In Focus

Etruscan Amphora

The following essay is from the 1996 publication Gods, Men, and Heroes: Ancient Art at the Dallas Museum of Art_._

Two stiff-legged stags with elaborate antlers graze with their heads to the ground. A third figure, that of a snake, follows the stags and like them is pointed to the right. There are no ornaments in the figured scene, but colored bands of white and red decorate the surfaces below the frieze, and rows of dots in white and black, in addition to black tongues, are painted above it. An X motif appears on the outside of the concave strap handles.

The amphora belongs to the Polychrome Group of Etruscan vases first studied by Georg Karo in 1896 and treated more completely since then by János Szilágyi. The technique of incising figures onto a black background and the animal style that dominates the vases in the Polychrome Group were probably derived from Corinth. However, the incising technique was also certainly related to the long-established line of Etruscan "bucchero" vases. Certain aspects of the animal style are also found on the later polychrome vases from the Group workshops. The figures are incised directly onto a black glazed field with added white and red paint applied to various body parts in order to enhance the overall appearance of the animals. The creation of the animals solely by the means of incision on the dark background has an interesting visual parallel with similar images incised on bronze, such as the wild boars on the Apulian-Corinthian helmet (1966.8) in the Dallas Museum of Art collections.

An amphora of the Polychrome Group now in the Louvre and listed by Szilágyi is decorated with animals nearly identical in type, pose, and placement to those on the Dallas Museum of Art vase, except that the artist has included a lion between the grazing stags. Herbert Hoffmann has noted another Polychrome amphora on the Swiss art market and believes it to be by the same hand that decorated the Dallas Museum of Art vase.

Excerpt 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), 85.