Archaeometric study of execution techniques of white Attic vases: the case of the Perseus crater in Agrigento†
The white ground crater by the Phiale Painter (450–440 BC) exhibited in the “Pietro Griffo” Archaeological Museum in Agrigento (Italy) depicts two scenes from Perseus myth. The vase is of utmost importance to archaeologists because the figures are drawn on a white background with remarkable daintiness and attention to detail. Notwithstanding the white ground ceramics being well documented from an archaeological and historical point of view, doubts concerning the compositions of pigments and binders and the production technique are still unsolved. This kind of vase is a valuable rarity, the use of which is documented in elitist funeral rituals. The study aims to investigate the constituent materials and the execution technique of this magnificent crater. The investigation was carried out using non-destructive and non-invasive techniques in situ. Portable X-ray fluorescence and Fourier-transform total reflection infrared spectroscopy complemented the use of visible and ultraviolet light photography to get an overview and specific information on the vase. The XRF data were used to produce false colour maps showing the location of the various elements detected, using the program SmART_scan. The use of gypsum as the material for the white ground is an important result that deserves to be further investigated in similar vases.