Vase-painting was another art very much practised by the ancients. So much can be said of it that it would require more space than we can give for its history even in outline. So I shall only say that it fills an important place in historic art, because from the thousands of ancient vases that have been found in one country and another, much has been learned concerning the history of these lands and the manners and customs of their people; occasionally inscriptions are found upon decorated vases which are of great value to scholars who study the history of the past.

Fig 14 Fig. 14.—Niobe. From a picture on a slab of granite at Pompeii.


Fig 15 Fig. 15.—The Dodwell Vase. At Munich.

The Dodwell vase shows you the more simple style of decoration which was used in the earlier times. Gradually the designs came to be more and more elaborate, until whole stories were as distinctly told by the pictures on vases as if they had been written out in books. The next cut, which is made from a vase-painting, will show what I mean.

The subject of Fig. 16 is connected with the service of the dead, and shows a scene in the under world, such as accorded with ancient religious notions. In the upper portion the friends of the deceased are grouped around a little temple. Scholars trace the manufacture of these vases back to very ancient days, and down to its decline, about two centuries before Christ. I do not mean that vase-painting ceased then, for its latest traces come down to 65 b.c.; but like all other ancient arts, it was then in a state of decadence. Though vase-painting was one of the lesser arts, its importance can scarcely be overestimated, and it fully merits the devoted study and admiration which it receives from those who are learned in its history.

Fig 16 Fig. 16.—Scene in the Lower World.
From a vase of the style of Lower Italy.

From what we know of ancient Greek painting we may believe that this art first reached perfection in Greece. If we could see the best works of Apelles, who reached the highest excellence of any Greek painter, we might find some lack of the truest science of the art when judged by more modern standards; but the Greeks must still be credited with having been the first to create a true art of painting. After the decline of Greek art fifteen centuries elapsed before painting was again raised to the rank which the Greeks had given it, and if, according to our ideas, the later Italian painting is in any sense superior to the Greek, we must at least admit that the study of the works of antiquity which still remained in Italy, excited the great masters of the Renaissance to the splendid achievements which they attained.

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