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"Fresco of an Etruscan musician with a "barbiton, "Tomb of the Triclinium, "Tarquinia
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Bronze cista handle with Sleep and Death Carrying off the Slain Sarpedon, 400–380 BC
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Fragments from a temple pediment group in terracotta. Late period
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"Cista depicting a Dionysian Revel and Perseus with Medusa's Head from "Praeneste[1] 4th century. The complex engraved images are hard to see here.

Etruscan art was produced by the "Etruscan civilization in "central Italy between the 9th and 2nd centuries BC. From around 600 BC it was heavily influenced by "Greek art, which was imported by the Etruscans, but always retained distinct characteristics. Particularly strong in this tradition were figurative sculpture in terracotta (especially life-size on "sarcophagi or temples), wall-painting and "metalworking especially in bronze. Jewellery and "engraved gems of high quality were produced.[2]

Etruscan sculpture in cast bronze was famous and widely exported, but relatively few large examples have survived (the material was too valuable, and recycled later). In contrast to terracotta and bronze, there was relatively little Etruscan sculpture in stone, despite the Etruscans controlling fine sources of marble, including "Carrara marble, which seems not to have been exploited until the Romans.

The great majority of survivals come from tombs, which were typically crammed with "sarcophagi and "grave goods, and terracotta fragments of architectural sculpture, mostly around temples. Tombs have produced all the "fresco wall-paintings, which show scenes of feasting and some narrative mythological subjects.

"Bucchero wares in black were the early and native styles of fine Etruscan pottery. There was also a tradition of elaborate "Etruscan vase painting, which sprung from its Greek equivalent; the Etruscans were the main export market for "Greek vases. Etruscan temples were heavily decorated with colourfully painted terracotta "antefixes and other fittings, which survive in large numbers where the wooden superstructure has vanished. Etruscan art was strongly connected to "religion; the afterlife was of major importance in Etruscan art.[3]

Contents

History[edit]

The Etruscans emerged from the preceding "Villanovan culture. Due to the proximity and/or commercial contact to Etruria, other ancient cultures influenced Etruscan art, such as "Greece, "Phoenicia, "Egypt, "Assyria and the "Middle East. The apparent simple character in the "Hellenistic era conceals an innovative and unique style whose pinnacle coincided with the "Greek archaic period. The Romans would later come to absorb the "Etruscan culture into theirs but would also be greatly influenced by them and their art.

Periods[edit]

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"Etruscan dancer in the "Tomb of the Augurs, Tarquinia, Italy

Etruscan art is usually divided into a number of periods:

Sculpture[edit]

The Etruscans were very accomplished sculptors for which notable examples in terracotta and bronze are testimony. Though the renowned ""Capitoline Wolf" (at the "Capitoline Museum of Rome) is now suggested to have been manufactured in the 13th century AD, some of the more famous examples include (in rough chronological order):

The "Apollo of Veii is a good example of the mastery with which Etruscan artists produced these large art pieces. It was made, along with others, to adorn the temple at "Portanaccio’s roof line. Although its style is reminiscent of the Greek "Kroisos Kouros, the notion of having statues on the top of the roof is entirely an Etruscan derivation.[9]

Wall-painting[edit]

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Fuller view of the tomb illustrated above
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Rear wall painting in "Tomb of the Augurs, Tarquinia, Italy

The Etruscan paintings that have survived are almost all wall "frescoes from tombs, mainly located in "Tarquinia, and dating from roughly 670 BC to 200 BC, with the peak of production between about 520 and 440 BC. The Greeks very rarely painted their tombs in the equivalent period, with rare exceptions such as the "Tomb of the Diver in "Paestum and southern Italy, and the "Macedonian royal tombs at "Vergina. The whole tradition of Greek painting on walls and panels, arguably the form of art that Greek contemporaries considered their greatest, is almost entirely lost, giving the Etruscan tradition, which undoubtedly drew much from Greek examples, an added importance, even if it does not approach the quality and sophistication of the best Greek masters. It is clear from literary sources that temples, houses and other buildings also had wall-paintings, but these have all been lost, like their Greek equivalents.[10]

The Etruscan tombs, which housed the remains of whole lineages, were apparently sites for recurrent family rituals, and the subjects of paintings probably have a more religious character than might at first appear. A few detachable painted terracotta panels have been found in tombs, up to about a metre tall, and fragments in city centres.[11]

The frescoes are created by applying paint on top of fresh plaster, so that when the plaster dries the painting becomes part of the plaster, and consequently an integral part of the wall. Colors were created from ground up minerals of different colors and were then mixed to the paint. Fine brushes were made of animal hair.

From the mid 4th century BC "chiaroscuro modelling began to be used to portray depth and volume.[12] Sometimes scenes of everyday life are portrayed, but more often traditional mythological scenes. The depiction of human anatomy never approaches Greek levels. The concept of proportion does not appear in any surviving frescoes and we frequently find portrayals of animals or men out of proportion. One of the best-known Etruscan frescoes is that of the Tomb of the Lioness at Tarquinia.

Vase painting[edit]

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Water jar with "Herakles and the "Hydra, c. 525 BC
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Example of Greek-style vase painting in "Caere. "Eurytus and "Heracles in a symposium. Krater of corinthian columns called 'Krater of Eurytus', circa 600 B.C.

Etruscan vase painting was produced from the 7th through the 4th centuries BC, and is a major element in Etruscan art. It was strongly influenced by "Greek vase painting, followed the main trends in style, especially those of "Athens, over the period, but lagging behind by some decades. The Etruscans used the same techniques, and largely the same shapes. Both the "black-figure vase painting and the later "red-figure vase painting techniques were used. The subjects were also very often drawn from Greek mythology in later periods.

Besides being producers in their own right, the Etruscans were the main export market for Greek pottery outside Greece, and some Greek painters probably moved to Etruria, where richly decorated vases were a standard element of grave inventories. It has been suggested that many or most elaborately painted vases were specifically bought to be used in burials, as a substitute, cheaper and less likely to attract robbers, for the vessels in silver and bronze that the elite would have used in life.

More fully characteristic of Etruscan ceramic art are the burnished, unglazed "bucchero terracotta wares, rendered black in a reducing kiln deprived of oxygen. This was an Etruscan development based on the pottery techniques of the Etruscans' Villanovan predecessors.

Painted terracotta panels[edit]

A few large terracotta "pinakes or plaques, much larger than are typical in Greek art, have been found in tombs, some forming a series that creates in effect a portable wall-painting. The "Boccanera" tomb at the Banditaccia "necropolis at "Cerveteri contained five panels almost a metre high set round the wall, which are now in the "British Museum. Three of them form a single scene, apparently the "Judgement of Paris, while the other two flanked the inside of the entrance, with "sphinxes acting as tomb guardians. They date to about 560 BC. Fragments of similar panels have been found in city centre sites, presumably from temples, elite houses and other buildings, where the subjects include scenes of everyday life.[13]

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Monteleone bronze chariot inlaid with ivory (530 BC)

Metalwork[edit]

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Relief mirror-back with "Herekele" ("Hercules) seizing Mlacuch (500–475 BC)

The Etruscans were masters of bronze-working as shown by the many outstanding examples in museums, and from accounts of the statues sent to Rome after their conquest. [14] According to Pliny, the Romans looted 2,000 bronze statues from the city of "Volsinii alone after capturing it.[15]

The "Monteleone chariot is one of the finest examples of large bronzework and is the best-preserved and most complete of the surviving works.

The Etruscans had a strong tradition of working in "bronze from very early times, and their small bronzes were widely exported. Apart from cast bronze, the Etruscans were also skilled at the engraving of cast pieces with complex linear images, whose lines were filled with a white material to highlight them; in modern museum conditions with this filling lost, and the surface inevitably somewhat degraded, they are often much less striking and harder to read than would have been the case originally. This technique was mostly applied to the roundish backs of polished bronze mirrors and to the sides of "cistae. A major centre for cista manufacture was "Praeneste, which somewhat like early Rome was an Italic-speaking town in the Etruscan cultural sphere.[16] Some mirrors, or mirror covers (used to protect the mirror's reflective surface) are in a low "relief.

Funerary art[edit]

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Painted terracotta "Sarcophagus of Seianti Hanunia Tlesnasa, about 150–130 BCE

The Etruscans excelled in portraying humans. Throughout their history they used two sets of burial practices: "cremation and "inhumation.[17] Cinerary urns (for cremation) and sarcophagi (for inhumation) have been found together in the same tomb showing that throughout generations, both forms were used at the same time.[18] In the 7th century they started depicting human heads on canopic urns and when they started burying their dead in the late 6th century they did so in terracotta sarcophagi.[19] These sarcophagi were decorated with an image of the deceased reclining on the lid alone or sometimes with a spouse. The Etruscans invented the custom of placing figures on the lid which later influenced the Romans to do the same.[19] These urns were widely popular in Etruria and, from there, the style made its way to Chiusi. Etruscans made urns using unrefined clay such as impasto. This was discovered due to their almost exact resemblance to one another. They have been identified as far back as the third century B.C. and are technically still used to this day (caskets.) Examples of these pieces can be found today in museums all around the world.

The Hellenistic period funerary urns were generally made in two pieces. The top lid usually depicted a banqueting man or woman (but not always) and the container part was either decorated in relief in the front only or, on more elaborate stone pieces, carved on its sides.[20] During this period, the terracotta urns were being mass-produced using clay in Northern Etruria (specifically in and around "Chiusi).[21] Often the scenes decorated in relief on the front of the urn were depicting generic Greek influenced scenes.[22] The production of these urns did not require skilled artists and so what we are left with is often mediocre, unprofessional art, made en masse.[23] However the color choices on the urns offer evidence as to dating, as colors used changed over time.

Art and religion[edit]

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5th to 4th century necklace in gold

Etruscan art was often religious in character and, hence, strongly connected to the requirements of "Etruscan religion. The Etruscan afterlife was negative, in contrast to the positive view in "ancient Egypt where it was but a continuation of earthly life, or the confident relations with the gods as in "ancient Greece.["citation needed] Roman interest in Etruscan religion centred on their methods of "divination and propitiating and discovering the will of the gods, rather than the gods themselves, which may have distorted the information that has come down to us.[24] Most remains of Etruscan "funerary art have been found in excavations of cemeteries (as at "Cerveteri, "Tarquinia, "Populonia, "Orvieto, "Vetulonia, "Norchia), meaning that what we see of Etruscan art is primarily dominated by depictions of religion and in particular the "funerary cult, whether or not that is a true reflection of Etruscan art as a whole.

Museums[edit]

Etruscan tombs were heavily looted from early on, initially for precious metals. From the Renaissance onwards Etruscan objects, especially painted vases and sarcophagi, were keenly collected. Many were exported before this was forbidden, and most major museum collections of classical art around the world have good selections. But the major collections remain in Italian museums in Rome, Florence, and other cities in areas that were formerly Etruscan, which include the results of modern archaeology.

Major collections in Italy include the "National Etruscan Museum ("Italian: Museo Nazionale Etrusco) in the "Villa Giulia in Rome, "National Archaeological Museum in Florence, "Vatican Museums, "Tarquinia National Museum, and the "Archeological Civic Museum in "Bologna, as well as more local collections near important sites such as "Cerveteri, "Orvieto and "Perugia.

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Cista Depicting a Dionysian Revel and Perseus with Medusa's Head". "The Walters Art Museum. 
  2. ^ Boardman, 350-351
  3. ^ Spivey, Nigel (1997). Etruscan Art. London: Thames and Hudson. 
  4. ^ Grove, 2 (i)
  5. ^ Grove, 2 (ii); Boardman, 349
  6. ^ Grove, 2 (iii)
  7. ^ Grove, 2 (iv)
  8. ^ Grove, 2 (v)
  9. ^ (Ramage 2009: 46)
  10. ^ Steingräber, 9
  11. ^ Williams, 243; Vermeule, 157-162
  12. ^ Boardman, 352
  13. ^ Williams, 242-243
  14. ^ Ancient Rome as a Museum: Power, Identity, and the Culture of Collecting, Steven Rutledge, OUP Oxford, 26 Apr 2012
  15. ^ Pliny: Historia Naturalis xxxiv.16
  16. ^ Boardman, 351-352
  17. ^ (Turfa 2005: 55)
  18. ^ (Richter 1940: 56, note 1)
  19. ^ a b (Ramage 2009:51)
  20. ^ (Maggiani 1985: 34)
  21. ^ (Maggiani 1985: 100)
  22. ^ (Nielsen 1995:328)
  23. ^ (Richter 1940: 50)
  24. ^ Grove, 3

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

"" Media related to Etruscan art at Wikimedia Commons

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