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Etruscan Pottery

( Originally Published Late 1800's )

Demaratus, a father of Tarquin-says Pliny brought the art of pottery into Etruria. The peculiarity of Etruscan ware is its fineness, which was probably attained by a careful selection of soil, to the exclusion of all gross particles and sandy substances. The lathe or wheel, with other apparatus similar to that used in Delft at the present day, were probably employed in its manufacture, and the utmost care was bestowed upon it before it was subjected to heat. A white earth was generally used, to which was afterward applied the Manganesia Vitriariorum, a bolar earth, which assumed, upon burning, a deep red color; the black was then applied, which, by cutting away and tracing in various forms and figures, revealed the red background.

This mode of procedure was not strictly adhered to, but the variation was slight ; and the fact of a monotonous repetition of form somewhat mars the interest which would otherwise attach itself to this ware. Wincklemann calls all the Etruscan work Campanian, but as Campania was part of Etruria the distinction seems almost frivolous. Of the Etruscan or Campanian vases those of Nola seem to reach the highest degree of excellence, whether regarded as matters of design or workmanship. Beside the customary unshaaded colors of black and red, these have sometimes an enamel or varnish of various hues, laid on with a peculiar instrument; the white, black, or red, was afterward added, and the contour or ornament traced thereon. Ordinarily the vases are of black ground, and the ornaments entirely of red, or some other color, relieved by white chalk. Occasionally the hands, feet, and faces of figures were tinted with pink, but these tints are not frequently found, and it is probable that the art was not in extensive use. These are among the few of the very antique vases which bear a mark designating the manufacture; and the significant figure most generally found is a rose, impressed. Other marks are known, but this was most extensively used. In the United States there are at least two extensive collections of Etruscan vases, one of which is, I believe, owned in Boston, and about to be presented to some public repository there, the other is in the hands of a New York collector.

The origin of Etruscan ware has been, and is, a matter of doubt. To the time of Wincklemann every one had assigned it to the country from which it derives its name, but this daring innovator and far-searching scholar denies in toto its local origin, and the fact that it is found most profusely, not only in various parts of Italy, but in Sicily, and amid the ruins of all Greece, bears him out. Wincklemann, Boettiger, and Millin all ascribe it to Greece, and the following identifications confirm the propriety of their conclusions. The subjects which ornament the vases are all taken from Greek history, fabulous and real. With little exception they illustrate Greek manners, and the inscriptions found upon them are universally in the ancient Greek characters. Some of the vases were wrought in Etruria proper, but by Greek artists who early settled in Campania, upon the borders of the Adriatic, and there carried to infinite perfection an art which they brought from their own land.

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