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In black-figure pottery, the artist would paint figures with a glossy clay slip on a red clay pot.
When the pot was fired, the figures painted with the slip would turn black, against a red background.
The word black comes from Old English blæc ("black, dark", also, "ink"), from Proto-Germanic *blakkaz ("burned"), from Proto-Indo-European *bhleg- ("to burn, gleam, shine, flash"), from base *bhel- ("to shine"), related to Old Saxon blak ("ink"), Old High German blach ("black"), Old Norse blakkr ("dark"), Dutch blaken ("to burn"), and Swedish bläck ("ink").
More distant cognates include Latin flagrare ("to blaze, glow, burn"), and Ancient Greek phlegein ("to burn, scorch").
Old High German also had two words for black: swartz for dull black and blach for a luminous black.
These are parallelled in Middle English by the terms swart for dull black and blaek for luminous black. The Lascaux Cave in France contains drawings of bulls and other animals drawn by paleolithic artists between 18,000 and 17,000 years ago.
Later they reversed the process, painting the spaces between the figures with slip.
This created magnificent red figures against a glossy black background.
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