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Tradition and Originality: A Study of Exekias

E. Anne Mackay


Exekias inscribes his signature on several of his vases, and so he is one of the relatively few archaic painters whose real name is known to us. He is arguably one of the most accomplished and innovative of all black-figure vase-painters working in Athens in the sixth century BC, and also one of the most intriguing. Although his corpus of extant works is rather small, his impact on his contemporaries and immediate successors can be judged to have been disproportionately large. His painting style is not idiosyncratic, and so may be described as distinguished rather than distinctive; it is nevertheless readily identifiable as much for its technical quality as for the creative conceptualization of the scenes. His range of subjects, the exquisite precision of his execution, and above all his technical and conceptual innovation are the hallmarks of his personal style, and there is scarcely a book on Greek vase-painting that does not use one of his vases to illustrate the peak of achievement in the black-figure technique, yet there is a dearth of monograph studies of his work. This extensive work pays homage to this great artist, including the construction of a persuasive chronology of Exekias’ extant paintings through a comprehensive process of comparative analysis.