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Work Etrusco-Corinthian alabastron: animal frieze

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

Alabastre : frises d'animaux

© Musée du Louvre

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

Author(s):
Astier Marie-Bénédicte

After the Orientalizing period, trade intensified between Etruria, Greece, and the Near East, contributing to the development of an Etruscan art marked by multiple influences. Made in the 6th century BC, this alabastron is decorated with friezes of animals in motion (lions, swans, and cocks), similar to the decorative vocabulary imported from the East a century earlier. Its shape and decoration are inspired by unguent vases from Corinth, which arrived in Etruria during the Archaic period.

Corinthian pottery: a source of inspiration

This painted terracotta alabastron is an Etruscan creation from the 6th century BC. Part of the Marquis Campana's collection of antiquities, it entered the Louvre in 1863. With its pear-shaped belly, flat mouth, and short handle, it was probably designed to contain unguents or perfume oils. Its form deliberately imitates that of the pottery produced in Corinth, a major Greek city located on the Isthmus, which links the Peloponnese to central Greece. During the 7th century BC, the workshops of Corinth were making banqueting vases and small perfume vases, which circulated in large number throughout Etruria until the Archaic period. The decoration was made using the black-figure technique, which originated in Corinth, with additional detailing by means of red paint and incisions.

An Orientalizing bestiary

The decoration on the belly is divided into three figured zones composed of animals in motion, and also has palmettes and rosettes scattered around the field of the vase. Cocks, roaring lions, and panthers face each other on each of the three registers; two swans are also represented, one with its wings unfurled, the other perched on the body of a panther. The Etruscan artisan has freely drawn inspiration from Orientalizing motifs, which were known to him through Corinthian pottery.

A time of flourishing trade

The Orientalizing and Archaic periods were a time of economic prosperity for the Etruscans, creating a particularly favorable context for commercial exchanges with Greece and the Near East. In particular, they imported painted vases by the thousand from Corinth, Rhodes, Laconia, Athens, and Ionia. Etruscan artisans also made imitations of inferior quality-what is known as Etrusco-Corinthian pottery-in which they happily combined imported decorative and technical repertoires with the local vocabulary.

Bibliography

Pottier Edmond (sous la dir. de), Corpus vasorum antiquorum,
musée du Louvre, fascicule 9, Paris, E. Champion, 1933, III CB, p. 13,
pl. 8, 11 et 13.
Szilágyi János György, Ceramica etrusco-corinzia figurata, vol. II,
590/580-550 av. J.-C., Florence, L. S. Olschki, 1992-1999, pp. 628 et 631.

Technical description

  • Cycle des coqs affrontés

    Alabastre : frises d'animaux

    570 - 550 avant J.-C.

    Production : Vulci ?, Cerveteri ?

  • Terre cuite

    H. : 20 cm. ; D. : 9,50 cm.

  • Collection Campana, 1863

    E 460

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Denon wing
    Ground floor
    Etruria I
    Room 18
    Vitrine 4

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