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Etruscan Red-Figure Krater with Charun

Etruscan Red-Figure Krater with Charun


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Euphronios (Sarpedon) Krater

The Euphronios (Sarpedon) krater is a red-figure calyx krater made in Athens circa 515 BC, signed by Euxitheos as potter and Euphronios as painter. It was bought by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1972 for the then record-breaking price of $1 million, and is now thought to have been excavated illegally in Italy in 1971. In 2006, the Metropolitan restored ownership of the krater to Italy.

The Euphronios (Sarpedon) krater is a red-figure calyx krater made in Athens circa 515 BC, 46 cm high and 55 cm in diameter, signed by Euxitheos as potter and Euphronios as painter. It is decorated on the front with a scene depicting the death of Sarpedon, who is attended by Hypnos and Thanatos with the god Hermes looking on. On the reverse are three Athenian youths arming themselves for battle. It was bought by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1972 for the then record-breaking price of $1 million, and is thought to have been excavated illegally in Italy in 1971. The Metropolitan’s director at the time, Thomas Hoving, described it as ‘ … a work that would force the history of Greek art to be rewritten’ (Hoving 1993: 318). In 2006, the Metropolitan restored ownership of the krater to Italy.

The find spot and early provenance of the Euphronios krater have never been firmly established. However, the krater is generally believed to have been discovered in December 1971 by tombaroli digging illegally on private land in the Greppe Sant’Angelo area of the Etruscan cemetery of Cerveteri (Silver 2009: 287-90). The tombaroli are said to have sold the krater to Giacomo Medici for something in the region of $88,000, with Medici, in turn, arranging for the krater to be smuggled into Switzerland, where he sold it to Robert Hecht for $350,000 (Silver 2009: 37-52, 287-90). By this time, the krater was in a fragmentary though completely restorable state, so Hecht left it with Fritz Bürki in Zurich for restoration. The provenance of the krater after its arrival in Zurich is well-documented. In February 1972, Hecht alerted the Metropolitan Museum to the existence of the krater with a letter to Dietrich von Bothmer, the Metropolitan’s Curator of Greek and Roman Art. In June 1972, von Bothmer, along with Hoving and Hoving’s deputy Theodore Rousseau, visited Zurich to view the krater (Hoving 2001a). In August 1972, after some haggling, the Metropolitan agreed to buy the krater from Hecht for $1 million (Hoving 2001b). The money was raised through the sale of the Durkee and Ward collections of 11,000 coins and medals which had been donated to the Metropolitan in the early twentieth century. Sotheby’s agreed to handle the coin sale and offered the Metropolitan a $1.5 million payment in advance, plus 84 percent of all gross receipts in excess of $1 million (Hoving 2001b). The Metropolitan ultimately received nearly $2.3 million from the coin auctions (Hoving 1993: 316). The krater arrived in the US on 31 August 1972.

Hecht claimed to be acting on ten percent commission as agent for the krater’s owner, whom he identified as Lebanese collector and dealer Dikran Sarrafian (Hoving 2001b). Hecht supplied two documents of provenance for the acquisitions committee meeting that approved the purchase. First was a letter dated 10 July 1971, written by Sarrafian to Hecht, in which Sarrafian declared that he would deliver the vase to Hecht in expectation of a final sale price of $1 million. Second was another letter from Sarrafian to Hecht, dated 9 September 1972, stating that Sarrafian’s father had obtained the krater in 1920 in London and that because it was in fragments it had been sent [to Switzerland] for restoration three years before the writing of the letter (Hoving 1993: 319 Hoving 2001c).

On 12 November 1972, the New York Times announced the krater’s acquisition with a cover story for its Sunday magazine (Mellow 1972). The price and provenance of the krater were both withheld, with the Metropolitan claiming that it was maintaining secrecy in order to protect a potential source of future acquisitions (Gage 1973b). On 19 February 1973, however, a more critical account of the krater’s provenance was published (Gage 1973a), heralding a series of articles that questioned the museum’s account and suggesting instead that the krater had been excavated illegally at Cerveteri in late 1971. The names of Hecht and Sarrafian leaked out and the $1 million price tag was revealed (Gage 1973b). It was during this time in a TV interview that Hoving referred to the krater as the ‘hot pot’—a name that stuck (Hoving 2001c).

The new and potentially damaging allegations of illicit provenance caused the Metropolitan to send lawyers to visit Sarrafian in Beirut (Hoving 2001d). They obtained documents from Sarrafian confirming that he had received payment for the krater of $909,000 in Swiss francs on 25 October 1971. They also obtained testimony from a clerk who had seen the vessel in fragments with Sarrafian in Beirut in the early 1960s. The Metropolitan’s legal team also collected affidavits from Bürki, confirming that he had received a fragmentary krater from Sarrafian in August 1971, and a photographer in Basel who had seen the fragments in September 1971 (Gage 1973c Hoving 1993: 333 Hoving 2001d). This evidence was made public in June 1973, and seemed to confirm that the krater was in Switzerland before the suggested December 1971 date of illegal excavation, as well as refute allegations of illicit provenance (Gage 1973c).

In July 1973, Hoving received a copy of a letter that art collector Muriel Newman had sent Sarrafian stating that she had seen a fragmentary Euphronios vessel with him in Beirut in 1964. Newman subsequently signed an affidavit confirming this statement (Hoving 1993: 335-6 Hoving 2001d).

Thus by the end of 1973, the question of provenance seemed settled in favour of the Hecht/Metropolitan account of Sarrafian’s ownership, and thus legitimate provenance. Hoving has since written, however, that in private, he still harboured doubts. This was largely because, in various statements, Sarrafian had referred to the krater as comprising a hatbox of fragments and implying that it was incomplete (e.g. Gage 1973b, 1973c Gelder 1973 Hoving 2001d, 2001e). The krater bought by the Metropolitan was complete, and was considered by Hoving to be too large, even in fragments, to have fit into a hatbox. Hoving resigned from the Metropolitan in 1977, but by 1993 he had come to believe that there were in fact two Euphronios kraters: one that had been illegally excavated in 1971 and subsequently acquired by the Metropolitan, and a second less-well-preserved one that had been in the possession of Sarrafian as claimed and documented, but that had subsequently turned up the collection of Bunker Hunt (Hoving 1993: 338-9, 2001e). Hecht had simply taken the provenance and documentation from the Sarrafian/Bunker Hunt krater and attached it to the illegally-excavated and better-preserved Sarpedon krater bought by the Metropolitan. Sarrafian had been killed in a car crash in 1977 (Hoving 2001d), and so was unavailable for further comment. When challenged by Hoving about this switch, Hecht himself was ambivalent (Hoving 2001e). This second krater, however, was bought by Leon Levy and Shelby White in 1990, and returned to Italy in 2010 when evidence emerged that it too had been illegally excavated (Povoledo 2008b). If Sarrafian did indeed possess a Euphronios krater, as the evidence collected by the Metropolitan suggests, then its identity and whereabouts remain unknown.

Matters rested there until the Italian investigations of Giacomo Medici and Robert Hecht gained momentum though the 1990s and early 2000s. Two photographs were discovered in Medici’s Geneva storerooms, apparently taken in May 1987, one showing Medici standing next to the Euphronios krater on display in the Metropolitan, the second showing Hecht in a similar pose (Watson and Todeschini 2007: 107). On 16 February 2001, the Carabinieri raided Hecht’s apartment in Paris. They recovered a handwritten ‘memoir’ of Hecht’s, setting out an autobiographical account of his life in the antiquities trade. It contains two accounts of the Sarpedon Euphronios: the first admitting to the fact that Hecht had bought the krater from Medici and that it had been excavated illegally in 1971 the second reiterating the Sarrafian provenance as provided to the Metropolitan. Finally, in June 2001, Marion True of the J. Paul Getty Museum informed Italian investigators in a sworn deposition that van Bothmer had pointed out to her on an aerial photograph the location of the looted tomb from which the krater was allegedly taken, though von Bothmer subsequently denied this allegation (Felch and Frammolino 2005 Felch and Frammolino 2011: 209, 211 Watson and Todeschini 2007: 206-7).

On 3 February 2006, the Metropolitan reached an agreement with Italy about the return of twenty objects, including the Euphronios krater. Although the evidence for illegal excavation and trade was still largely circumstantial, the Metropolitan’s director Philipe de Montebello clearly thought it was convincing when he was quoted as saying that it was ‘highly probable’ that the vessel had been stolen from an Etruscan tomb (Kennedy and Eakin 2006). The krater arrived back in Italy on 18 January 2008, where it was put on display with other returned objects at the exhibition Nostoi: Capolavori Ritrovati, before being curated permanently at the Villa Giulia in Rome (Povoledo 2008a).


Etruscan Six’s Technique wine krater with inebriation scenes

A pottery krater decorated in the Six’s Technique with super-posed red painted figures over the black slip surface. One side depicts an orderly procession of two fully robed figures, probably priests, holding a cymbal and a sistrum. The other side shows two naked satyrs also holding objects in their hands which are raised as if in dance or a state of joviality.

It seems that the painter of this krater (wine mixing bowl) intentionally drew comparison between the priests and satyrs in a humorous fashion, perhaps hinting at the effects of wine on even the most abstemious of partakers.

Culture
Italy, Etruscan, late 5th or 4th Century BC

Size
20.3 x 19.7 cms

Condition
The foot has been restored (reconstructed) and the stem has been repaired, light surface wear as seen in the photographs

Provenance
Ex. private collection, Hampshire, UK acquired mid to late 20th Century


Red-figure pottery, Volute krater depicting Alcestis embracing A.D.metus and inscription of names, by Alcestis Painter

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First Display of Excavated Etruscan Tomb to Open at the Dallas Museum of Art

Dallas, TX—October 31, 2013— A set of art objects from a 5th-century B.C. burial site in Spina, Italy, which have never previously been displayed or loaned, will go on view at the Dallas Museum of Art tomorrow. The exhibition is the first display of this excavated tomb since its discovery almost a century ago, and features four Attic red-figure vases, dating from 470–400 B.C., a 5th-century B.C. silver fibula, a bronze statuette from the latter half of the 5th century B.C., and an alabaster vessel. The works will remain on view through 2017.

The group was discovered together in the summer of 1926 in a grave at Spina, one of 4,000 tombs excavated in the ancient Etruscan city since 1922. The works will make their world debut at the DMA as part of the Museum’s cultural exchange program, DMX, which is designed to establish collaborations for the loans of works of art and sharing of expertise in conservation, exhibitions, education, and new media. The program promotes cross-cultural dialogue and provides audiences at home and abroad with expanded access to artworks that span time period and culture.

This collaboration with Italian authorities is part of an ongoing partnership that began in 2012, when the DMA transferred ownership of six objects in its collection to Italy in recognition of evidence attesting to their being looted several years earlier. The transfer was completed in collaboration with the Foundation for the Arts and Munger Fund, which held ownership of three of the works for the benefit of the Museum. Those objects, which include three kraters, dating from the 4th century B.C., a pair of bronze shields from the 6th century B.C., and a head of an antefix, an architectural decoration for a tiled roof, dating from the 6th century B.C., remain on long-term view at the DMA. The loan of art from Spina marks the official signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Italian Ministry of Culture, which emphasizes continued collaboration between the Museum and Italian officials.

“We are honored to cement a partnership with our Italian colleagues and grateful for the opportunity to bring this group of works from Spina to audiences in Dallas and to those visiting our city. It’s a rare opportunity to be able to display these objects together, and to highlight their combined role in ancient funerary practices,” said Maxwell L. Anderson, the Museum’s Eugene McDermott Director. “In our digital society, access to cultural knowledge is ever growing. The DMX program builds on the possibilities of access by nurturing a collaborative approach to the exchange and presentation of artworks and expanding dialogue on cultural heritage—not just among cultural institutions but with our communities through the exhibition of a diverse range of artworks.”

The Italian Minister for Cultural Assets, Activities and Tourism, Massimo Bray, announced: “I am particularly pleased about the successful outcome of the negotiations that led to the return of six objects whose provenance was in question. I am, moreover, satisfied that we are able to offer a splendid long-term loan from the tomb and contents found in the Necropolis of Spina, now conserved in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale of Ferrara, which will offer to the viewing public in the United States a group of important archaeological objects in context. While thanking the Director of the DMA, Maxwell Anderson, for his high moral approach in resolving the problem, I would also like to take this occasion to thank the persons, on both sides, whose tireless work contributed to the signing of this important Cultural Agreement. ”

Under Anderson’s leadership, the DMA has expanded its focus on access through a number of initiatives in addition to the DMX program. Through its DMA Friends membership program, which the Museum launched in January 2012, anyone who wishes to join the Museum may do so for free. The membership includes opportunities for increased access to Museum programs and staff through an à la carte rewards system determined by active participation. Earlier this year, the DMA received an IMLS grant to research opportunities to extend the program to other institutions, including the Denver Art Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

The DMA has also expanded its conservation program with the opening of a new conservation studio and gallery, which focuses on new research opportunities and allows audiences to view the conservation process live through a large glass wall. The Museum also previously launched the Laboratory for Museum Innovation with seed capital to develop collaborative pilot projects in the areas of collection access, visitor engagement, and digital publishing.

The DMX program was launched in October 2012 with the appointment of Sabiha Al Khemir as the Museum’s first Senior Advisor of Islamic Art. Al Khemir, the founding director of the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, supports Anderson and senior staff in building the Museum’s DMX partnerships. Last December, the Museum signed a memorandum of understanding with the Turkish Director General for Cultural Heritage and Museums, O. Murat Süslü, marking the first initiative of the program. Al Khemir and Anderson are continuing to travel worldwide to further the Museum’s connections with the great collections of Islamic art. They are presently in conversations with officials from Indonesia as well as several other countries.

About the Burial Objects
The objects come from Tomb 512 of the necropolis of the ancient Etruscan city of Spina. The city was located at the mouth of the River Po, and its cemeteries were located on the top of some coastal strips of land created by river debris. The cemeteries were in two different areas: Valle Pega and Valle Trebba. This tomb was located at Valle Trebba. The set of grave goods delineate the social status of the deceased person and reaffirm the person’s familial role in the community. The objects on view include:

  • an oinochoe (wine jug) by the Shuvalov Painter. The ceramic Attic red-figure oinochoe from 435–430 B.C. depicts the mythical figure Polynices offering a necklace to Eriphyle, who is seated before him
  • an oinochoe by the Eretria Painter. The ceramic Attic red-figure oinochoe from 470 B.C. depicts a woman running to the left
  • a kylix (drinking cup) by the Ferrara Painter. The ceramic Attic red-figure kylix from the end of the 5th century B.C. shows a hero or god, perhaps Attis, standing by a tree
  • a bell krater by the Sini Ferrara Painter. The ceramic Attic red-figure krater from 420–400 B.C. shows Theseus punishing Sinis for his cruel ruse against passersby two ephebes are on the other side of the vase
  • an Etruscan silver fibula from the second half of the 5th century B.C.
  • an Etruscan bronze statuette from the second half of the 5th century B.C. and
  • an alabaster alabastron, a container for perfume and unguents.

About the Dallas Museum of Art
Established in 1903, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) ranks among the leading art institutions in the country and is distinguished by its innovative exhibitions and groundbreaking educational programs. At the heart of the Museum and its programs is its global collection, which encompasses more than 22,000 works and spans 5,000 years of history, representing a full range of world cultures. Located in the vibrant Arts District of downtown Dallas, the Museum welcomes more than half a million visitors annually and acts as a catalyst for community creativity, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds with a diverse spectrum of programming, from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary events, and dramatic and dance presentations. In January 2013, the DMA returned to a free general admission policy and launched DMA Friends, the first free museum membership program in the country.

The Dallas Museum of Art is supported, in part, by the generosity of DMA Partners and donors, the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, and the Texas Commission on the Arts.


Greek large red figure oinochoe with maenad decoration

A very large red figure pottery oinochoe with a trefoil lip and wide belly. The front of the vase is painted with two bacchantes or maenads each hoding a situla and thyrsus. The figure to the right of the scene wears a leopard skin draped over her shoulder and exposing her left breast.

The sides and back of the vase are painted with three palmettes separated by two floral sprigs. Touches of white painted decroation can be seen on details such as the situlae, belt and leopard skin spots.

Maenads were mythological female revellers associated with Dionysos, the god of wine. They were portrayed as rather fearsomely drunken women who roamed distant mountains and indulged in frenzied dancing and orgiastic rituals.

Culture
Greek, South Italian colonies, late 4th Century BC

Condition
Some 19th Century restoration to the front of the rim, foot chipped. The surface is discoloured and worn in places, both faces of the figures and one hand have been re-painted rather crudely though the remainder of the painted decoration is original.

Size
34 x 20 cms

Provenance
Ex. private collection, Neuilly-sur-Seine, France acquired from a collection formed in the 19th or early 20th Century


Etruscan Red-Figure Krater with Charun - History

Nancy de Grummond offers a different view. The relief on the sarcophagus of Laris Pulenas at Tarquinia, shows two Charuns swinging their hammers at a person's head, though the head (probably that of Pulenas, the nobleman whose sarcophagus it is) no longer survives in the relief due to an accident of preservation. Years later, in the Colosseum, a Charun-like figure called Dispater would hit the loser with a hammer to make sure he was dead, perhaps in reflection of Charun. The hammer might also be used to protect the dead it is sometimes swung at serpents attacking the deceased (as shown on the Orvieto amphora). Most often it is simply held, or the handle planted on the ground and the mallet head leaned upon (above). De Grummond notes that the ferry of Charon appears only once in surviving Etruscan art, and that some Etruscan demons are equipped with oars, but they typically use them as weapons rather than in their maritime function.

In Ecuador it is known as tripa mishqui. It's roasted, and sometimes eaten with boiled potatoes or mote.

The grotesque nature of the depiction of Charun appears to have been at least partly apotropaic in nature. Apotropaic art was the practice of the neighboring Greeks at this time, as represented by the exaggerated eyes painted on drinking vessels in the 6th century BC to ward away spirits while drinking or the monstrous depiction of Medusa whose image was said to turn men to stone. Through these images of the grotesque, violence and blood-letting, the Etruscans may have believed that they helped to fend off evil spirits from the tomb as well as sanctify the tomb perhaps in place of the actual ritual sacrifice of an animal usually performed in funerary rites.

In Peru this meal has a Creole term "choncholi" : prepared steamed and then roasted on a grill, food native of people from Angola, who were based in the south of the country to work in the cotton fields and sugar in the province of Ica, south of Lima. It was a typical food of the black population of Peru but now, like the kebabs they are consumed at every social level.

Depending on the region it can be called Chunchullo, Chunchulla, Chinchurria or Chunchurria. Usually eaten fresh.

It is grilled over wood or charcoal. In Colombia, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile, however, it is usually roasted. Although it requires long cooking it is usually the first dish served in a Paraguayan, Uruguayan and Argentinian "asado".

In Etruscan mythology, Charun (also spelled Charu, or Karun) acted as one of the psychopompoi of the underworld (not to be confused with the lord of the underworld, known to the Etruscans as Aita). He is often portrayed with Vanth, a winged goddess also associated with the underworld.

They are presented in the form of a braid.

His name was imported from Greek Charon, although it is uncertain whether Etruscans had a native name for a god of the underworld before this. As suggested by alternations in the Etruscan language such as θu "one" changing to θunśna "first", lev "lion" (from Greek leōn) and Apulu (from Greek Apóllōn), words ending in -n after u were disappearing from the language which is why we see his name spelled Xarun and later Xaru.

Larissa Bonfante and Judith Swaddling have this to say about Charun: "Many scenes feature the two purely Etruscan underworld demons, Vanth and Charu, whose job is not to punish the dead but rather to escort them to their final destination." However, there are at least two examples, on the sarcophagus of Laris Pulenas as well as a red figure stamnos from Orbetello, that do illustrate Charun in a menacing fashion. Each depicts Charun threatening a male figure with his hammer.

The Charon of Vergil in the Aeneid is particularly cruel according to W.F. Jackson Knight, "Vergil's Charon is not only the Greek ferryman of Aristophanes [in The Frogs], but more than half his Etruscan self, Charun, the Etruscan torturing death-devil, no ferryman at all."

Chinchulín is beef small intestine, which may be grilled or fried. It is consumed in many Latin American countries.

Known as chinchulín and are typically roasted. The large intestine, in Argentina, is called "Tripa Gorda" (Big Gut) or torch and cooked similarly, except that they are usually washed inside and filled with the same filling for sausages.

In Venezuela it is known as Chinchurria and is roasted.

Charun is believed to have worked with many assistants in the Underworld, although they could be independent deities in their own right. Most of their names are lost to us, but at least one, Tuchulcha, is identified in the Tomb of Orcus II, and has hair and wings like a Gorgon. Tuchulcha, whose gender is debated among scholars, appears in a depiction of the story of Theseus (known to the Etruscans as "These") visiting the underworld. These and his friend Peirithous are playing a board game, attended by Tuchulcha.

According to Jeff Rovin, Charun guided souls on horseback to the underworld and "brings horses to the newly-dead", but this is idle speculation. He also claims that Charun appears to love violence and participates in warfare adding that Charun enjoys natural disasters as well. An Etruscan krater from François Tomb (above) depicts Charun with Ajax or Achilles (left, cropped out) slaughtering Trojan prisoners. This urn is currently held in Cabinet des Médailles 920, Bibliothéque Nationale, Paris. Rovin says that some accounts depict him with a sword, and that he "slices" souls with it. At least one image shows him guiding a soul on horseback, equipped with both a hammer and a sword, though he is simply carrying it on his person.

In contemporary times, Charun has never been as popular as his Greek counterpart, though there have been some occurrences.

In southern Mexico, the first portion of the small intestine of the cow (first 3–4 meters) is known as "tripa de leche" (translates to "gut of milk"). This is washed thoroughly with tap water, braided and boiled in a pressure cooker for about one hour, because it is very hard. Later, it's fried with garlic and onions and served on fresh tortillas, whole or chopped into cubes, served with hot salsa.

Many of Charun's other presumed assistants appear in the Tomb of the Blue Demons, which is also the home of the only Etruscan rendering of the aforementioned ferry of Charon.


Travel: An Etruscan Renaissance in Florence

The marvellous Chimera of Arezzo. This extraordinary bronze most likely dates to the 3rd or 2nd century BC, and is a masterpiece of Etruscan metalwork. Cosimo I Medici worked on its restoration himself. [All images: courtesy of Oliver Gilkes]

Duke Ferdinand I watches over the Piazza della Santissima Annunziata.

What? Go to Florence to visit an archaeological museum? What about the great monuments of the Renaissance, or the museums and galleries stuffed with masterpieces that changed the world? A good question – though if you are in Florence, then I would heartily endorse a visit to one of Italy’s least known great collections of antiquities. Certainly, when I was last there before COVID-19 changed the world in its own way, the queues to visit the Duomo and Uffizi snaked around the city’s historic centre. Walk a short way to the Piazza della Santissima Annunziata, where Duke Ferdinand I sits mounted on guard, and you find the rather unassuming 17th-century Palazzo della Crocetta, a cool haven of calm masterpieces.

The collection within is eclectic. The very first Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I Medici, assembled a fine collection of representations of Hercules, his own avatar, and was recorded by Giorgio Vasari as arranging these on the shelves of his office. Ludovic II created a very impressive assemblage of Egyptian antiquities in the great collecting years of the early 19th century. This section was opened in 1855, but then massively enlarged to create the national museum, a proud achievement of the Italian Risorgimento in 1871.

Etruscan marvels

While there are impressive artefacts from all periods within, including a fantasy courtyard made from sculptural fragments of Roman Florentia, its glory is really the series of Etruscan antiquities. The territory of Tuscany stretched over much of central Italy, and so there is material here from all over the Etruscan world – from inland hill towns and ‘loot’ from the vast cemeteries of the coastal cities. This actually begins in the museum’s courtyard garden. The large central space has been reworked into a collection of tombs, virtually all the standard Etruscan types, from tumuli to cist graves.

The most spectacular items from the collection are in a room to themselves. Here, off a corridor of tiny bronzes, one encounters the fantastic Chimera of Arezzo. Arezzo has a special place in Etruscan studies. The discovery of fragmentary painted ‘Greek’ ceramics in Arezzo during the building of the walls in the 13th century was the catalyst that first really fired an interest in the Etruscans.

The famous statue of the Orator, recovered from Lake Trasimene in 1556. Although this is often assumed to represent a Roman, the figure is Aulus Metellus, an Etruscan.

The Chimera was discovered during the rebuilding of the Porta Laurenta in that city and was immediately seized by Cosimo I, who was so taken with his acquisition that he roped in Benvenuto Cellini to advise him on how to restore it. The Chimera was once part of a group including the hero Bellerophon. The foul monster, with a double lion and goat head, and snake-like tail, stands wounded at bay. It is a virtuoso piece of lost-wax bronze casting, a technique the Etruscans mastered, and most likely dates to the later Hellenistic era (the 3rd and 2nd century BC), a time of political decline but continued technical virtuosity. The other sculpture in this room is the famous Orator. Normally taken to be a Roman politician, it is in fact the Etruscan worthy Aulus Metellus. It is similar in date and clearly shows the connection between Etruria and Rome.

One entire gallery is taken up with finds from the greatest cities of the Maremma (the coastal strip of Tuscany). The Etruscans created a loose confederation of 12 cities, developing from the 8th century BC, which eventually clashed with the feisty young Republic in Rome. While mostly abandoned and lost today, these great metropoles were fabulously wealthy: Vetulonia, famed for its goldsmiths Populonia, where smelting of iron from Elba left huge slag heaps on the beach Vulci, whose tombs were plundered under the auspices of Lucien Bonaparte, Napoleon’s brother and Tarquinia, where the first monumental fresco cycles in the West are to be seen in the Necropolis – all of them enriched by overseas trade. Their culture absorbed many symbols and influences from the worlds of Carthage, Egypt, Phoenicia, and Greece, which are reflected in the goods that were deposited in the great princely burials surrounding each city.

Of course, many finds come from sites outside the traditional borders of the Grand Duchy, and it seems that the Duke’s officers were not averse to acquiring items, one way or the other, from the neighbouring Papal States.

A biconical cinerary urn of the 7th century BC, used to hold cremated ashes. The lid has a unique representation of a funeral banquet, with the imposing chieftain sitting at a well-stocked table, accompanied by Charun, one of the guides of the dead in the underworld.

Climbing the steep staircases of the museum (there is a lift) will bring you to a labyrinth of Etruscan sarcophagi, from all the great Tuscan sites. Outstanding here is the large 3rd-century BC terracotta coffin of Larthia Seianti, an Etruscan noblewoman. She reclines on her funeral bed, adorned with jewellery and holding a mirror, an essential accoutrement for a lady of influence. But it is the paint that is most eye-catching here: its original colours remain bright and powerful. The Etruscans were masters of moulding ceramics, the architectural decorations of temples and houses being elaborate and very colourful. While seen in antiquity as rather rustic when compared to the great stone sculptures of Greece, the Etruscan ability to shape clay was supposedly brought by an exiled Greek called Demaratus, who arrived with his atelier in remote Etruscan history. The tradition of moulded sarcophagi runs from masterpieces of the 7th century BC, as seen in the wonderful example of the married couple now in Rome, through the alabaster and stone chests of Volterra and Orvieto to the smaller but no less decorative terracotta cremation caskets of Chiusi.

The elaborate terracotta painted sarcophagus of Larthia Seianti from Chiusi. Note her dress and veil, as well as the mirror she is holding. Etruscan women obtained burials as elaborate as any of the men, and sometimes they are the primary burial in a tomb. In earlier centuries, carts or chariots were common grave goods for the wealthiest, regardless of sex.

It is not just ideas that the Etruscans imported, as physical objects large and small are also to be found, and two of the greatest are also here in Florence.

The Amazon Sarcophagus from Cerveterii, showing a detail of the fighting between Greeks and Amazons. Etruscan lettering has been rather crudely cut into the scene, naming the women who were buried within.

The Sarcophagus of the Amazons is a huge imported painted coffin of white Greek marble of 5th- to 4th-century date. The Etruscans clearly believed you could take it with you, and the long and short sides are covered with wonderfully painted scenes of battles between Greeks and Amazons, a favourite Hellenic myth taken up by the Etruscans. The painting was obviously done before acquisition, perhaps by an emigrant Greek artisan, as rather rudely scratched through the paint is a dedication to two women, Ramtha Huzcnai and Ramtha Zertnai, who were both interred within when it was found at Tarquinia in 1869.

First culture vultures

The very comprehensive, even forbidding, rooms covering the development of ceramics of all sorts, kitchen pots to one-off set-pieces, contain a final virtuoso import.

Of the antiquaries who ‘excavated’ their way through the cemeteries of ancient Etruria during the outbreak of Etruscomania in the 19th century, one of the most fortunate was Alessandro François who discovered this wine crater in a tomb at Chiusi in 1844. It is a massy affair, made in Attica and exported to Italy in the 6th century BC. As the world’s first culture vultures, the Etruscans imported Greek ceramics in huge quantities (most of those Greek vessels that survive are from Etruscan Italy) and indeed this demand may have been responsible for the large-scale production in Athens and Corinth in the first place. This is a back-figure crater, the detail added by use of a burin or graver, rather than the later painted technique of red-figure decoration. A series of bands show mythological scenes: the Calydonian Boar hunt the battle between Centaurs and Lapiths, a wedding party that got out of hand the wedding of Peleus and Thetis the chariot race at the funeral games of Patroclus the ambush of Troilus by Achilles and appropriate fantastic beasts, griffons, deities, and spirits.

We even have the names of the craftsmen involved: Ergotimos the potter and Kleitias the painter. Athenian workshops tended to be divided into those who made and those who decorated, sometimes with an interesting rivalry. The 5th-century painter Euthymides teased one of his colleagues, the great Euphronius, by writing ‘Euphronius never did anything this good’ on one of his creations. A masterpiece, it shows signs of ancient repairs, a clear marker of how it was valued.

Breakages were not only an issue with great antiquities in the past. The vase has in fact been restored three times: first after discovery, then in 1902, and most recently in 1973 following the catastrophic Florence floods. The 1902 rebuilding came about after a punch-up between two custodians, one of whom flung a wooden stool, which missed its target but smashed the vase. It was painstakingly recreated afterwards (when the opportunity was taken to add some extra missing pieces), and this catastrophe is commemorated by the actual stool in question, carefully labelled and kept nearby. It still works as a stool.

So, if you ever find yourself in a hot, sticky Florence of an afternoon, and need to escape from the Renaissance for some hours, the Museo Nazionale is waiting for you. I recommend you lose yourself in its fresh halls and immerse yourself in a truly different world.

Further information
For more details (and updates on opening during the COVID-19 pandemic), see https://museoarcheologiconazionaledifirenze.wordpress.com.

This article appeared in issue 106 of Current World Archaeology. Click here for more information about subscribing to the magazine.


Examples of red-figure in the following topics:

Etruscan Ceramics

  • The Etruscans developed an imitative adoption of the red-figure technique (known as Pseudo-Red-Figure) around 490 BCE, nearly half a century after that style had been invented in Greece.
  • In true red-figure, the red areas were left free of slip.
  • In pseudo-red-figure painting, internal details were marked by incision, similar to the usual practice in black-figure vase painting, rather than painted on, as in true red-figure.
  • Even after true red-figure became the dominant style, some workshops continued to specialize in pseudo-red-figure painting into the fourth century BCE.
  • Only by the end of the fifth century BCE was the true red-figure technique introduced to Etruria.

Ceramics in the Greek Archaic Period

  • Instead of painting a figure with black slip and using a burin to scrape away the slip to create details, red-figure painting has the background painted black and the figures left the red color of the terra cotta.
  • One side depicted the scene in black-figure and the other side depicted the scene in red-figure.
  • Euthymides is known as a pioneer of red-figure painting.
  • Red-figure side of a bilingual amphora.
  • Athenian Red-figure calyx krater.

Ceramics in the Greek Early Classical Period

  • Red-figure painting continued to flourish during the Early, High, and Late Classical periods.
  • Their main characteristic is that they maintained features of black-figure vase painting in the red-figure technique.
  • Athenian red-figure calyx krater. c. 450 BCE.
  • Athenian redfigure calyx krater. c. 450 BCE.
  • Attic red-figure bell krater. c. 500-490 BCE.

Vase Painting in the Orientalizing Period

  • During the Orientalizing period in Corinth, human figures were rarely seen on vases.
  • The Corinthians developed the technique of black figure painting during this period.
  • Black figure pottery was carefully constructed and fired three different times to produce the unique red and black colors on each vase.
  • Additionally, red and white pigments could be added for more color or to differentiate details.
  • Unpainted portions of the vase would remain the original red-orange color of the pot.

Painting in the Early Byzantine Empire

  • They were understood to manifest the unique “presence” of the figure depicted by means of a “likeness” to that figure maintained through carefully maintained canons of representation.
  • Red signifies divine life, while blue is the color of human life.
  • In icons of Jesus and Mary, Jesus wears a red undergarment with a blue outer garment (God as Human), and Mary wears a blue undergarment with a red outer garment (humanity granted divine gifts).
  • Christ, seated in the middle, wears a blue garment over a red one to symbolize his status as God made human.
  • All three figures wear wings to signify their roles as messengers.

Sculpture of the Qin Dynasty

  • Other terracotta non-military figures were found in other pits, including officials, acrobats, strongmen and musicians.
  • The figures were painted in bright pigments before being placed into the vault, and the original colors of pink, red, green, blue, black, brown, white, and lilac were visible when the pieces were first unearthed.
  • The figures were constructed in several poses, including standing infantry, kneeling archers, and charioteers with horses.
  • Along with the colored lacquer finish, the individual facial features would have given the figures a realistic feel.
  • The terracotta army figures were manufactured in workshops by government laborers and local craftsmen using local materials.

Mycenaean Ceramics

  • The figures are stocky and lack the sinuous lines of the painted Minoan figures.
  • Instead the figures remain static and upright.
  • A red band wraps around her head with bits of hair underneath.
  • The eyes and eyebrows are outlined in blue, the lips are red, and red circles surrounded by small red dots are on her checks and chin.
  • Mycenaean Phi Figures.
  • Tukula (called twool by the Kuba) is a red powder made of ground cam wood.
  • The color red is essential to the Kuba concept of beauty and was therefore used to ornament the face, hair and chest during dances and important ceremonies, as well as to anoint bodies for burial.
  • After 1700, King Misha mi-Shyaang a-Mbul introduced wooden sculptures called ndop figures that were carved to resemble the king and represent his individual reign.
  • These figures always included the king's ibol or personal symbol, akin to a personal standard.
  • A carved ndop figure of a Kuba king, believed to be among the oldest extant ndop carvings.

Nayak Painting

  • Episodes from Hindu Puranas, Sthala-puranas, and other religious texts were visualized and painted with the main figure or figures placed in the central section of the picture, surrounded by several subsidiary figures, themes, and subjects.
  • The figures are static and often located inside decorated arches or curtains.
  • Eyes are broad and the outer lines are either brown or red, except for the god Krishna's eyes, which are depicted in blue.
  • They applied a mixture of chalk powder and African gum for an embossed look, and the painting was covered with gold foil and finished with dyes to color the figures.
  • The Nayaks issued coins made of gold and copper that featured figures of the king, animals, and Hindu gods and goddesses such as Shiva and Parvati.

Minoan Painting

  • The Minoan color palette is based in earth tones of white, brown, red, and yellow.
  • While the different skin color of the figures may differentiate male (dark) and female (light) figures, the similarity of their clothing and body shapes (lean with few curves) suggest that the figures may all be male.
  • The figures participate in activity known as bull-leaping.
  • Sparrows, painted in blue, white, and red, swoop around the landscape.
  • Similar earth-tone colors are used, including black, white, brown, red, and blue.
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Bibliography

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Antonaccio, Carla M., and Sheila Dillon, eds. The Past is Present: The Kemper Collection of Classical Antiquities at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Durham: Nasher Museum of Art, 2011.

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Clark, Andrew J., Maya Elston, and Mary Louise Hart. Understanding Greek Vases: A Guide to Terms, Styles, and Techniques. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2002.

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Onians, John. Classical Art and the Cultures of Greece and Rome. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999.

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The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010.

Van Keuren, Frances. Guide to Research in Classical Art and Mythology. Chicago: American Library Association, 1991.

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Woodford, Susan. An Introduction to Greek Art: Sculpture and Vase Painting in the Archaic and Classical Periods. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015.

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Watch the video: Attic Red-Figure: Niobid Painter, Niobid Krater (November 2022).

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