure different from the figures on the other side? What does the information the artist provided suggest about the identity of this figure? What might this pot have been used for? What clues can you get from its decoration? After each response, students are advised to always ask, “How do I know?” or “How can I tell?” so that they will look to the work of art for visual evidence to support their answers.
Step 3. Research – The teacher is asked to provide information on all discussed Ancient Greek Pots. Students should be given time to read and further research each pot. At the end of the research period, the teacher should be available to answer questions and further enhance student query.
The Ancient Greek Geometric Period (1100-800 BC) is characterized by monumental grave markers in the form of large vases decorated with geometricized patterns and motifs, funerary representations and burial rituals. These Geometric period vases are among the finest examples of ancient Greek pottery. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/14.130.14/
The François Vase is a unique example of ancient Greek pottery. An Attic Volute Krater, decorated in the black-figure style, dated about 570/560 BC, the François Vase was signed by its makers, “Ergotimos mepoiesen” and “Kleitias megraphsen”, meaning “Ergotimos made me” and “Kleitias painted me”. The vase presents over 200 mythological figures, many identified by inscriptions, representing a number of mythological stories. https://www.florenceinferno.com/the-francois-vase/
Made in Athens around 515 BC, the Euphronios Krater is a unique work of art. Signed by both the potter and the painter, the Krater is decorated with a Trojan War scene: the death of Sarpedon, son of Zeus. https://smarthistory.org/euphronios-krater/
Step 4. Interpretation – How to put together the Research, Analysis, and Observation students have done so far and reach a better understanding of the art object in focus. The truth is that there are no outright or wrong answers. The work students have done so far helps them better understand, and thus interpret the meaning of a work of art.
Some basic interpretation questions for this object might be: What does the size and elaborate decoration with 200 figures, many with identifying inscriptions, representing a number of mythological themes, tell us about the ways in which the ancient Greeks valued mythology? The Vase bears the inscriptions “Ergotimos mepoiesen” and “Kleitias megraphsen”, meaning “Ergotimos made me” and “Kleitias painted me”. What do the inscriptions tell us about the role of artists/craftsmen during antiquity?
Step 5. Critical Assessment and Response – It’s time to JUDGE how successful the work of art in focus is! This is an important part of the Learning Process and students are asked to answer the provided questions supporting their opinions based on their work is done so far. “Critical assessment involves questions of value.” For example:
Do you think this amphora is successful and well done? Why or why not? Do you like this work of art? How does it relate to your life and your culture?
For a PowerPoint on Learning from Ancient Greek Pottery… Click HERE!
For a student-friendly Activity Worksheet on Learning from Ancient Greek Pottery... Click HERE!