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Work Vase in the form of a woman's head

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

Vase en forme de tête de femmeInscription "suthina" sur le front

© 1996 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

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

Astier Marie-Bénédicte

This vase with no base and having a neck closed by a lid was probably used to contain ointment or served a funerary purpose, as indicated by the inscription on the forehead. The vessel is inspired by Hellenistic Greek prototypes, but its craftsmanship is typically Etruscan. It was made in the 3rd century BC, probably in a workshop in Orvieto or Vulci, known at the time for their bronze products.

A sculpted vase of Greek inspiration

Made with the lost-wax casting method, this small bronze container is fashioned in the form of a woman's head. The delicately modeled face is meticulously engraved with a burin. Two small rectangular cavities on her temples indicate that the hair was originally dressed with a further element, perhaps a gold or silver tiara. The craftsmanship of the vase is typically Etruscan, but its form is borrowed from certain rare Hellinistic Greek vessels: bronze perfume vases and sculpted oinochoes (wine jugs), of similar size and also in the shape of a woman's head, that were made in Greece in the late 4th and early 3rd centuries BC.

A perfume vase with a funerary function

Like most vessels of this type, the vase is without a base and the neck is closed with a lid in the form of a bun on the top of the head. It was probably used as a container for a glass vial or small terracotta vessel holding ointment or perfumed oil. It may also have had a strictly funerary function, as an imitatation of a toiletry item serving to recreate the deceased person's everyday life. Many such vases have been found in women's graves. The word "Suthina" engraved on this object and on similar pieces appears to confirm this hypothesis: the word it is formed by the noun "Suthi" (the grave) and the suffix "-na" indicating its belonging to the grave.

An object made by a workshop in Orvieto or Vulci

This inscription is found primarily on the funerary furnishings of graves in the region of Volsinii, today's Orvieto. This vase may therefore have been made in this region in the 3rd century BC. Alternatively, it may be attributed to a bronze-maker of Vulci, another major center of production of bronze objects, tableware, and small furnishings, where several similar vessels have been found.


Les Etrusques en France. Archéologie et collection, Lattes, 2003, p. 294-295, n 53.

Technical description

  • Vase en forme de tête de femmeInscription "suthina" sur le front

    Fin du IIIe siècle - début du IIe siècle avant J.-C.

    Provenance : Sovana (?, en Etrurie septentrionale)

    Production : Orvieto

  • Bronze

    16 H

  • Acq. 1885 (ancienne collection Gréau) , 1885

    Br 2949

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Denon wing
    Ground floor
    Etruria II
    Room 421
    Vitrine 7

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Additional information about the work

Inscription engraved on forehead: "Suthina"