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Work Plaque from a Funerary Column

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

Fragment de cippe funéraireScène de prothésis : exposition de la défunte sur son lit funéraire

© 2000 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

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

Author(s):
Astier Marie-Bénédicte

During the Archaic and early classical periods, the workshops in the region of Chiusi, Umbria, were famous for their funerary monuments, sculpted in a local stone and decorated with scenes of funerary rituals. This plaque shows the laying out of the body prior to cremation, a subject whose iconography is reminiscent of the Greek prothesis. Nevertheless, the bas-relief and the details of the ritual are definitely Etruscan.

The Chiusi funerary monuments

This plaque from an Etruscan funerary monument was discovered in 1843. It entered the Louvre's collections in 1863 with the purchase by Napoleon III of the Marquis Campana's antiquities collection. It comes from the region of Chiusi in Umbria, where it was created around 490-480 BC. At that time, the Chiusi workshops were particularly famous for their funerary monuments - stone columns that were used to indicate the placement of tombs or to hold urns. This plaque is characteristic of this production. The bas-relief is sculpted in a local stone that, when quarried, gives off a very disagreeable odor caused by the infiltration of sulfurous water. For this reason it is called "fetid limestone".

A funeral ceremony

This type of monument was decorated on all four sides by painted scenes sculpted in very low relief. Normally, these scenes were taken from the funeral ceremony itself: sacrifices made in honor of the deceased, or the banquets and games accompanied by music and dancing, as depicted on other reliefs in the Louvre's collections. This plaque depicts the laying out and mourning of the body of the deceased prior to cremation. In the far left of the panel, a man shows his grief, his hands raised as high as his head - the traditional representation of lamentation. A cortege of mourners perhaps completed this scene on the other sides of the monument.

An Etruscan ritual adapted from a Greek motif

Despite the flatness of the relief, the sculptor has attempted to give an impression of depth by superimposing the various planes: the left leg of the woman holding the fan thus appears behind the bed. The balanced movement of the arms of the figures suggests a circular composition with the deceased at the center. The arrangement of the scene is reminiscent of the iconography of the Greek prothesis as it was depicted beginning in the Geometric period, starting in the eighth century BC. Nevertheless, the sculptor has taken several liberties in portraying the details of the ritual, as we can see from certain Etruscan elements. These include the presence of a dog and a goose (?) beneath the funeral bed, and the fan ("flabellum") held by one of the young women, similar to those found in Etruscan tombs from the same period.

Bibliography

J.-R. Jannot, Les reliefs archaïques de Chiusi, Ecole française de Rome, 71, 1984, p. 92-93, n 4, fig. 322-323
Aspects de l'art des Etrusques, Paris, 1976, p. 20, n 31

Technical description

  • Fragment de cippe funéraireScène de prothésis : exposition de la défunte sur son lit funéraire

    Vers 490 - 480 avant J.-C.

    Provenance : Chiusi

    Production : Chiusi

  • Pierre fétide

    H. : 32 cm. ; L. : 55 cm.

  • Collection Campana, 1863 , 1863

    Prothesis Scene

    Ma 3602

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Denon wing
    Ground floor
    Etruria II
    Room 19

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