Italy: Etruria (roughly equivalent to modern day Tuscany)
mid-5th century BCE
Materials: Bronze, wood (modern base)
This object is a small figure of a reclining man on a couch or kline, done in bronze and attached to a modern wooden base. We believe the figure in our collection is Etruscan in origin and was a decoration from the rim of an urn or other object. Sometime around 850 BCE the Etruscans settled in the land between the Tiber and Arno Rivers in Italy. It is not currently known where the Etruscans came from, but many suspect they may have immigrated from Asia Minor and/or the Eastern Mediterranean. While they were primarily a farming culture, the Etruscans also had a strong military that was able to dominate much of the Italian peninsula, including the city of Rome, by the sixth century BCE. This contact with the newly formed Roman state significantly influenced Roman culture. The following video will highlight some of the Etruscan’s artistic creations and their influence on Mediterranean culture.
Much of what we know about Etruscan culture comes from archaeological excavations of their settlements and tombs or tumuli. Etruscan tombs were elaborate in-ground structures covered by a large mound of earth. Inside these tombs, archaeologists have found plastered walls with detailed frescoes that provide useful details of everyday Etruscan life. One of the most popular of these scenes is the banqueting scene. These scenes show one or more people reclining, like the figurine above, on a raised couch or platform while being served food and drink. These scenes both depicted everyday life and had symbolic meaning in the funerary context. Banqueting scenes remained popular forms of funerary art throughout the Mediterranean region, even into early Christian times. In the Etruscan version of the banqueting scene it is common to see a man reclining on the kline along side a woman (presumably his wife). Greek and Roman banqueting scenes typically show only men, as it is thought that women in these cultures generally led more sheltered and sequestered lives than their Etruscan counterparts. [Chelsea Pierce]