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Work Oinochoe with painted geometric decoration

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

Oenochoé à décor géométrique

© Musée du Louvre

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

Marie-Bénédicte Astier

According to the inscription engraved on the belly, this oinochoe was part of a wine service belonging to an Etruscan named Karkana. Its shape and decoration are characteristic of oinochoai made in the Geometric style in Italy, and more specifically of vessels inspired by Protocorinthian models made in the workshops of Cumae. These spread across a wide area and were imitated by craftsmen in Tarquinia, and later by craftsmen in other centers in southern Etruria.

An inscription with a name

This vase entered the Louvre in 1863 following the purchase by Napoleon III two years earlier of the collection of the Marquis Campana. In all probability, it came from excavations in the necropolises of Caere (modern Cerveteri) in southern Etruria. It is an oinochoe with a lengthened ovoid belly, with a high neck and a trefoil lip. Made from ocher clay, it is decorated with linear motifs painted in a brown color, and divided into registers, one above the other. The lower section of the belly was incised after firing, and presents one of the oldest Etruscan inscriptions found to date. Even though the Etruscan language is still not fully understood, Etruscan writing is easy to decipher because it uses the same letters as the Greek alphabet. The object has been made to speak, in accordance with an Archaic custom: "mi qutum Karkanas" translates as "I am the qutum of Karkana." The word "qutum," like its variant "qutun," designates a type of jug or pouring vase, and therefore refers to the form and function of this oenochoe. The name of the owner, Karkana, is in the form of an onomastic phrase with a single member. This usage began to disappear during the 7th century BC, in favor of an onomastic phrase with two members-forename and surname-in place of an individual name, which further reinforced the importance of the family group (see, for example, the inscription on the Chiusi fibula, Louvre, Bj 816).

A piece from a wine service

Several vases from the Campana Collection in the Louvre–this oinochoe, a similar oinochoe, and an impasto chalice–which can all be dated from the second quarter of the 7th century BC, bear an inscription indicating that they belonged to someone named Karkana. It is highly likely that they came from the same tomb and were part of the same wine service.

A Geometric oinochoe from Italy

By virtue of its form and geometric decoration, this oinochoe can be linked to the workshops of Cumae, a Greek city founded around 750 BC by the Eubeans of Chalcis and Eretria, in the Gulf of Naples. It was made between 675 and 650 BC, probably in Cumae itself, or perhaps in an Etruscan workshop in southern Etruria, where this type of vase, inspired by Protocorinthian models, was widely produced and imitated during this same period.


Gran-Aymerich Jean, "À propos du calice d'impasto et des oenochoés peintes avec inscription" Karkanas "du musée du Louvre", in
Naso Alessandro, La Tomba dei Denti di Lupo a Cerveteri, Florence, L. S. Olschki, 1991, pp. 111-126, fig. 33-34, pl. 13.

Technical description

  • Oenochoé à décor géométrique

    Première moitié du VIIe siècle avant J.-C.

    Provenance : Cerveteri

    Production : Cumes ou Étrurie méridionale

  • Terre cuite

    H. : 22,80 cm. ; D. : 12 cm.

  • Collection Campana, 1863 , 1863

    D 70

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Denon wing
    Ground floor
    Etruria I
    Room 18
    Vitrine 3

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Additional information about the work

Etruscan inscription incised on the lower section of the belly: "mi qutum Karkanas" ("I am the qutum of Karkana").