Bronze bust of a woman

Etruscan, about 600-575 BC
From the Polledrara Cemetery, Vulci, ancient Etruria (now in Lazio, Italy)

Stern bronze lady with a horned bird

This distinctive bronze bust of a woman is one of the earliest large-scale Etruscan bronze figures to survive. It was found in the 'Isis Tomb' in the Polledrara cemetery in Etruria. The tomb was rich in imported luxury goods from Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean.

The bust is made of bronze sheet hammered to shape (the sphyrelaton or hammered technique), like some early Greek figures. It was made at a time when bronzeworkers were not yet confident in attempting large cast figures. The right hand and the bird are cast and added separately. Originally a skirt was attached, made of horizontal strips of bronze sheet decorated with animals. Only fragments survive

The horned bird was once thought to identify the figure as the Egyptian goddess Isis, which is why the tomb is known as the Isis Tomb. However, it is more likely that the figure represents a native Italic deity, perhaps a fertility goddess, as she holds one hand to her breast, like earlier figures from Syria and Asia Minor. The horned bird was often depicted by the early peoples of Italy and north of the Alps, and may have had some significance in local cult worship.

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More information

Bibliography

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

E. Macnamara, The Etruscans-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)

M. Sprenger, G. Bartoloni, M. and A. Hirmer, The Etruscans (New York, Abrams, 1983)

S. Haynes, Etruscan bronzes (London, Sotheby's Publications, 1985)

Dimensions

Height: 15.500 inches

Museum number

GR 1850.2-27.15 (Bronze 434)

GAA426

Location

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