Pair of funerary earrings

4th–3rd century BCE
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General Description

The Etruscans were expert metallurgists and jewelers. Rich ornaments like these massive, yet lightweight gold earrings have been found in Etruscan tombs, and are also represented in funerary statues of Etruscan women. These large and elaborate earrings are a common late Etruscan type; two similar pairs in the DMA's gold collection were acquired in 1991 (1991.75.34.a-b, 1991.75.35.a-b). The earrings are miniature sculptures of considerable intricacy, as they combine the techniques of repoussé, filigree, and granulation. The basic design of the large bosses and smaller clusters of grapes is augmented by a central Medusa mask, and the faces of three youths.

Earrings like these are sometimes called a grappolo earrings because the triangular bottom part looks like a bunch of grapes. This is an exceptionally rich example, with a frontal human head (a "maskette") rendered in repoussé, and very intricate filigree and granulation. The upper part consists of a horseshoe-shaped band decorated with filigreed wire patterns and a row of granulation. At the base of the horseshoe is a semicircular section of a bent tube flanked by parallel rows of filigree and granulation. Above this "leech"-shaped ornament is a semicircle of stamped rosettes, and stamped disk ornaments surmounted by a maskette. There are also maskettes on either side of the central ornament. Below this upper area is an inverted triangle of five flattened capsules, each with small clusters of granulated globules hanging from it. There are rosettes in the interstices and a central mask with dramatic waving hair. The earrings were formed by repoussé and have undergone considerable repair on the lower halves. Such earrings are worn by female figures in Etruscan funerary sculpture.

Adapted from

  • Anne R. Bromberg, and Karl Kilinski II, Gods, Men, and Heroes: Ancient Art at the Dallas Museum of Art. (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996), 89.
  • Anne Bromberg, Dallas Museum of Art: Selected Works, (Dallas, Texas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1983), 103.
  • Barbara Deppert-Lippitz, Ancient Gold Jewelry at the Dallas Museum of Art (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art in association with the University of Washington Press, 1996), 36; 127.

Fun Facts

  • Jewelry was far more than merely ornament to the Etruscans; it was often close to being a magic charm or amulet and implied the protection of the gods.