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In white-ground pottery, the vase is covered with a light or white slip of kaolinite. A similar slip had been used as carrier for vase paintings in the Geometric and Archaic periods. White-ground vases were produced, for example, in Ionia, Laconia and on the Cycladic islands. But only in Athens did it develop into a veritable separate style beside black-figure and red-figure vase painting. For that reason, the term white-ground pottery or white-ground vase painting is usually used in reference to the Attic material only.
The light slip was probably meant to make the vases appear more valuable, perhaps by eliciting associations with ivory or marble. However, in no case was a vessel’s entire surface covered in white slip. It has also been conjectured that this form of painting emerged in order to emulate the more prestigious medium of wall painting, but the thesis has been elusive of proof. Furthermore, the group of five Huge Lekythoi (ca. 70-100 cm high) are covered entirely in white slip, which suggests an imitation of marble lekythoi for funerary purposes.