Monday, July 19, 2021

Red-figured fish plates of the 5th century BCE

Throughout my travels to various museums around the world I have often encountered red-figured fish plates. First developed in Athens, these beautifully detailed serving pieces became especially popular in South Italy and Sicily in the 400s BCE. I stumbled across this excellent video about them and learned that fish plates produced in Magna Graecia were usually more colorful with white accents and the fish are portrayed with their bellies facing inwards towards the small central depression that is thought to have contained dipping sauce like garum. Fish on plates produced in Athens are painted with their bellies facing outwards. I thought this is quite a peculiar style difference. 

There also seems to be disagreement among scholars as to whether these plates were actually used in everyday life or produced for funerary purposes only, as almost all of the 1,000 examples that have been recovered came from ancient burials. Art historian Lucas Livingston points out that many of the recovered examples have a crack in the bottom of the dipping well produced during firing. This would indicate many of the plates were never actually used in the way they are designed.

You can see dozens of examples here:

As producer of the Ancient Art Podcast, Livingston, who has worked at the Art Institute of Chicago since 2002, has a number of other ancient video lessons available on YouTube including a discussion of Hadrian and Antinous, Medusa, the Roman Lycurgus Cup, Cleopatra's ethnic origins, and ancient astronomy.



If you enjoyed this post, never miss out on future posts by following me by email!

No comments: