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Work Campana slab: man before an altar

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

Homme devant un autel

© 2000 RMN/ Hervé Lewandowski

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

Author(s):
Astier Marie-Bénédicte

The painted terracotta slabs from the Campana Collection come from a tomb in Caere, where they seem to have been reused.
This type of covering was used to decorate the interior of civic buildings, temples, or tombs. This one depicts a sacrificial scene in which a man is advancing toward an altar, upon which a fire burns. The style of the decoration reveals the growing influence of Ionian art on Etruscan art during the late 6th century BC.

The Campana slabs: terracotta coverings

This painted terracotta slab was discovered along with five other slabs of a similar type in the Banditaccia necropolis in Caere (modern Cerveteri), in southern Etruria. These were among the most important pieces in the Marquis Campana's collection of antiquities. Purchased by Napoleon III in 1861, they entered the Louvre two years later. Produced between 550 and 525 BC by means of a technique similar to the one used for painted vases, this type of covering could have been used to decorate civic buildings, temples, or tombs. In this instance, the Campana slabs seem to have been recut and used to clad the interior walls of the tomb in which they were discovered.

A sacrificial scene

The significance of the decoration and the exact identification of the subjects represented by these paintings are still causing controversy today. The location in which they were discovered does not allow us to conclude that this is a strictly funerary iconography. Mythological interpretations are hardly more conclusive. Moreover, the six slabs do not constitute a continuous and coherent ensemble. The scene taking place on this slab seems more explicit: beneath a cornice decorated with gadroons, a man-a priest or simply a devout person perhaps-appears to be making a sacrifice before an altar upon which a fire is lit. A lebes, or ritual basin, is resting on a small column placed at the edge of the altar, adding to the religious character of the ceremony depicted.

The influence of eastern Greece

The design follows the conventions of Archaic painting, with a stylization of the bodies that is characteristic of Etruscan art. It also owes much to the style practiced by Greek artists from Ionia, evident in the shape of the faces with their extremely narrow eyes, the proportions of the figures, and the attention to decorative detail and gesture. During the late 6th century BC, the people from this region of Asia Minor had to emigrate in large numbers to Etruria, having been forced into exile because of the pressure from Persia. At that time the Ionian influence was increasing substantially, permeating most of the Etruscan art produced during this period.

Bibliography

Briguet Marie-Françoise, Le Sarcophage des époux de Cerveteri
du musée du Louvre, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1988, pp. 73-75, fig. 76.
Colonna Giovanni (sous la dir. de), Santuari d'Etruria, Milan, Arezzo, 1985, pp. 43-44, n 1, 30.
Roncalli Francesco, Le Lastre dipinte da Cerveteri, Florence, G. C. Sansoni, 1966, pp. 84-93, fig. 2, pl. 3.
Torelli Mario (sous la dir. de), Gli Etruschi, cat. exp. Venise, palais Grassi, 26 novembre 2000-1er juin 2001, Milan, Bompiani, 2000, p. 597, n 174.

Technical description

  • Homme devant un autel

    Troisième quart du VIe siècle av. J.-C.

    Provenance : Cerveteri, nécropole de la Banditaccia

  • H. : 1,24 m. ; L. : 0,59 m.

  • Collection Campana, 1863 , 1863

    Cp 6626

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Denon wing
    Ground floor
    Etruria I
    Room 18
    Vitrine 2

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