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Work Antefix with female head

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Etruscan Art (9th-1st centuries BC)

Antefix with female head

© 1990 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Etruscan Art (9th-1st centuries BC)

Author(s):
Astier Marie-Bénédicte

Etruscan buildings were often constructed from perishable materials, and the upper parts were protected by decorative polychrome terracotta elements. Antefixes were used to conceal the ends of the convex tiles along the eaves of the roof. Made in a mold, they were generally modeled in the form of a male or female face. During the early 5th century BC, the female face began to break free of Archaic conventions and Ionian models under the influence of Athenian creations.

The triple function of architectural terracottas

During the Archaic period, the workshops at Caere (modern Cerveteri) in southern Etruria produced a large number of architectural terracottas (friezes, covering plaques, acroteria, and antefixes) designed to decorate sacred buildings. Etruscan temples were largely built from perishable materials: wood, bricks, or blocks of tuff for the superstructure; stone for the base. Antefixes had three functions. Placed on the eaves of the roof, they concealed the ends of the convex tiles and protected them from bad weather. They were also part of the architectural decoration. Finally, they had an apotropaic role, banishing bad luck and bad influences from temples. Made in molds and painted, they usually took the form of a male or female face.

Ionian features tempered by the Attic influence

This antefix was part of the Marquis Campana's collection, which was acquired by the Louvre in 1863. It was made in the early 5th century BC, and is distinguished by its remarkable craftsmanship and the fact that it differs from Ionian models. Many Archaic antefixes with female heads were directly inspired by eastern Greek art, which was widespread during the late 6th century BC, because of trade and the arrival in Etruria and Greater Greece of many Ionian artists fleeing the Persian threat. However, here the imprint of the Ionians is tempered by the influence of Athenian works, an influence that had become increasingly marked at the beginning of the 5th century. The attention to decorative detail is still very much in evidence: the undulating hair is surmounted by a high diadem adorned with lotus buds, and heavy round earrings hang from the ears. Nevertheless, the face is longer, and the modeling is more three-dimensional and less linear. As in Attic sculpture, the forehead is high, the cheekbones are clearly defined, and the almond-shaped eyes are more open and less narrow than in Ionian art.

Breaking free of Archaic conventions

This head also seems to break away from Archaic conventions, even though it still remains close to female figures of the 6th century BC. The expression on the face is more serious, and the mouth is barely smiling. It is not entirely severe, as with some later antefixes, but it heralds the complete disappearance of the Archaic smile.

Bibliography

Andrén Arvid, Architectural terracottas from Etrusco-Italic temples, Lund,
C. W. K. Gleerup 1940, pp. 31-33, n 29.
Aspects de l'art des Étrusques dans les collections du musée du Louvre, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1976-1977, p. 20, n 34, fig. 34.
Briguet Marie-Françoise, Le Sarcophage des époux de Cerveteri du musée du Louvre, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1988, pp. 79-81, fig. 87-88.
Briguet Marie-Françoise, "Le sarcophage des époux de Cerveteri du musée du Louvre", in Monumenti etruschi, 4, 1989, pp. 202-204, fig. 42, pl. 14a.
Lindros Wohl Birgitta, "Three female Head antefixes from Etruria",
in The Getty Museum Journal, 12, 1984, pp. 114-116.
Pallottino Massimo, Giuseppe Foti, Antonio Frova, Franco Panvini Rosati (sous la dir. de) Art et civilisation des Étrusques, octobre-décembre 1955, cat. adapté et traduit par Jean Charbonneaux et Marie-Françoise Briguet, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1955, p. 53, n 254.

Technical description

  • Antefix with female head

    Late 6th century-early 5th century BC

    Cerveteri (Caere), central Italy

    Cerveteri (Caere), southern Etruria

  • Clay, molding, slip, and paint

    H. 26.5 cm; L. 16 cm

  • Former Campana Collection; purchased 1863

    Cp 5164

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Denon wing
    Ground floor
    Etruria I
    Room 18

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