Black-figured amphora

Etruscan, about 510-500 BC
Found at Vulci, Italy

Etruscan sports

A flourishing school of vase-painting at Vulci in Etruria produced vases that were both Greek and Etruscan in style. Many remain unattributed, but this neck-amphora or storage jar, with its animated scenes, has been attributed to an artist known as the Micali painter. The name comes from a pioneering scholar of Etruscan art.

The vase is decorated with a procession, sporting events, and entertainments. A boxing match is watched by an umpire, and by a boy attendant holding a sponge and oil-flask. A pipe-player plays an aulos or double pipe. A discus thrower, a javelin thrower, a man wearing a helmet performing a jump, and a chariot race with the winner passing the finishing post are also shown. A boy is climbing a pole, pairs of satyrs are dancing, veiled women are shown walking or dancing and boys are playing castanets. The general effect is of various lively activities, and while the satyrs introduce a mythological element most of the figures seem to belong in the realm of everyday life, perhaps evoking events during a festival day in the Etruscan world. A number of the subjects are also represented in contemporary tomb-painting.

The events may be associated with a festival held in honour of Dionysos (Etruscan Fufluns), particularly in view of the presence of satyrs, who traditionally featured among the god's followers.

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More information

Bibliography

N. J. Spivey, The Micali Painter and his fol (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1987)

O. Brendel, Etruscan art, Pelican History of Art (Yale University Press, 1995)

J. Swaddling, The ancient Olympic Games, 3rd edition (London, The British Museum Press, 2004)

J.D. Beazley, Etruscan vase-painting (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1947)

L.Bouke van der Meer, 'Greek and local elements in a sporting scene by the Micali Painter' in Italian Iron Age artefacts i-7, Papers of the sixth British Museum classical colloqium (London, The British Museum Press, 1986)

M. Martelli (ed.), La ceramica degli Etruschi (Novara, 1987)

Dimensions

Height: 47.500 cm

Museum number

GR 1865.1-3.25 (Vases B 64)

GAA380

Location

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