Painters, Potters, and the Scale of the Attic Vase-Painting Industry


This article investigates the population of the Attic vase-painting industry during the sixth and fifth centuries B.C.E. It reveals a pattern for more than 40 of the most prolific vase painters. Each painter has approximately the same “attribution rate,” the average number of known vases per year of activity. However, several less productive painters have markedly lower attribution rates. An ethnographically based model predicts two primary modes of activity: specialized painters who were hired by master potters, and painters who also regularly threw their own vases. The evidence for potting is assessed for more than 60 painters to determine which of the modes they resemble. Almost every painter with evidence for specialization also has a high attribution rate, whereas low productivity is typical of the painters who spent part of their time potting. In conclusion, the attribution rate is used to argue for some combinations of hands and to examine the production and population of the Attic vase-painting industry as a whole. Fewer than 75 painters and potters were active by the Early Classical acme of the vase-painting industry.

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Painters, Potters, and the Scale of the Attic Vase-Painting Industry

By Philip Sapirstein

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 117, No. 4 (October 2013), pp. 493–510

DOI: 10.3764/aja.117.4.0493

© 2013 Archaeological Institute of America