Ezekias was an ancient Greek vase-painter and potter, who worked between approximately 550 BC – 525 BC at Athens. Ezekias worked mainly with a technique called black-figure; Ezekias is considered the most original and most detail-orientated painter and potter using the black-figure technique. To determine whether Ezekias was the best black-figure artist of all time, we have to first consider the other black figure artists that are among the best, and compare the work of Ezekias to them.
From this, one can then determine an opinion over whether or not Ezekias was the best, or just among the best. Other fine black-figure artists include the Amasis Painter, Sophilos, the Gorgon Painter and Kleitias. Ezekias mainly illustrates historical writings and shockingly realistic interpretations of Athenian life. The styles of the vases appears noticeably different from eight century BC Geometric art featuring abstract motifs and instead show human portrayals that appear to emerge from the painting.
A painter of heroes, Ezekias demonstrates his careful attention to detail and insight into Greek mythology with his most famous work: the amphora vase at the Vatican showing Achilles and Ajax playing a dice game. Unlike earlier Athenian black-figure vases of Kleitias the surface of the vase is not divided into horizontal bands; rather, monumental figures are shown in profile view in a single large framed panel. When comparing Ezekias’s amphora to other works of art of the period, it is clear that the artist is working towards finding a freer world.
Where there was rigidity in the forms, there is now a mix of sternness and charm. He appears much less interested in violent action than previous and focuses more in soft deliberate movements and small though not insignificant activities that last for some time and reflect a realistic view of Athenian life. The details and decorations of the clothes on the amphora with Achilles and Ajax are engraved with particular care. This is evident in details such as the pattern on the heroes’ cloak, highlighted with delicate touches of white.
The figural and ornamental motifs that are characteristic of the black-figure vase painting brilliantly stand out against the red clay background. The arch formed by the backs of the two warriors reflects the shape of the amphora. This shape is echoed throughout the piece, appearing again in the space between the heads and spears of the two men. Unlike some other painters of the time, Ezekias has planned his vase well and therefore had no problem in fitting his characters onto the ase without making them seem out of proportion, which several painters seemed to have a problem with, such as the Gorgon painter on the Dinos where some of the figures protrude into the frieze line. The Attic black-figure style appears to be well-developed, with figures being rendered in a mature archaic style much influenced by contemporary developments in sculpture from the Geometric and Orientalization period. Ezekias excels in painting and in finely engraved detail, and succeeds where others have failed, in endowing his figures with mood and emotion, as well as the capacity for action.