Italian And Etruscan Sculpture
( Originally Published 1896 )
ANCIENT ITALY AND ITS SCULPTURE. The history of Italy until two centuries after the foundation of Rome still remains extremely obscure. The peoples that inhabited it, the time of their advent into the peninsula, the circumstances of their progress and decline, their relation to each other, are all largely a matter of conjecture, based either upon literature, tradition, or archaeological evidence. We can hardly state more than that there were from the earliest times two currents of emigration, one by land from the north and the other by sea from the south; that the land invaders were probably the more numerous and certainly the least civilized; that the Oriental and Greek civilizing influences came in periodic waves, through immigration and commerce, and powerfully affected the less civilized races.
There is but little unity in the pre-Roman sculpture of Italy, in its styles, its subjects, its methods, or its growth. The character of the monuments first brought to the notice of the inhabitants by means of commerce was not calculated to develop the sentiment for monumental sculpture, or to relate the art integrally to the life of the people. Nor was there any plastic sense among the Italic tribes, the Etruscans, or the native tribes of Hellenic origin. Sculpture, when developed, was essentially utilitarian and had little aesthetic mission. It was employed to decorate objects of use and ornament, and when it was brought, at a late date, to the service of mythology, that mythology was but a transcript of those scenes from Greek myths that seemed to the Etruscans suitable to illustrate the life, death, and future of their dead.
MATERIAL AND METHOD. Bronze, terracotta, stone, marble, and silver were used by the Italic and Etruscan sculptors. In bronze work the earliest reproductions are in repousse relief, of which good examples are the situlae or buckets, especially interesting for the development of sculpture in the region north of the Po during the fifth and fourth centuries, and, in a more advanced style, in the third century. The similarity of the Tuscan work to the Greek is sometimes so great as to make it almost impossible to distinguish them apart. Terracotta was, however, the favorite material for sculpture throughout Central and Southern Italy from the sixth to the third centuries, and nowhere can the sculpturesque possibilities of this material be seen so well exhibited as in the history of sculpture in these early Italian schools. It was used instead of stone or marble during nearly the entire period for the temple sculptures. The gables and friezes were of terracotta slabs, in high or low relief, fastened to the wooden framework. Similar reliefs were used on a smaller scale in the decoration of tombs. The acroteria and antefixes were usually figures, busts, or heads, in relief, of terracotta, and were used on a large scale throughout the south of Italy.
Stone was used at first mainly in connection with funerary sculptures. At least as early as 600 B.C. reclining stone statues on funeral beds were executed for the domical tomb of Vetulonia. Soon afterward carved stone stelae were erected to mark the site of the graves through a great part of Etruria. Not until late in the fifth century does the use of large carved stone or terracotta sarcophagi come in, and then only for a limited time and in a restricted region. In the following century, when Etruscan art had taken so overwhelming a Greek character, it became the fashion (cremation being the favorite rite) to preserve the ashes of the deceased in small oblong marble urns with covers. The faces of the effigies were covered with reliefs of funerary significance, and the cover was surmounted by the figure of the deceased individual and his wife. The great mass of late Etruscan sculptures belongs to this class of monuments, which exercised considerable influence upon the formation of Roman sculpture, and then, in its turn, was reacted upon by the Roman school.
HISTORY. An examination of the Peninsula as a whole shows that the earliest monuments of sculpture date no further back than the eighth century B.C., and that they are to be found mainly in maritime Tuscan Etruria. The entire region north of the Po was unproductive until the fifth century, when it began to produce certain funerary and industrial objects in a barbarous style that can be divided into two schools : the Euganean, with its centre at Este, which was thoroughly independent, and the Vilianova style, with its centre at Bologna, which was a crude branch of Etruscan art. These two schools remained almost unchanged until the time of Roman domination. South of the Po we find that the present province of Tuscany, with part of Umbria and the Roman section of Etruria, furnished the great bulk of sculpture during the entire pre-Roman period. The Roman province proper, with the cities of the Sabines, Marsi, Volsci, and Hernici, have thus far furnished hardly a single monument. Farther south the art was essentially Greek, except at Capua, which appears to have been a meeting-place for early Etruscan and archaic Greek art.
ORIENTAL OR ARCHAIC GREEK. Confining ourselves, therefore, to Etruria proper, where alone we have a continuous series of monuments interesting in the history of art, we find that the first period—that of the eighth, seventh, and sixth centuries—is essentially Oriental or Archaic Greek. At that time Etruria was still dependent for its objects of luxury and art upon the Eastern market and upon the Phoenician merchants, especially those of Carthage, who still retained the dominion of Italian waters. The Etruscans them-selves were slowly making their conquering way through the cities north and east of their primitive settlement near Monte Amiata. This movement, begun in the eighth century, did not end until the close of the sixth century, with the conquest of Perugia. Clusium, Arretium, Volaterm, Ruscellae, and Vetulonia were among the last cities to resist them. In several of the cities of Etruria which were, according to tradition, of " Pelasgic " (i.e., primitive Greek) foundation, we find monuments apparently antedating the Etruscan conquest. The Regulini-Galassi tomb at Vulci, and other tombs with domical or arched vaults, notably the recently discovered chamber at Vetulonia, were certainly not. the work of the Etruscans, whose tomb-chambers invariably copied wooden constructions with flat or gabled ceilings. The contents of the tombs of this class, and of thou-sands of contemporary tombs of lesser importance, show that sculpture was at that time put almost entirely to decorative purposes and utilized in the service of industrial and not of monumental a r t , and that, furthermore, the great majority of the objects found were imported, and were either of Phoenician manufacture or brought by the Phoenicians from Egypt and Western Asia. Extreme luxury was indulged in by the women, who wore earrings, bracelets, and necklaces of gold having decorations of heads, figures, and reliefs. The house furniture appears to have been rich, judging from the tombs, which contained silver bowls, bronze tripods, and candelabra, jewelry cases, couches, etc. The style of these works is always Oriental, even when one discerns the hand of a native artist, and it bears not even a remote resemblance to the later native Etruscan art. The same judgment may be passed upon the few remains of contemporary monumental sculpture. The earliest examples appear to be the stone female figures, about life-size, lately discovered in the domical chamber of la Pietrera at Vetulonia. They are completely nude, and are represented either rigidly reclining on their backs on funereal couches, or standing upright, the pointed base on which they stand being fixed in the ground. The proportions are good, and the heads interesting and of precisely the same type as the heads on the gold jewelry found in the earliest Vetulonian tombs. Almost contemporary with these unique female figures are the earliest of the stone stelae usually marking the tombs of men, especially warriors. The connection with Greece as well as with the Orient is based not only upon the traditions of Greek emigrations, but upon the continuous relations with Greece as shown by the fact that C ere, and probably also Tarquinii, had treasuries at Delphi, and were therefore regarded as Greek cities during the seventh century. Bronzes of the sixth century, found at Perugia (Perusia) and Chiusi (Clusium), antedating the capture of these cities by the Etruscans, are of purely Ionian Greek style. These objects, therefore, although not equalling the Oriental in number and influence, hold a distinct place in this early period.
ARCHAIC ETRUSCAN style, in all its primitive crudeness, realism, and love of the horrible; and it is the only period when Etruria is but little influenced by other nations, although even now we perceive traces both of the lingering of Oriental and the more frequent incoming of Greek wares. It lasts through the fifth century and the carly part of the fourth. The importation of Greek Corinthian and black-figured vases had a strong influence upon the style of Etruscan sculpture, especially upon the funeral bas-reliefs and the bronzes. The shapelessness of the figures betrays the copying of flat models. The sites of the tombs are now often marked by sculptured stelae and figures in place of the earlier undecorated cones. In the warrior figures on the stelae, in the winged lions or sphinxes in stone that guard the entrances, we trace Oriental traditions. Some early reliefs on large sarcophagi seem copied from the banquet scenes on Greek vases; while on some carved stone cippi there are mourning scenes in low-relief of extreme realism, which give the truest measure of early Etruscan sculpture, with its lack of artistic sense both in composition and design.
This lack of artistic sense is also well illustrated by some early cinerary urns of stone or terracotta in the form of hollow statues, seated or standing, with removable heads. Among the large sculptured sarcophagi of the period are two of remark-able interest—one in the Louvre and the other in the British Museum. The realism of the strongly marked and ugly features is enhanced by brilliant coloring and by an elaboration of the most minute details of costume and ornament. During this period we no longer find as great a wealth of jewelry and other objects in metal in the tombs : these are partly replaced by the less expensive earthenware vases, at times imported from Greece, especially Attica, at times of home manufacture. The most important works were, without doubt, the terracotta sculptures with which the gables of the Etruscan temples were decorated. Such were the gables of the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus in Rome, executed by Etruscan sculptors.
THE HELLENIC PERIOD, or the third period, lasts during a great part of the fourth and third centuries. Etruscan art became more supple and varied in its forms, threw off some of the crude qualities of its realism, and not only attempted to copy closely the style of the numerous works of Greek art imported either directly or from the cities of Southern Italy, but adapted to its use a large number of the scenes of Greek mythology. Terracotta, which had hitherto been the favorite material, was now rivalled by bronze and marble. With the spread of the practice of incineration, the small marble cinerary urn, with reliefs on its sides and reclining figures on its cover, were manufactured by the thousand. The bronze-workers had become so skilful that their works were eagerly sought for, even in Attica. There was a revival of decorative art, shown especially in the multitude of bronze engraved mirrors, in the famous cistae, or jewel-cases, in arms and armor, and in statues. The Romans found two thousand bronze statues in Volsinii alone in 28o B.C. Very few bronze statues have been preserved that may be regarded as Etruscan. The Wolf of the Capitol, the Minerva, and the Chimaera seem to be Greek. The Mars of Todi, the Orator of Florence, and the Child with the Bird in the Vatican seem genuine examples of Etruscan work. Terracotta continued to be in use for temple sculptures. Only a few fragments of the gable statuary of this period remain; for example, some figures from a temple at Luni, in the Florence Museum, others from an unknown temple in the Vatican Museum, and from the temple of Juno at Falerii, in the Papa Giulio Museum at Rome. The style of these works is partly or entirely Hellenic.
There came a time when Etruscan sculpture, after having exercised considerable influence in Rome, became merged in the general development of Italian sculpture under the direction of the Greek artists established in Rome during the last two centuries of the Republic.
EXTANT MONUMENTS. Etruscan sculpture may be best studied in Italy at the Museo Civico of Bologna, the Museo Archeologico at Florence, the local museums of Volterra, Perugia, Corneto, and Chiusi, and at Rome in the Vatican and Papa Giulio Museums. The British Museum and the principal Continental museums have representative examples of Etruscan urns, terracottas, bronzes, sarcophagi, and jewelry.