Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Small Etruscan bronzes

 The Etruscans had a strong tradition of working in bronze from very early times, and their small bronzes were widely exported. Ancient sources reveal accounts of large numbers of statues sent to Rome after their conquest.  According to Pliny, the Romans looted 2,000 bronze statues from the city of Volsinii alone after capturing it.

The Etruscans excelled in portraying humans. In the 7th century BCE they started depicting human heads on canopic urns and when they started burying their dead in the late 6th century BCE they began portraying full figures on terracotta sarcophagi and funerary urns, often reclining as if at the funeral banquet.

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.  This technique was used primarily on mirrors and cistae. Sadly, few pieces survive with the defining filling still intact.

Image: Bronze statuette of a youth, late 5th century BCE, Etruscan, thought to be from Veii. This exquisite statue depicts a nude young man with hands raised in the ancient prayer gesture. The facial features, hair, and musculature are all precisely and accurately modeled. The stance and even the hairstyle with long wavy locks parted at the center owe much to Greek sculptures by Polykleitos, especially his Doryphoros and Diadoumenos. However, the slightly almond-shaped eyes reflect a hint of the Etruscan origin.  Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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