7 Characteristics of Etruscan Art

Etruscan art designates that art made by the ancient civilization of the Etruscans, which developed from the 7th century BC. C. Etruscan art was inspired by the models of Eastern, Egyptian, Phoenician, Assyrian and Greek art and has a unique and innovative style.

The Etruscans are one of the ancient peoples who inhabited the Italian peninsula (region called Etruria, current Tuscany). They represented a very advanced civilization for the time, which influenced various peoples, including the Romans.

Thus, the flowering of Etruscan civilization was essential to the development of Rome before the arrival of the Romans. They were the first to build a wall to protect the city of Rome.


1.     General

In art, the Etruscans stood out in crafts, painting, sculpture and architecture. The main materials used were mud, terracotta, clay, stones, wood, marble, gold and ivory. In addition, they mastered metal casting techniques and therefore developed various iron and bronze objects.

2.     History

The origins of the Etruscans, and then their artistic style, date back to those people who lived during the Iron Age and the Bronze Age and who were expelled from Asia Minor.

Due to the proximity and/or commercial contact with Etruria, Etruscan art was influenced by other ancient cultures, such as Greece , Phoenicia, Egypt, Assyria and the Middle East.

The simple character, apparently from the Hellenistic era, hides an innovative and unique style, whose peak coincided with the archaic Greek period.

The Romans would arrive later to absorb Etruscan culture into their own, but they would also be greatly influenced by them and their art.

The Etruscan civilization emerged in the Italian peninsula around the year 1000 BC. The ancient Etruscans were skilled sailors and merchants and their fortune was based on the exploitation of the copper, iron and silver deposits in their territory. This reached its peak during the 7th and 6th centuries BC, which coincides with the archaic period of Greek art.

3.     Craft

One of the important characteristics of Etruscan art is due to the development of craftsmanship, since the Etruscans were great craftsmen.

Vessels, jugs, boxes and jewelry made of gold, silver and ivory are part of Etruscan crafts, which were used and also marketed.

4.     Paint

The frescoes, made in bright colors (red, yellow, blue, ocher, white, black) and flat in nature (two-dimensional, without perspective), were the main paintings of the Etruscan civilization. They appeared in temples and tombs and had a quite realistic character with figures of men, women, animals, objects and vegetation.

Etruscan painting presented symmetry and movement and was part of the imagery of eternity or life after death. For this reason, many figures appear in a state of reflection as well as in festive contexts (dances, banquets, funeral rites), fights and mythological themes.

5.     Etruscan artists

Etruscan artists were craftsmen of great skill. They made objects (sculptures, ceramic pieces, mirrors, boxes, etc.) of high quality and using materials such as terracotta, stone, clay, bronze and other metals. They also designed gold, silver and ivory jewelry and a type of black pottery called Bucchero .

6.     Sculpture and funerary art

One of the main characteristics of Etruscan sculptures is realism. They were generally made of stone, bronze, terracotta, mud and clay. Funerary and religious art was one of the important characteristics of Etruscan art.

The tombs were made up of life-size busts and sculptures and generally had relief. These sculptures made reference to the deceased.

The funerary chambers brought together aspects of Etruscan architecture, sculpture and painting. The “Sarcophagus of the Spouses” and the ” Sarcophagus of Cerveteri ” stand out , both produced in terracotta, from which the image of a woman and a man reclining on a supposed bed emerges.

Furthermore, naturalistic zoomorphic Etruscan sculptures represented mythological animals, generally sculpted in bronze. The “Chimera of Arezzo” and the “Capitoline Wolf” deserve special mention.

7.     Architecture and urbanism

Necropolises, temples, palaces, public buildings, aqueducts, bridges, walls, portals, tunnels and roads are the great architectural constructions of the Etruscan civilization.

Notably, the Etrurian city-states followed a grid pattern, never seen before by the ancient civilizations of Europe.

The arch and the vault, generally made of stone and wood, are the two most important features that the Etruscans introduced into urban architecture. The houses were simple and generally made of brick and mud.

The temples, normally in quadrangular format and small in size, were built in the highest place and outside the cities. Inside the temples, various paintings and sculptures were gathered, where various rituals were performed for the deities.