PERIOD: 625 - 550 BC
MATERIAL: Bucchero Pottery
DIMENSIONS: Height 13.5 cm
PRICE: 1,200 Euros
PROVENANCE: Private collection of S.H., Germany, inherited in 1970.
A jug of the Bucchero type of black pottery, a non-varnished clay vessel that achieved its typical black colour through a unique firing method, and is typical of the production of ancient Etruria. It is characterised by its simple geometric decoration incised into the clay before firing.
This shape of jug or pitcher without a spout came to be called Olpe, based on the Greek name for such a vessel. It has a high handle and a function similar to that of an oinochoe. It is different to the latter in that it is higher than it is wide, and has a flat lip as compared to the trefoil lip of the oinochoe. The handle often rises characteristically high above the level of the mouth of the recipient.
Later these pieces were produced with decorations in relief in the form of animal or anthropomorphic creatures. It is believed that the first examples of Bucchero ware were produced at the beginning of the 7th century BC in the Etruscan coastal settlement of Caere (the modern-day Cerveteri). The firing method, by which the pots were burnt after firing, turned the clay black and gave a metallic shine to the surface.
Etruscan art is often religious in character, related specifically to Etruscan religion. Life in the Etruscan afterworld was negative as opposed to the positive point of view in Ancient Egypt where the afterworld was a continuation of life on earth, in contrast or to the confident relations with their own gods seen in Ancient Greece. Etruscan gods were indifferent although they tended to bring good fortune. Etruscan religion was based on the veneration and adoration of the dead. Most of the remains of Etruscan art are found in cemeteries (like those of Cerveteri, Tarquinia, Populonia, Orvieto, Vetulonia, Norchia), which means that we find Etruscan art to be dominated by religious representations, and in particular, funerary cults.
On the very clay urns in which the remains of the deceased are held, there can be found sculptural elements representing anatomical parts of this person. The lid of the urn, for example, may be in the form of the head. In a later phase, real-life size human figures are found reclining on the lid as if they were lying on a bed. The faces showed the sculptural influence of Ancient Greece. As opposed to Greek sculpture in stone, Etruscan pieces were made from softer materials that allowed a more elastic, fluid and rounded working, so making the figures more natural and exhibiting greater spontaneity.