Ancient Roman Pottery - Fine Wares - Other Fine Wares

Other Fine Wares

Some of the shapes of Arretine plain wares were quite closely copied in the later 1st century BC and early 1st century AD in a class of pottery made in north-east Gaul and known as Gallo-Belgic ware. Many of these plates and dishes in red-slipped (terra rubra) and black-slipped (terra nigra) fabrics bear potters' stamps. Other fine, thin-walled flagons, drinking beakers, bowls and dishes were made locally in most regions of the Roman Empire, including frontier provinces such as Britain: for example, Romano-British 'colour-coated' (slipped) wares made at Colchester and in the Nene Valley belong to that classification. Several of the pots to the right of the group photograph in the lead section of this article are Nene Valley wares, including the large black beaker decorated with a lively hunting scene of hounds and hares in the barbotine technique. Many decorative techniques were used to beautify pottery tableware, including the use of coloured slips, painting, and various textured surfaces. Painted decoration did not, however, continue the Greek and Etruscan traditions as a specialised technique used for elaborate luxury tablewares, though simpler painted designs do appear on many pottery types, both coarse and fine, throughout the Empire. The dividing lines between 'fine' and 'coarse' wares, or tablewares and cooking wares, become a little blurred in the case of some of the local, provincial products, because pottery is often multi-purpose.

Lead-glazed pottery was made in many regions of the Roman Empire, including Gaul, Italy and the eastern provinces. This type of vitreous glaze was most often used for small, decorative items of tableware, including mould-made cups with relief decoration, lamps and zoomorphic containers. The glazes vary in colour from amber to brown and many shades of green.

Tableware made of Egyptian faience, glazed in vivid blue, turquoise or green, continued to be manufactured in Egypt throughout the Roman period, and the shapes of some of these faience vessels in the 1st century BC and 1st century AD were directly influenced by Arretine ware. Very elaborate, decorated polychrome faience vessels were also produced. Egyptian faience, frit or 'glazed composition', as it is often termed by Egyptologists, has rather more in common technically with glass manufacture than with earthenware, since it is a non-clay ceramic material.

The dividing line between pottery vessels and terracotta figurines is another that is not always sharp, since certain types of small container, such as oil-pourers, were sometimes moulded in representational forms.

  • Romano-British beaker with barbotine decoration depicting chariot-racing

  • Central Gaulish relief-decorated lead-glazed flagon. 1st century AD.

  • A late-Roman painted beaker made in Britain

  • Terra nigra relief-decorated vase from Cologne

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