An Etruscan Bucchero jug, ca. early 5th Century BC


Of simple but classic design, the globular body standing on a flat foot, the wide neck flaring to a large circular mouth, the single handle applied at the shoulder joining and at the rim.

Background: Etruscans admired Greek art and were influenced by their fine pottery in the southern Italian colonies, leading to the development of new types of pottery with Greek influences throughout the Archaic Period. The most popular and successful of which is bucchero ware, characterized by its shiny black surface and preponderance of shapes that emulate metal prototypes.  Bucchero’s distinctive black color results from its manufacturing process. The pottery is fired in a reducing atmosphere, meaning the amount of oxygen in the kiln’s firing chamber is restricted, resulting in the dark color. The oxygen-starved atmosphere of the kiln causes the iron oxide in the clay to give up its oxygen molecules, making the pottery darken in color. The fact that pottery was burnished (polished by rubbing) before firing creates the high, almost metallic, sheen. This lustrous, black finish is a hallmark of bucchero pottery. Another hallmark is the fine surface of the pottery, which results from the finely levigated (ground) clay used.

Bucchero pottery represents a key source of information about the Etruscan civilization. Used by elites at banquets, bucchero demonstrates the tendencies of elite consumption among the Etruscans. Such display at the banqueting table helped to reinforce social rank and to allow elites to advertise the achievements and status of themselves and their families.

Reference:  Philip Perkins, Etruscan Bucchero in the British Museum (London: The British Museum, 2007).

Dr. Jeffrey A. Becker, Bucchero, British Museum

Dimensions: Height: 5 1/2 inches (14 cm)

Condition:   Some burial deposits to the exterior, intact and in very good condition overall.

Provenance: Private English collection, acquired prior to 1983

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