Ancient Etruscan Art

A view of Etruscan art might effectively be described as half a painting. As a people, the Etruscans are veiled with mystery and a considerable amount of their culture and art has been lost to history. The art that has survived conveys important revelations about these ancient people of the Italian peninsula, but it does not reflect their whole story. Too much has been lost to paint a reliable picture.

Nevertheless, the art that has survived the centuries depicts a people that were highly religious. Surviving Etruscan art in the form of wall painting (frescoes), metalwork, and sculpture has a religious connotation. These items of northern Italy date between the ninth and second centuries B.C. and coincide considerably with the art of ancient Greece. Indeed, there are many similarities, but the Etruscan aesthetic appears to have retained a simplicity that is more in keeping with the Greek Archaic period of art.

Much of Etruscan art that has survived is also funerary in nature—hence the religious overtones. Tombs and temple carvings were painted showing a remarkable command of coloration. While many artistic artifacts convey the Etruscan belief in a negative afterlife, other objects convey a tell-tale Etruscan smile that was frequently produced on figures or in paintings. Aside from funerary art, the Etruscans are noted for their painted vases and terracotta sculpture. The few unearthed frescoes that have survived have also been dubbed spectacular by art historians and historians in general.

Excavation has also hinted at variation of art between cities. This was common among other ancient societies as well—especially with ancient Greeks who influenced the evolution of Etruscan art. Etruscan sculpture is believed to be highly influenced by Greek sculpture. Etruscans, however, are anciently famous for their gold work that used a technique of granulation that has only been rediscovered in the last century. Some of the most famous Etruscan art works are the Sarcophagus dei Sposi and the frescoes of the Tomb of the Lioness at Tarquinia.

Etruscan art that is not religious in nature often featured cheerful scenes such as figures of men and women dancing or a man playing flutes among birds. Etruscan frescoes of common life depict people experiencing simple pleasures. Figures are depicted in health and happiness. The Etruscan style would eventually merge with Roman art. Unfortunately, many Etruscan objects of art were destroyed by the Romans who required their raw materials—metal, for instance. Nevertheless, an Etruscan aesthetic survives in the art that has been unearthed and preserved over the centuries.