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Work Incense burner

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

Incense burner

© 1985 RMN / Pierre et Maurice Chuzeville

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

Author(s):
Marie-Bénédicte Astier

The stand of this perfume burner features a young woman dancing to the sound of the crotalum, perched on a tripod in the form of lion's paws. The graceful movement surging through her body is prolonged by the disproportionately long hands, inviting the spectator to take part in the dance. Music and dancing played an important role in Etruscan ceremony.

An incense burner with a figurative stand

This bronze incense burner is evidence of the vogue for small luxury items that was widespread in Etruria throughout the archaic and classical periods. The burner was made in the early fifth century BC, using a solid-cast lost-wax technique. A tripod in the form of a lion's paws resting on rondels supports a circular top on which a dancer moves to the sound of the crotalum. Her clothes are engraved with fine, circle- and star-shaped designs. Resting on the head of the statuette is a cylindrical stem embellished with six sconces and terminating with a fleuron.

An invitation to join in the music and dancing

The impulse that sweeps through the young woman's body and the graceful movements of her arms and legs appeal directly to the spectator to join in the music and dancing that accompanied Etruscan ceremonies. The artist has deliberately exaggerated the proportions of the hands, so as to give greater fullness to the gestures.

A creation of the Vulci workshops

It is not known precisely where this censer comes from, nor where it was made, but it is generally considered to have been produced by a bronzefounder in Vulci, in central Etruria, because of the similarity of the statuette to figurines on candelabra and censers made at Vulci during the same period. Most of these stand on similar tripods, composed of three lion's feet resting on rondels. Furthermore, the craftsmen of Vulci were renowned during the archaic period for their production of bronze tableware and other moveables, the stands for which were often adorned with animal or human figurines.

Technical description

  • Incense burner

    Early fifth century BC

    Etruria

  • Solid-cast bronze with engraved design

    H. 43 cm

  • Former collection

    Dancer with a crotalum (thymiaterion)

    Br 3145

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Denon wing
    Ground floor
    Etruria I
    Room 18

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