Museo Etrusco Guarnacci: Etruscan Masterpieces

Sun, 03/09/2014 - 11:57

The elongated forms seen in the sculptures and drawings of Alberto Giacometti seem distinctly modern, yet the Swiss artist’s characteristic style was inspired by Etruscan art like that housed in the Museo Etrusco Guarnacci (Guarnacci Etruscan Museum) in Volterra, Tuscany.

Anyone familiar with Giacometti’s tall, thin figures will be reminded of them when faced with the museum’s Etruscan bronze statue ‘Ombra della sera’ (Shadow of the Evening). Dating to the 3rd century BC, the well-preserved bronze depicts a young male nude and measures some 22 inches high. The face is sculpted in realistic detail as are the hands and toes, indicating that the ancient artist wanted to portray a particular person, possibly a prince or noble, with their crooked toes, wavy hair, bulbous nose and slender fingers, rather than an imaginary figure. However, the statuette’s long body, legs and arms are fantastical, making for one of the most mysterious examples of Etruscan art that some have suggested is a votive that would have been placed on an altar. Perhaps it is that air of mystery that attracted Giacometti to the artwork and motivated him to create his own wraith-like pieces symbolic of a post-Holocaust world.

To view the ‘Shadow of the Evening’ statue is sufficient reason to visit the Guarnacci Etruscan Museum, however it is not the only item worth seeing. The museum houses numerous Etruscan artefacts: brooches, earrings, ceramics, funereal urns and statuary.

Another star item on display is the ‘Urna degli sposi’ (Urn of the Married Couple), which is notable for its terracotta lid showing an elderly couple lounging at a banquet. Thought to date to the 1st century BC, the couple’s wrinkled faces and intimate pose of togetherness are touching reminders of a love that survived old age.

The Guarnacci Etruscan Museum is open daily from 9am to 7pm in the summer and 10am to 4.30pm during the winter. The entrance fee is €8.

Where: Museo Etrusco Guarnacci, Via Don Minzoni, 15
56048 Volterra, Tuscany

Website: Volterra Guarnacci Etruscan Museum 

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