Museo Gregoriano Etrusco II


The Etruscan Museum was founded in 1837, during the pontificate of Gregorio XVI. It comprises nine rooms (sale) and presents artifacts excavated from Etruria (1828-1837) and Lazio:
  • Sala I - Four sarcophagi, funeral stones and architectonic fragments,
  • Sala II - Artifacts from the famous Regolini-Gallasso tomb in the Cerveteri necropolis,
  • Sala III - Collections of bronze and gold artifacts, candelabria, rings; it includes the Mars of Todi statue,
  • Sala IV - Terracotta artifacts and funeral urns,
  • Sala Guglielmi - Artifacts excavated from the Vulci necropolis,
  • Sale V-VIII - Collections of Greek, Etruscan and Italic pottery found in the Etruscan tombs,
  • Sala dei Relievi Assiri - Reliefs and inscriptions with cuneiform characters refering to Assyrian kings from the 9th to 3rd centuries B.C.

    The Court of the Pigna - 240K ; small image - 27K.

    Il Cortile della Pigna separates two groups of Vatican Museums buildings and houses an ancient bronze pine cone (pigna).


    Red-figured amphora - 162K ; small image - 29K.

  • Fiche: Obverse, Achilles; reverse, Briseis
    Material: potter's clay, with red figures
    Dimensions: height= 0.62m
    Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, Inv. no. 16571
    Provenience: Attic; attributed to the Achilles Painter (his name piece)
    Date: c. 450 B.C.
  • Commentary
    The young Greek hero (165K) is shown in frontal view, his head turned to the left. He wears a short chiton and a cuirass and has a cloak over his left arm, with which he shoulders an enormous spear. The painter has identified the warrior by writing the name Achilles next to him.
    The woman on the other side, probably Briseis, holds an oinochoe and a phiale, traditional vases for the sacrificial libation that preceded a departure for battle.
  • Bibliography
    J.D. Beazley, Attic Red-figure Vase-painters, Oxford, 1963, p987, p1677.
    J.D. Beazley, Paralipomena, Oxford, 1971, p437.

    Red-figured kylix - 207K ; small image - 60K.

  • Fiche: Interior, Oedipus and the Sphinx; exterior, satyrs
    Material: potter's clay, with red figures
    Dimensions: diameter= 0.263m
    Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, Inv. no. 16541
    Provenience: Attic; attributed to the Oedipus Painter (his name piece)
    Date: c. 470 B.C.
  • Commentary
    Oedipus (178K) (his name is inscribed), in the garb of a traveler, sits before the legendary Sphinx of Thebes (229K) that devoured those who did not answer his riddle (part of which is written between the mouth of the Sphinx - (297K) and the face of Oedipus) (237K). The Sphinx sits on a column, much in the way that sphinxes were shown on attic grave reliefs of the Archaic period.
    The exterior scene, with satyrs cavorting, was copied on a cup (now in the Musee Rodin in Paris) by an Etruscan vase painter.
  • Bibliography
    J.D. Beazley, Attic Red-figure Vase-painters, Oxford, 1963, p451, p1654.
    J.D. Beazley, Paralipomena, Oxford, 1971, p376.

    White-ground calyx-krater - 207K ; small image - 48K.

  • Fiche: Obverse, Hermes, the infant Dionysos; reverse, a seated Muse playing the lyre, between two standing Muses
    Material: potter's clay, with red figures
    Dimensions: height=0.328m
    Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, Inv. no. 16586
    Provenience: Attic; attributed to the Phiale Painter
    Date: c. 440-430 B.C.
  • Commentary
    This splendid krater, painted in polychromy on a white engobe (or slip), is the work of the Phiale painter- the pupil of the Achilles painter. Like his teacher, he did much work on lekythoi, continuing the tradition of his master.
    Hermes (397K) brings the infant Dionysos to Papposilenos (410K); a nymph (377K ) follows him. The scene of the presentation (319K ) of Dionysos is exquisite.
    The krater is bordered (160K) with floral and geometric (327K) patterns.
    Dionysos was raised by the nymphs of Nysa and his schooling began very early, as we learn from a neck-amphora by the Eucharides painter, on which Zeus himself carries his infant son to a nymph, who is shown with lyre, flute case and writing tablet.
  • Bibliography
    J.D. Beazley, Attic Red-figure Vase-painters, Oxford, 1963, p1017.
    J.D. Beazley, Paralipomena, Oxford, 1971, p440.

    Red-figured bell krater - 125K --- small image - 33K.

  • Fiche: Obverse, Zeus, Alkmene, Hermes; reverse, two youths
    Material: potter's clay, with red figures
    Dimensions: height=0.37m; diameter=0.36m
    Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, Inv. no. 17106
    Provenience: Paestan; attributed to the Aestas
    Date: c. 350-325 B.C.
  • Commentary
    Aestas painted a scene from a phlyax farce: Zeus (213K) carries a ladder in an attempt to visit one of his loves. The scene on this vase probably represents Zeus visit to Alkmene, (199K) wife of Amphitrion, who appears at a window. Hermes (242K) holds up a lamp at the right.
    Phlyax plays are peculiar to the Greek settlements in Southern Italy.The actors, dressed in humorous costume, (194K) burlesque the adventures of gods and heroes. The scene is bordered (98K) with a geometric pattern (194K).
    Another vase by the same painter (in the British Museum) shows the sequel: Zeus is actually climbing the ladder.
  • Bibliography
    A.D. Trendall, Vasi antichi dipinti del Vaticano, Vasi Italioti ed Etruschi a Figure Rose, fasc. I, Citta del' Vaticano, 1953. pp 27-29.

    Vase with figures - 136K --- small image - 9K.

  • Fiche: Vase with figures
    Material: bucchero
    Dimensions: height (with foot)=0.30m
    Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, Inv. no. 20235
    Provenience: Cerveteri (necropolis of Sorbo, Calabresi tomb)
    Date: Late 7th century B.C.
  • Commentary
    A variety of different elements come together in the composition of this vase, made of the finest bucchero from Cerveteri, and with incised decoration. The ancient tradition, taken up in the Italo-Geometric pottery of forming handles or the knobs of lids in the shape of animals here is allied with the Geometric tradition of the askos, an animal skin made into a water container and modeled as a quadruped or a bird. This is a fresh interpretation of a type of tall jug with a transverse, cask-like body.A long vertical neck (163K) ending in a trefoil spout rises from the body, which is placed on a support of purely ceramic derivation. The elaborate plumes on the perforated spouts in the shape of animal heads are certainly oriental in tradition, and serve a stoppers for the two halves into which the vase is separated, inside and out.
    The human figure on the body of the vase, who holds in his extended hands the horses' harness, as well as the circular ornament on the side of the vase suggest the idea of a fantastic chariot whose body is fused with that of the two horses.
  • Bibliography
    L. Pareti, La Tomba Regolini-Galassi di Cerveteri, Citta del' Vaticano, 1947, pp. 367-68.
    T. Dohrn, in W.Helbig, Fuehrer durch die oeffentlichen Sammlungen klassischer Altertuemer in Rom; Die Paepstlichen Sammlungen im Vatikan und Lateran, I, Tuebingen, 1963, p.497.

    Disk with a lion's head - 136K --- small image - 17K.

  • Fiche: Disk with a lion's head
    Material: bronze
    Dimensions: diameter=0.362m (diameter of head=0.125m); maximum depth=0.065m
    Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, Inv. no. 12623
    Provenience: Tarquinia (necropolis of Monte Quaglieri)
    Date: Late 6th century B.C.
  • Commentary
    This bronze disk was found, together with ten other pieces, in a funeral chamber in 1829.
    The central cavity of the shaped disk, distinguished by a smooth part made to hold the mask, and by two concentric, circular zones of tongues, also includes a central lion's head.
    The head, (205K) raised from a single sheet of bronze, was attached with two pairs of rivets, placed opposite each other. The eyes are filled with paste:white for the cornea, black for the iris.The lion is represented with its jaws wide open and its tongue hanging down.
    Stylistically, the head fits into the Etruscan canon typical of the second half of the sixth century B.C.
  • Bibliography
    T. Dohrn, in W.Helbig, Fuehrer durch die oeffentlichen Sammlungen klassischer Altertuemer in Rom; Die Paepstlichen Sammlungen im Vatikan und Lateran, I, Tuebingen, 1963, p.522.
    G. Bendinelli, Monumenti Antichi, XXIII, 2, 1916, p. 684.

    Disk with the head of Acheloos - 168K --- small image - 18K.

  • Fiche: Disk with the head of Acheloos
    Material: bronze
    Dimensions: diameter=0.405m; maximum depth=0.065m; height of mask=0.275m
    Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, Inv. no. 12461
    Provenience: Tarquinia (necropolis of Monte Quaglieri)
    Date: Early 5th century B.C.
  • Commentary
    This bronze disk was found, together with ten other pieces, in a funeral chamber in 1829. All pieces were acquired in 1830 by the Pontifical government.
    The disk was hammered into its present shape, concave in the center and framed by a wide convex ring. Around the smooth central disk are two concentric bands with a tongue pattern designed to frame the head, which was also hammered separately from a single piece of bronze, and then attached to the disk by a pair of rivets. The conical horns and the ears were also executed separately and attached with rivets.
    The head, representing a bearded male figure with a bull's horns and ears, is identified as the Greek river god Acheloos, (252K) son of Thetis and Okeanos, described in mythology, as being bested by Herakles in the contest for the hand of Delaneira.
    The original function of these disks has been discussed at length; it is believed that these disks were actually applied to the sides of biers or to other wooden objects within the tomb.
  • Bibliography
    Mostra dell'arte e della civilta etrusca, Milano, 1955, p.63.
    T. Dohrn, in W.Helbig, Fuehrer durch die oeffentlichen Sammlungen klassischer Altertuemer in Rom; Die Paepstlichen Sammlungen im Vatikan und Lateran, I, Tuebingen, 1963, p.522.

    A Winged horse revetment - 311K --- small image - 37K.

  • Fiche: Revetment in the form of a winged horse
    Material: polychromed terracotta
    Dimensions: height=0.46m; depth=0.405m
    Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, Inv. no. 14130
    Provenience: Cerveteri
    Date: Early 5th century B.C.
  • Commentary
    This horse's forepart crowned the lower-left corner of a temple in Cerveteri from about the first quarter of teh fifth century B.C.. the piece still has traces of its original polychromy; red, black and yellow. Perhaps the horse's mouth (323k) once held a bit. The front hooves, (318K) the top of the mane and the flat tile to which the plastic element was attached have broken off.
    This Pegasus is one of the finest products of the art of Etruscan temple decoration.
  • Bibliography
    A. Andren, Architectural Terracotta from Etrusco-Italic Temples, Lund/Leipzig, 1940, I, p.46.
    T. Dohrn, in W.Helbig, Fuehrer durch die oeffentlichen Sammlungen klassischer Altertuemer in Rom; Die Paepstlichen Sammlungen im Vatikan und Lateran, I, Tuebingen, 1963, pp.580-81.

    Votive statue of a man - 204K --- small image - 18K.

  • Fiche: Votive statue of a man
    Material: terracotta
    Dimensions: height overall=1.25m; height of head=0.22m
    Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, Inv. no. 17874
    Provenience: Cerveteri
    Date: 2nd century B.C.
  • Commentary
    The head derives from a well-known prototype depicting a young man, with a rather flat, triangular-shaped face, (163K) the ears sticking out and the cap-like hair in thin locks, parted over the forehead.
    The man is dressed in a tunic over which is a cloak identified (by Hafner in 1964) as a toga, worn in the manner of the Greek himation, which usually reached a little below the calves.
  • Bibliography
    G. Hafner,"Eine Portraetstatue aus Terracotta im Museo Gregoriano Etrusco" in Rendiconti della Pontificia Academia Romana di Archeologia, XXXVIII, 1965/66, pp.105-11.
    M.F. Kilmer, The Shoulder Bust in Sicily and South and Central Italy: A Catalog and Materials for Dating, Goeteborg, 1977, pp.225-26.

    Head of horse - 145K --- small image - 10K. Another head of horse -110K --- small image - 9K.

  • Fiche: Two heads of horses
    Material: nenfro
    Dimensions: height=0.56m
    Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, Inv. no. 14953, 14954
    Provenience: Vulci
    Date: Late 4th century B.C.
  • Commentary
    Each of the two heads is bridled, with a decorative collar around the neck. Nenfro is a volcanic stone, native to Etruria and some of the finest Etruscan sculptures are of this material.
    In antiquity, horses had a sepulchral meaning, but it is not clear whether this pair, found at the entrance to a tomb, was part of a chariot group or should be considered architectural adjuncts.
  • Bibliography
    C.Q. Giglioli, L'Arte Etrusca, Milano, 1935, pl. 262.
    T. Dohrn, in W.Helbig, Fuehrer durch die oeffentlichen Sammlungen klassischer Altertuemer in Rom; Die Paepstlichen Sammlungen im Vatikan und Lateran, I, Tuebingen, 1963, p. 473.

    Votive head of a man - 91K --- small image - 6K.

  • Fiche: Votive head of a man
    Material: terracotta
    Dimensions: height overall=0.26m; height of head=0.19m
    Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, Inv. no. 13854
    Provenience: Cerveteri
    Date: 4th century B.C.
  • Commentary
    The craftsman who made this head wished to portray a mature man, so that he reworked extensively what came out of the mold. With a modeling tool he cut wrinkles across the forehead, incised bristling eyebrows and perforated the cheeks and chin to suggest a thick beard.
    While the neck does not show any traces of having been made for insertion into a statue, it definitely reveals the artists's intention to render its connection with the shoulders realistically. It is a product of a flourishing Etruscan craftmanship of average quality.
  • Bibliography
    G. von Kaschnitz-Weinberg, 'Ritratti fittili etruschi e romani dal secolo III al I, Av.Cr." in Rendiconti della Pontificia Academia Romana di Archeologia, III, 1924-25, pp. 337-38.
    T. Dohrn, in W.Helbig, Fuehrer durch die oeffentlichen Sammlungen klassischer Altertuemer in Rom; Die Paepstlichen Sammlungen im Vatikan und Lateran, I, Tuebingen, 1963, p. 587.

    Votive head of a man - 108K --- small image - 6K.

  • Fiche: Votive head of a man
    Material: terracotta
    Dimensions: height overall=0.26m; height of head=0.19m
    Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, Inv. no. 13852
    Provenience: Cerveteri
    Date: second half of the 4th century B.C.
  • Commentary
    The youthful head is rather rigidly placed on an overly long and wide neck. The face is triangular and the hair thick. Flame-like locks radiate from the top of the head, separate over the forehead and fall in front of the ears.
    This model is based upon a type of Polyclitan youth present in numerous bronze and terracotta versions between the fourth and the third century B.C.
  • Bibliography
    T. Dohrn, in W.Helbig, Fuehrer durch die oeffentlichen Sammlungen klassischer Altertuemer in Rom; Die Paepstlichen Sammlungen im Vatikan und Lateran, I, Tuebingen, 1963, p. 587.
    M.F. Kilmer, The Shoulder Bust in Sicily and South and Central Italy: A Catalog and Materials for Dating, Goeteborg, 1977, pp.226-27.

    Putto Carrara - 217K --- small image - 19K.

  • Fiche: Votive statue of a child
    Material: bronze
    Dimensions: height=0.327m; thickness=0.6 mm
    Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, Inv. no. 12108
    Provenience: Tarquinia
    Date: first half of the 3rd century B.C.
  • Commentary
    This small statue was excavated in 1770 from the Tarquinian ruins near Corneto.It was presented by Monsignor Francesco Carrara to Pope Clement XIV in 1771 and was placed in the Museo Profano of the Vatican Library which, in turn , gave it to the newly established Museo Etrusco in 1837.
    The bronze, which is hollow, was cast by lost-wax process in separate parts (torso, head, limbs, etc.). The child is portrayed seated on the ground; his body faces left, the head (238K) turned upward. Around his neck, he wears a bulla suspended from a ring.
    An inscription, incised deeply, from right to left, on the outside of the left arm after casting, places the statue in the category of ex-votos.
    The forced tension of the bust and of the head, as well as the animated face of the child suggested to a number of scholars, including J.B. Passeri (1771) that the bronze figure represents the mythic Tages. Tages was the infant seer, the newborn with the face of an old man, who suddenly sprang from the earth before the eyes of Tarquin, the founder of Tarquinia, and revealed to him and to other Etruscan leaders the secrets of Etruscan religious discipline and, in particular, the art of divination.
  • Bibliography
    S.Borgia, Alphabetum veterum etruscorum et nonnulla eorundem monumenta, Roma, 1771, pp.29-31.
    J.B. Passeri, De pueri etrusci aheneo simulacro, Roma, 1771.
    T. Dohrn, in W.Helbig, Fuehrer durch die oeffentlichen Sammlungen klassischer Altertuemer in Rom; Die Paepstlichen Sammlungen im Vatikan und Lateran, I, Tuebingen, 1963, pp. 536-37.

    Hellenistic head of a man - 91K --- small image - 7K.

  • Fiche: Hellenistic head of a man
    Material: nenfro
    Dimensions: height=0.33m; height of head=0.25m
    Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, Inv. no. 14945
    Provenience: Vulci
    Date: Mid-2nd century B.C.
  • Commentary
    The head,of life size, has suffered abrasions of the nose and hair. The head is twisted sharply toward the left, suggesting that the thrust of the complete figure was toward the right. All face characteristics are unmistakably Hellenistic.
    It is difficult to reconstruct the original placement of this fragment; the attitude,however, is identical to that of the female, winged demons in numerous relief friezes on urns from Volterra of the second century B.C.
  • Bibliography
    G. von Kaschnitz-Weinberg, Le sculture del magazzino del Museo Vaticano, Citta' del Vaticano, 1937, pp. 251-52.
    T. Dohrn, in W.Helbig, Fuehrer durch die oeffentlichen Sammlungen klassischer Altertuemer in Rom; Die Paepstlichen Sammlungen im Vatikan und Lateran, I, Tuebingen, 1963, pp. 471-72.

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