An Etruscan Terracotta Antefix of a Goddess, Archaic Period, ca. late 6th - early 5th century BC

This elegant antefix is distinguished by its remarkable craftsmanship and the fact that it differs from Ionian models. Because of trade and the arrival in Etruria and Greater Greece of many Ionian artists fleeing the Persian threat, many Archaic antefixes with female heads were directly inspired by eastern Greek art, which was widespread during the late 6th century BC. However, here the imprint of the Ionians is tempered by the influence of Athenian works, an influence that had become increasingly marked at the beginning of the 5th century. The attention to decorative detail is still very much in evidence: the undulating red-brown hair across the forehead falls in thick tresses behind her ears, the low diadem, a kind of broad tiara, is adorned with a radiate and dot design, and the heavy ear-studs are embellished with rosettes. Nevertheless, the face is longer, and the modeling is more three-dimensional and less linear. As in Attic sculpture, the forehead is high, the cheekbones are clearly defined, and the almond-shaped eyes are more open and less narrow than in Ionian art.  The expression on the face is more serious, the full red lips barely smiling, heralding the complete disappearance of the Archaic smile.

During the Archaic period, the workshops at Caere (modern Cerveteri) in southern Etruria produced a large number of architectural terracottas (friezes, covering plaques, acroteria, and antefixes) designed to decorate sacred buildings. Etruscan temples were largely built from perishable materials: wood, bricks, or blocks of tuff for the superstructure; stone for the base. Antefixes had three functions: Placed on the eaves of the roof, they concealed the ends of the convex tiles and protected them from bad weather. They were also part of the architectural decoration. Finally, they had an apotropaic role, banishing bad luck and bad influences from temples. Made in molds and painted after firing, they usually took the form of a male or female face.

For related examples see: Andrén, Arvid. 1940. Architectural Terracottas from Etrusco-Italic Temples. Lund: C. W. K. Gleerup, p. 32, no 11: 11a.
Richter, Gisela M. A. 1940. Handbook of the Etruscan Collection. New York: Marchbanks Press, p. 22, fig. 54.
Winter, Nancy A. 2009. Symbols of Wealth and Power: Architectural Terracotta Decoration in Etruria and Central Italy, 640-510 B.C, Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome. Supplementary Volume 9. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, p. 439, n. 108 (Type 6.C.4.d).
de Puma, Richard Daniel. 2013. Etruscan Art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New Haven and London: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 4.117, pp. 7, 134-5, 136, 139.

Condition: Some expected minor wear and loss to the vibrant polychrome that does not detract, overall intact and in excellent condition, with the remains of the attachment arch at back.  Custom mounted on metal stand. 

Dimensions: Height: 23 cm (9.05 inches), Width: 17 cm (6.7 inches), Mounted Height: 33 cm (13 inches)

Provenance:  Private collection of Stuart Giles, South Australia, early 1960's, acquired from the estate by Aegidea Galleries, Adelaide, South Australia between 1978 and 1983, thereafter in a private Tasmanian collection.  Provenance includes a copy of the Aegidea Catalogue entry showing the antefix, and an Oxford TL test requested by Sotheby's London, dating to 1985.


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