The Orientalizing Period (700-600 BCE)


Orientalizing Art and the Formation of the Archaic (700-600 BCE)

The 7th century developed trends that had emerged in the 8th century. The first contacts with the East took place in the 8th century and were developed in the 7th century. Colonization continued and Eastern goods flooded the Greek world, causing something of a revolution in the arts. Geometric art, conservative and in-grown, was swept aside by new styles and new motifs from nature. New subjects and new methods were rapidly absorbed.


The change is first seen in the scenes on painted pottery; but not, as might expected, in Athens, but in the Dorian city of Corinth. In Corinthian pottery, we see new subjects - mostly animals (lions, sphinxes, griffins) - and also a new repertory of patterns: rosettes, plants, tendrils, and various curvilinear designs, inspired by Oriental prototypes, which replace the rectilinear abstract designs of the Geometric period.

The technique of painting also changed at the end of the 8th century. Two different techniques developed:

  1. Outline technique: The face and figure drawn in outline with inner details indicated with black lines. The spaces within outlines are sometimes reserved (i.e. left the natural colour of the surface), although female flesh was usually shown white and male flesh white or brown. Inner markings on figures are sometimes shown in white or red rather than black. The Outline technique, however, was soon discarded.

  2. Black Figure technique: This technique retained the silhouette of the figure but produced inner markings by making deep incisions that penetrated to the light-coloured clay beneath. Colour is sometimes added to the figures - red, white, purple.


    • Orientalizing (Protoattic)
    • Corinth (Corinthian)
    • outline technique
    • black figure technique
    • Medusa (Gorgons)
    • Polyphemos
    • Odysseus
    • loutrophoros

© Christopher L. C. E. Witcombe