Online Encyclopedia

ETRUSCAN POTTERY

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V05, Page 723 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: del.icio.us del.icio.us it!
ETRUSCAN POTTERY.--Parallel with the development of the art of pottery in Greece runs the course of the art in. Etruria, though with far inferior results; in its later stages it is actually r10 more than a feeble imitation of the Greek. The period of time which we must consider extends from the Bronze age (moo B.C. or earlier) down to the 3rd century B.c., when Etrus- can civilization was merged into Roman. The earliest civil- ization traced in Italy is not, strictly speaking, Etruscan, but may perhaps be more accurately styled "Umbrian." It is usually referred to as the " Terramare " period from the remains discovered in that district in the basin of the Po. These people were lake-dwellers, barely removed from the Neolithic stage of culture, and their pottery was of the rudest kind, hand-made and roughly baked. Cups and pots have been found sometimes with simple decoration in the form of knobs or bosses, and many have a crescent-shaped handle serving as a support for the thumb. The next period, the earliest which- can be spoken of as " Etruscan," is known as the " Villanova " period, from a site of that name near Bologna, or as the period of pit-tombs (a pozzo), from the form of the graves in which the pottery has been found (see VILLANOVA). It begins with the 9th century B.c. and lasts for about two hundred years. The pit-tombs usually contain large cinerary urns or ossuaria (containing the ashes of the dead), fashioned by hand from a badly-levigated volcanic clay known as impasto Italico. These vessels were irregularly baked in an open fire, and the colour of the surface varies from red-brown to greyish black. They appear to have been covered with a polished slip, intended to give the vases a metallic appearance. The shape of the urns is peculiar, but uniform; they have a small handle at the widest part and a cover in the form of an inverted bowl with handle (Plate III. fig. 63). Their ornamentation consists of incised or stamped geometrical ornaments formed in the moist clay in bands round the neck and body; more rarely patterns painted in white are found. Common pottery is also found showing little advance on that of the Terramare period except in variety of decoration. The technique and ornament are the same as in the case of the urns. They correspond in development, though not in date, to the early pottery of Troy and Cyprus, as well as to the primitive pottery of other races, but one marked differenceis the general fondness of the Italian potter for vases with handles. Sometimes the cinerary urns take the form of huts (tuguria), though these are more often found in the neighbourhood of Rome. One of the best examples is in the British Museum; it still contains ashes which were inserted through a little door secured by a cord passing through rings. The ornamentation suggests the rude carpentry of a primitive hut, the cover or roof being vaulted with raised ridges to represent the beams. The surface is polished, and other specimens are occasionally painted with patterns in white. In the next stage a change is seen in the form of the tombs, the pit being replaced by a trench; this is accordingly known as the " trench-tomb " or a fossa period, and extends from the 8th century B.C. to the beginning of the 6th. Importations of Greek pottery now first make their appearance. The character of the local pottery actually remains for some time the same as that of the preceding period, but it improves in technique. By degrees an improvement in the forms is also noted, and new varieties of ornamentation are introduced; there is, however, no evidence that the wheel was used. Two entirely new classes of pottery are found at Cervetri (Caere) belonging to the 7th century. One consists of large jars (@rtam) of red ware, the lower part being moulded in ribs, while the upper has bands of design stamped round it in groups or friezes. These designs were either produced from single stamps or rolled out from cylinders like those used in Babylonia. The subjects are usually quasi-oriental in character, and it is not certain that this ware was made in Etruria, especially as similar vases have been found in Rhodes and Sicily; either it was imported, or it was a local imitation of Greek models. The other class is similar as regards the shapes and the nature of the clay, but is distinguished by having painted subjects in white outlines on a red glossy ground. The clay, a kind of impasto Italico, was first hardened by baking, and then a mixture of wax, resin and iron oxide was applied and polished; on this the pigments, a mixture of chalk and earth, were laid. The subjects are from Greek mythology or are at least Greek in character, but the technique is purely Etruscan, and the drawing is crude and un-Greek in the extreme. The fourth period shows a close continuity with the third; but the difference is defined firstly by the appearance of a new type of tomb in the form of a chamber (a camera), secondly, by the all-pervading influence of oriental art, and to a less extent of that of the Greeks_ The period extends from about 65o to 550 B.C., and is further marked by the general introduction of the wheel into Etruria arid by the appearance of inscriptions in an alphabet derived from western Greece. In the earlier tombs the typical local pottery is of hand-made impasto Italico resembling that of the previous periods; in the later we find what is known'as bucchero ware—the national pottery of Etruria—which is made on the wheel and baked in a furnace, and shows a marked tendency to imitate metal. To this period also belongs the famous Polledrara tomb or Grotto d'Iside at Vulci, the contents of which are now in the British Museum and include some remarkable specimens of pottery. It dates from about 62o–610 B.C. The most remarkable of the vases is a hydria, of reddish-brown clay covered with a lustrous black slip on which have been painted designs in red, blue and a yellowish white. The colours have unfortunately now almost disappeared, and it is doubtful if they had been fired. The principal subject is from the story of Theseus and Ariadne. This tomb also contained a large wheel-made pithos of red impasto ware with designs painted in polychrome. In the Regulini-Galassi tomb at Cervetri (about65oB.c.) large cauldrons of red glossy ware were found, with gryphons' heads projecting all round, to which chains were attached. A similar cauldron from Falerii on a high open-work stand is now in the British Museum. We now come to the bucchero ware, which is characteristic of the later portion of this period, though the earliest examples go back to the end of the 7th century. Its main feature is the black paste of which it is composed, covered with a more or less shining black slip. Modern experiments seem to indicate that the clay was smoked or fumigated in a closed chamber after baking, becoming thereby blackened throughout, and the surface was then polished with wax and resin. Analyses of the ware have proved that it contains carbon and that it had been lightly fired. The oldest bucchero vases are small and hand-made, sometimes with incised geometrical patterns engraved with a sharp tool like metal-work. Oriental influence then appears in a series of chalice-shaped cups found at Cervetri with friezes of animals. From about 56o B.C. onwards the vases are all wheel-made, with ornaments in relief either stamped from a cylinder or composed of separate medallions attached to the vase. The subjects range from animals or monsters to winged deities or suppliants making offerings (fig. 34); in other cases we find meaningless groups of figures or plant forms. These types are found chiefly in southern Etruria, but at Chiusi (Clusium) a more elaborate variety found favour from about 500 to 300 B.C. The shapes are very varied and the ornament covers the vase from top to bottom, the covers of the vases being also frequently modelled in various forms. The figures are stamped from moulds, incised designs being added to fill up the spaces. The range of subjects is much widened, including scenes from Greek mythology and oriental types combining Egyptian and Assyrian motives, which must have been introduced by the Phoenicians. Thus the technique of the bucchero wares is purely native, but the decoration is entirely dependent on foreign types whether Greek or oriental, and throughout the whole series the tendency to imitate metal-work is to be observed in every detail, both in the forms and in the methods of decoration. Some are mere counterparts of existing work in bronze. The last variety of peculiarly Etruscan pottery which calls for notice is the Canopic jar, so called from its resemblance to the Kavwaoi in which the Egyptians placed the bowels of their mummies. They are rude representations of the human figure, the head forming the cover, and in the tombs were placed on round chairs of wood, bronze or terra-cotta. An example of such a jar on a bronze-plated chair may be seen in the Etruscan Room of the British Museum (Plate III. fig. 65). Their origin has been traced to the funeral masks found in the earliest Etruscan tombs. From these a gradual transition may be observed from the mask (r) placed on the corpse, (2)on the cinerary urn, (3) the head modelled in the round and combined with the vase, and (4) at last the complete human figure. The earliest of these jars are found in,the " pit-tombs " of the 8th century B.c., and the latest and most developed types belong to the 5th century B.C. The skill shown by the Etruscans in metal-work and gem-engraving never extended to their pottery, which is always purely imitative, especially when they attempted painted vases after the Greek fashion. The kinds already described are all more or less plastic in character and imitative of metal, except in the case of the Cervetri and Polledrara finds, which have little in common with anything Greek, and exhibit a quite undeveloped art. But towards the end of the 6th century B.C., when Greek vases were coming into the country in large numbers, attempts were made to imitate the black-figure style, especially of a particular class of Ionian vases. Imitations of these are to be found in most museums and may be readily recognized as Etruscan from peculiarities of style, drawing and subject, as well as their inferior technique (fig. 35). of Alcestis and Admetus, with Etruscan inscriptions. At a later date (4th-3rd century B.C.) they began to copy red-figured vases with similarly unsuccessful results. With the exception of a small class of a somewhat ambitious character made at Falerii (Civita Castellana), of which there is a good example in the British Museum with the subject of the infant Heracles strangling the serpents, they are all marked by their inferior material and finish and their bizarre decoration. The style is often repulsive and disagreeable, as well as ineffective, and the grim Etruscan deities, such as Charun, are generally introduced. Some of these vases have painted inscriptions in the Etruscan alphabet. The latest specimens positively degenerate into barbarism. Painted vases of native manufacture are also found in the extreme south of Italy and have been attributed to the indigenous races of the Peucetians and Messapians; their decoration is partly geometrical, partly in conventional plant forms, and is the result of natural development rather than of imitation of Greek types. Some of the shapes are characteristic, especially a large four-handled krater. They cover the period 600–450 B.C., after which they were ousted by the Graeco-Italian productions we have already described.
End of Article: ETRUSCAN POTTERY
[back]
ETRUSCAN
[next]
ETTENHEIM

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.