Limestone cippus with relief showing musicians

Etruscan, 490-470 BC
From Chiusi, Tuscany, Italy

Music for the after-life

This is one side of a limestone cippus, or marker, which would have been placed outside a tomb. They were usually surmounted either by a stone sphere, thought to denote a female burial, or a cone, thought to denote a male. The sides are often decorated in shallow relief with scenes showing activities which were enjoyed during life, such as hunting and banqueting. Presumably it was hoped the deceased would be able to continue enjoying them in some way.

This cippus is decorated on all four sides with scenes showing music and dancing: here and on another side are a boy playing the double pipes between a man and a woman dancing, while on the remaining sides are a boy with a lyre between two youths dancing and a girl between a man and a woman.

The cippi of Chiusi are among the best examples of early Etruscan stone-carving, made from the local limestone, pietra fetida. Other reliefs with equally fine designs decorate some of the cinerary urns (containers for the cremated remains of the dead) from Chiusi, nearly all with similar themes, based on daily life. The design and its execution tend to be so delicate that the technique is almost that of drawing, comparable to the linear arrangement of figures in contemporary Etruscan tomb-paintings.

Find in the collection online

More information


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

J.-R. Jannot, Les reliefs archaïques de Chiu, Collection de L'École Française de Rome, 71 (École Française de Rome, 1984)


Height: 21.000 inches
Length: 14.000 inches
Width: 13.500 inches

Museum number

GR 1865.7-29.4 (Sculpture D 16)



Find in the collection online

Related objects

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore