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Work Serpentine bow fibula, known as the Chiusi fibula

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

Fibule à arc serpentant

© 2005 Musée du Louvre / Erich Lessing

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

Author(s):
Astier Marie-Bénédicte

This gold fibula, found in Chiusi, is remarkable proof of the technical skill of Etruscan goldsmiths during the period of Oriental influence. It is richly decorated with geometrical motifs using the granulation technique then very fashionable in southern Etruria, particularly in Caere, where the clasp was probably made. The sheath bears one of the earliest Etrurian examples of an inscription, recording the gift from one aristocrat, Mamurke Turkisina, to another, Arath Velavesna.

Etruscan goldsmith work during the period of Oriental influence

This gold fibula was found in a grave in Castelluccio di Pienza, near Chiusi in Tuscany, shortly before the mid-19th century. The Louvre acquired it in 1863 after Napoleon III purchased the Marquis Campana's collection. It has a serpentine bow and a long sheath and was used to attach the flaps of a man's tunic. It was made in the 2nd half of the 7th century BC, probably in Caere, known in ancient times as Cerveteri. At that time, goldsmith work was undergoing a remarkable renaissance, which can be attributed to the wealth of the Etruscans, based on their development of mining. Another factor was the taste of Etruscan nobles for ostentatious luxury. Many such pieces of jewelry have been found in graves dating from the period of Oriental influence. The Chiusi fibula, however, seems to be the only one of its kind. It is an outstanding piece, both from the point of view of the richness of the decoration which reflects the technical mastery of the goldsmiths who excelled in techniques brought to Etruria from the Middle East, and the inscription on the sheath. The decoration consists of tiny gold beads forming geometric patterns. This technique, known as granulation, was very fashionable in southern Etruria, particularly in Caere.

An inscription recording a gift from one aristocrat to another

The inscription on the sheath also uses the granulation technique. It is one of the earliest known records of the Etruscan language, which was first written in the region in circa 700 BC. The language is still not entirely understood, but it is easy to decipher because it takes its letters from the Greek alphabet. The object is represented as having its own voice, in keeping with an archaic tradition. The inscription "mi arathia velavesnas zamathi mamurke mulvanike tursikina" has been translated as "I am Arath Velavesna's fibula, I was given by Mamurke Tursikina." This inscription refers to the tradition of offering gifts, widely followed in aristocratic societies. The style of the lettering, typical of the Chiusi region, seems to suggest that the fibula was commissioned by an aristocrat who lived in this major city in inner Etruria.

The importance of the family bond

The names of the two aristocrats, the giver Mamurke Turkisina and the recipient Arath Velavesna, reflect the ever more widespread use of the combination of a name and surname rather than just one given name. This type of name prefigures the Roman system where each individual had three names - praenomen, nomen, and cognomen - highlighting the importance of the family bond. In this instance, Turkisina indicates the individual's ethnic status: he is an Etruscan - Tyrsenoi in Greek, Tusci in Latin. Dionysius of Halicarnassus noted in his Roman Antiquities (Book I, 30, 3) that the Etruscans also called themselves Rasenna, meaning "those who belong to the city."

Bibliography

Cristofani Mauro, Martelli Marina (sous la dir. de), L'Oro degli Etruschi, 1983, p. 140 et p. 282, n 103 ; L'Or des Étrusques, traduction française et adaptation de Charles Guittard, Paris, Éditions Atlas ; Bruxelles, Éditions Atlen ; Mezzovico (Suisse), Éditions Transalpines, 1986.
Dore Anna, Marchesi Marinella, Minarini Laura (sous la dir. de),
Principi etruschi : tra Mediterraneo ed Europa, cat. exp. Bologne,
Museo civico archelogico, 1er octobre 2000-1er avril 2001, cat. exp. Bologne, Museo civico archeologico, Venise, Marsilio, 2000, p. 32,
p. 308 et pp. 324-325, n 439.
Heurgon Jacques, "Recherches sur la fibule d'or inscrite de Chiusi : la plus ancienne mention épigraphique du nom des Étrusques", Mélanges des Écoles françaises de Rome et d'Athènes, vol. 83, 1971, pp. 9-28.
Holtzmann Bernard, Mohen Jean-Pierre, Poursat Jean-Claude,
Rouveret Alain et al., L'Art de l'Antiquité. 1. Les Origines de l'Europe, Paris, Gallimard, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, coll. "Manuels d'histoire de l'art", 1995, pp. 322-323.

Technical description

  • Fibule à arc serpentant

    Seconde moitié du VIIe siècle avant J.-C.

    Provenance : Castelluccio di Pienza (Chiusi)

    Production: Étrurie méridionale, Cerveteri ?

  • Or. Granulation

    l. : 11,10 cm. ; H. : 2,16 cm.

  • Collection Campana, 1863

    Bj 816

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Denon wing
    Ground floor
    Etruria II
    Room 19
    Vitrine 3 : Bijoux : VIIe - VIe siècle avant J.-C.

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Additional information about the work

A dedication is inscribed on the sheath in Etruscan: "mi arathia velavesnas zamathi mamurke mulvanike [mulvenike] tursikina": "I am Arath Velavesna's fibula, I was given by Mamurke Tursikina."