Octopus Jar, Palaikastro (Crete), Greece, 1500 BCE

The Minoans are also quite well-known for their works in pottery. One of my favorite Minoan pottery works is the octopus jar.

Because Minoans live on the island of Crete, artists are often inspired by the sea and a lot of their works are done in what is known as the Late Minoan Marine style. The octopus jar one such example. The tentacles of the octopus on the jar reach out over the curved surface, surrounding the vessel and stressing its volume. According to Gardner’s Art Through The Ages, this is a perfect example of the masterful realization of the relationship between the vessel’s decoration and its shape, something that has always been difficult for a vase painter. On this jar, the painter employed the dark-on-light technique of painting (in which a dark figure is painted on a light surface. This was a switch because typical paintings like this were light-on-dark. However, this dark-on-light format was common in Greece for around a thousand years, until 530 BCE when artists reversed by to the light-on-dark form of painting in vase painting (which is very different form of painting than the jar painting of the octopus).

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