In This Article Etruscan Sculpture

  • Introduction
  • Sculpture in its Broader Context
  • Specific Works on Sculpture
  • Sarcophagi
  • Funerary Reliefs in Architectural Contexts
  • Etruscan and Italic Sculpture Outside Etruria

Classics Etruscan Sculpture
by
P. Gregory Warden
  • LAST REVIEWED: 10 November 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 May 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0123

Introduction

The primary focus of Etruscan sculpture was the human body. In this sense, the main interest of Etruscan sculptors was similar to that of their Greek neighbors, but the result was often strikingly different. Etruscan sculptural display, at least as it has been preserved, was closely connected to religious observance, to funerary ritual, and to votive religion and thus has been found almost exclusively in either mortuary or sanctuary contexts. Etruscan art as a whole is remarkably varied, and sculpture is no less heterogeneous, thus defying easy taxonomy and any single chronological developmental organization. There are indeed great differences over time, as one might expect of artistic traditions that lasted almost a millennium, but there is no sense of a single stylistic development except in cases of works that are strongly influenced by Greek art. There are great regional differences as well, with dramatic differences of both style and form from one urban center to another. One of the defining characteristics of Etruscan sculpture is in fact the strength of regional traditions, which may be connected to Etruscan urbanism as well as remarkably different regional reactions to external influences from the Near East in the late 8th and 7th centuries BCE and from Greece from the 6th century onward.

Sculpture in its Broader Context

Because of its great variety, synthetic works on Etruscan sculpture are rare, and some of the best treatments of the medium are found in general works, either in the context of classical art in general (Bianchi Bandinelli and Torelli 1976) or of Etruscan art, for instance, Brendel 1995, whose traditional, chronological approach (much of which is devoted to sculpture) follows the currents of Hellenizing influences on the Etruscans. Banti 1973 and Camporeale 2000 are extremely useful for an approach that focuses on regional styles; the latter has an excellent addendum with entries on specific Etruscan centers. Some of the best documentation is provided in Sprenger and Bartoloni 1983. The analysis of a ubiquitous motif in Brown 1960 is a classic iconographic study that includes a vast range of sculptural types.

  • Banti, Luisa. 1973. The Etruscan cities and their culture. London: Batsford.

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    A book that revolutionized the study of Etruscan art by documenting its regional nature.

  • Bianchi Bandinelli, Rannuccio, and Mario Torelli. 1976. L’arte dell’antichità classica: Etruria-Roma. Turin: Unione Tipografica Editrice Torinese.

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    An excellent general summary of classical art seen through the filter of Hellenism.

  • Brendel, Otto J. 1995. Etruscan art. 2d ed. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    A useful and very detailed summary with a traditional approach that stresses chronology and dependence on Greek influences.

  • Brown, William Llewellyn. 1960. The Etruscan lion. Oxford: Clarendon.

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    One of the best iconographical surveys; reprinted in 1980.

  • Camporeale, Giovannangelo. 2000. Gli Etruschi: Storia e civiltà. Turin: Unione Tipografica Editrice Torinese.

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    An up-to-date book with a useful bibliography that takes a similar approach to Banti 1973 by analyzing Etruscan artistic production in its regional contexts.

  • Sprenger, Maja, and Gilda Bartoloni. 1983. The Etruscans: Their history, art, and architecture. Translated by Robert E. Wolf. New York: Abrams.

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    A well-illustrated study that includes most major works of sculpture, with useful analysis and a bibliography.

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