Our knowledge about the Etruscan civilization is
extremely limited. Our understanding of their language
is still incomplete and most of the information that
is known comes to us through the Romans, their
one-time subjects who grew to become their masters.
The Etruscans lived under a series of autonomous
city-states spread out across northern and central
Italy. By the 3rd Century B.C., they would be absorbed
into the burgeoning Roman Empire.
The evolution of Etruscan pottery follows the major
artistic developments as they occurred throughout the
Classical era. Before the 6th Century B.C., the
island of Corinth, with their distinctive black-figure
wares, dominated the lucrative pottery export trade.
Corinthian wares were traded throughout the
Mediterranean, and the vivid painting style became
extraordinarily popular. Etruscan potters began to
imitate the designs of their Corinthian counterparts
to meet the demands of the local market.
Today, scholars have coined the term
“Etrusco-Corinthian” to describe such vessels,
believed to have mainly been created from 630 to 54o
B.C. Etrusco-Corinthian vessels characteristically
features traditional Greek shapes adorned with the
black-figure style of painting that originated in
Corinth. In the black-figure technique, the vase
surface was covered with a diluted wash of clay. A
thicker solution of iron-rich clay formed the "glaze"
used to paint on figures in solid silhouette.
Intricate details were then incised onto the figures.
Finally, painted red and white highlights were added
The decorative scheme is traditionally divided into
bands filled with plants, and animals, both real and
mythological. To these Corinthian characteristics,
the local Etruscan potters added motifs of local
origin (including wild goats and human figures).
Before the advents of Corinthian pottery (which was
inspired by Eastern designs), Greek pottery was
decorated primarily by scene of geometric motifs.
This magnificent Etruscan olpe reveals why the
Corinthian style was so popular. When contrasted to
the cold, angled geometric patterns of the past, the
presence of recognizable flora and fauna would have
been a delight. The body of this vase has been
divided into three bands, each of which is filled with
various animals including a pig, a duck, a lion, and a