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Work Nikosthenic Amphora

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

Nikosthenic Amphora

© 2008 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

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

Author(s):
Astier Marie-Bénédicte

The ceramic technique known as Bucchero was created by artisans in the Etruscan town of Cerveteri. During the sixth century BCE and throughout the Archaic period, it was widely used to create a number of different vase shapes, often inspired by Greek tableware. Certain Etruscan productions also influenced the form and decorative organization of Attic ceramics, including amphorae produced by the Athenian potter Nikosthenes.

Bucchero ware

This vase, which entered the Louvre as part of the Campana collection, belongs to an abundant series of Bucchero amphorae that were probably produced in the Etruscan city-state of Cerveteri in the sixth century BCE. Bucchero ware first appeared in Cerveteri around 675-660 BCE. The technique produced a metallic sheen enabling potters to produce cheaper imitations of engraved and repoussé bronze vessels. The black color and lustrous appearance of the clay are the result of firing in an oxygen-poor environment. The earliest examples of Bucchero ware have extremely thin walls with silvery, almost metallic highlights. They are decorated with engraved patterns, hollow-stamped decoration or - as here - reliefs.

The cross-fertilization of Etruscan and Greek art

Etruscan ceramics were very often inspired by the know-how of Greek artisans, and by the shapes and decorative themes of Greek pottery. Vessels from Greece were highly prized by the local population, and they were a mainstay of trade relations between Etruria and Greece. The influence of Etruscan works on Greek ceramics is also seen in a number of distinctive creations, including the Nikosthenic amphorae. These owe their name to the Athenian potter Nikosthenes who produced his own versions of Etruscan models. His workshop was especially prolific in the mid-sixth century BCE. This amphora, created between 560 and 530 BCE, demonstrates the important influence of Cerveteri on the output of Attic artisans: Attic potters copied or adapted Etruscan forms, and catered to the tastes of the city-state's inhabitants. Most of the Nikosthenic amphorae discovered in Etruria come from the cemeteries of Cerveteri.

A "Nikosthenic" amphora

Like all Nikosthenic amphorae, this vase has an elongated oval body on a tall cylindrical foot. The decoration is extremely sparse: two lines laid in relief delimit an empty space on the upper part of the body, which is itself devoid of decoration. Only the handles are decorated with a figured pattern stamped in light relief by means of a matrix. Each handle features a line of three cats (a legacy of the Orientalizing repertoire) preceded by a small rosette with four beads.

Technical description

  • Nikosthenic Amphora

    Circa 560-530 BCE

    Italy

    Cerveteri (?) (Caere), southern Etruria, Italy.

  • Bucchero amphora with embossed reliefs

    H. 32.8 cm

  • Former Campana collection. Purchased 1861.

    C 612

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Denon wing
    Ground floor
    Etruria II
    Room 19

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