+
3 Tutorials that teach The Etruscans
Take your pick:
The Etruscans

The Etruscans

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will focus on the art and architecture of the Etruscans

(more)
See More

Try Sophia’s Art History Course. For Free.

Our self-paced online courses are a great way to save time and money as you earn credits eligible for transfer to over 2,000 colleges and universities.*

Begin Free Trial
No credit card required

25 Sophia partners guarantee credit transfer.

221 Institutions have accepted or given pre-approval for credit transfer.

* The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE Credit®) has evaluated and recommended college credit for 20 of Sophia’s online courses. More than 2,000 colleges and universities consider ACE CREDIT recommendations in determining the applicability to their course and degree programs.

Tutorial

An overview of Etruscan art and Architecture.

Video Transcription

Download PDF

[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell, and today's lesson is about the Etruscans and Etruscan art. As you're watching the video feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as many times you feel is necessary. And as soon as you're ready we can begin.

Today's objectives, or the things we're going to learn today, are listed below. By the end of the lesson today you will be able to identify and define today's key terms, describe some of the similarities between Etruscan tombs and Egyptian tombs, and describe how examples of sarcophagi artwork provide revelations into the Etruscan view of women, and finally, identify and describe examples of Etruscan bronze work.

Key terms as always are listed in yellow throughout the lesson. First key term is Archaic Smile, the stiff, unnaturalistic facial expression seen in many archaic Kouros and Kore figures, Ridgepole, the ridged element at the top of Etruscan temples, Podium, an elevated platform, Stucco, a plaster used for coating wall surfaces, Low Relief, a type of relief sculpture in which the three dimensional element only extends from the wall surface a little bit, and Sarcophagus, a stone coffin often decorated with sculpture. The big idea for today is that the Etruscans were a distinct culture with highly accomplished artists and influenced the culture, art, and architecture of ancient Rome. And this lesson does have required art work, which is in purple.

So our time frame today covers the years from 515 BC to the 1st century BC. And that's just the Etruscan artwork that we're going to be looking at today covers those years. And the Roman Republic was founded in 509 BC, and that is shown there as a comparison. The Italian peninsula, once again, with Rome as a reference point here. And the area in blue corresponds to the central region of the Etruscan civilization.

So, the Etruscan civilization, or Etruria, was located between the Tiber and Arno River right next to where the Roman civilization developed. And eventually they were conquered by the Romans, but the civilization wasn't destroyed. And that's an important thing to keep in mind. It wasn't eliminated after they were conquered but rather absorbed into the Roman civilization.

Now, the Etruscans were very accomplished artists and shared stylistic characteristics with the Greeks, such as this terracotta sarcophagus of a man and woman from 520 BC. And the first thing that stands out is their relaxed and informal pose quickly followed by the use of the archaic smile, just like we see in the archaic sculpture of ancient Greece.

The depiction of the man and woman together supports the Etruscan notion of women being more equal with men as opposed to the relegation of women to second class individuals within Greek society. So, for example, Etruscan women could attend public events, like symposia, which were like ancient events where people got together and lounged, chatted, or just kind of hung out, and sporting events, while Greek women could not attend those things.

Now, the happy depiction on sarcophagi didn't remain. In fact, after the conquest by the Romans there are examples like the Lars Pulena sarcophagus, which isn't pictured, that show an interesting juxtaposition of a single reclining figure on the lid, just a man, no wife, with side reliefs showing him being attacked by demons. Scholars have suggested this may reflect the politics of the time and the unhappiness with the decline of Etruscan civilization, so an interesting comparison to the happy couple we see here.

So, the Etruscans did not limit themselves only to sculpture. They're rather accomplished painters as well. And this fresco from the Tomb of the Leopards recalls the stylistic conventions of ancient Egypt like the flat two dimensional images and the combination of perspectives, so the side view for the body and frontal view for the eye, very similar to what we saw in Egyptian depictions of people.

Now, the tombs themselves may suggest a similar idea of the afterlife to that of the Egyptian religions, or religion, where the dead were entombed with the comforts of the living to ensure a pleasurable afterlife. Now, in this image of the Tomb of the Reliefs, the actual objects are simulated, or rendered in stone or relief, in fact, in low relief, on the walls.

Now, the Etruscans were masters in bronze work. And the Capitoline Wolf is one of the most famous examples. Now, originally this would've been only a wolf, as the wolf was thought to have held some symbolic importance among the Etruscans. The addition of the twin babies, Romulus and Remus, the founder twins of Rome, was added during the Renaissance and recalls the legendary story of their birth. So the original image just would have been of the wolf. So again, it's called the Capitoline Wolf, twins were added later, it's from about 500 BC, and it is in bronze.

Now, this Chimera is another great example of the skill that Etruscan artists possessed. And this depiction of the mythical chimera shows it with a serpent's tail, body of a lion, and goat head, that's kind of interesting, emerging from its back. Speaking of interesting, it's really an interesting blend of realism and stylism.

The musculature, the pose, and the suggestion of ribs beneath the skin, you can see that here, are very naturalistic in their appearance, while the mane, the whiskers on its muzzle, and hair along the spine are highly stylized and actually patterned if you look closely. It's a really beautiful rendition of what appears to be a wounded animal kind of sulked back in fear and preparing to pounce in defense. And it's sometimes referred to as the Wounded Chimera, from 4th century BC, and again it's in bronze.

Now, this final bronze example is one of the latest samples of Etruscan artwork. It clearly shows the influence that the Romans had on Etruscan civilization as the Etruscan civilization was fully absorbed by the Romans at this point. Also it's the Aule Metele, also known as The Orator, from 1st century BC, and it is in bronze.

Now, distinct Roman stylistic elements can be seen in this, such as the dress or the clothing, the pose, and the physical features like the close-cropped hair, which is a little bit hard to see in this picture, which are typical Roman features. In fact, the only thing truly Etruscan in its depiction is the name. In a way it's sort of symbolic of the way in which the Etruscan civilization dissolved into and melded with the Roman civilization. It's almost as if he's waving goodbye.

So that brings us to the end of this lesson. Let's take a look at our objectives to see if we met them. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms, describe some of the similarities between Etruscan tombs and Egyptian tombs, describe how examples of sarcophagi artwork provide revelations into the Etruscan view of women, and identify and describe examples of Etruscan bronze work?

And once again the big idea for today is that the Etruscans were a distinct culture with highly accomplished artists and influenced the culture, art, and architecture of ancient Rome. There you go. Thank you for joining me today. I will see you next time.

Citations

Image of Sarcophagus with reclining couple  Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Banditaccia_Sarcofago_Degli_Sposi.jpg Image of Tomb of the Reliefs, Cerveteri, Photo by Alessandro Antonelli, Public Domain, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tomba_dei_rilievi_2.jpg Image of Tomb of the Leopards, Tarquinia, Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tarquinia_Tomb_of_the_Leopards.jpg Image of Capitoline Wolf Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:She-wolf_suckles_Romulus_and_Remus.jpg Image of Chimera of Arezzo Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chimera_d%27arezzo,_fi,_04.JPG Image of Aule Metele, Creative Commons, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:L%27Arringatore.jpg

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Archaic Smile

    The stiff, unnaturalistic facial expression seen in many Archaic Kouros and Kore figures.

  • Ridgepole

    The ridged element at the top of Etruscan temples.

  • Podium

    An elevated platform.

  • Stucco

    A plaster used for coating wall surfaces.

  • Low Relief

    A type of relief sculpture in which the three-dimensional element only extends from the wall surface a little bit.

  • Sarcophagus

    A stone coffin, often decorated with sculpture.