The most considerable works of art appear to have been executed abroad. We have just mentioned the statues of clay alleged to have been executed in Veii; and very recent excavations have shown that works in bronze made in Etruria, and furnished with Etruscan inscriptions, circulated in Praeneste at least, if not generally throughout Latium. The statue of Diana in the Romano-Latin federal temple on the Aventine, which was considered the oldest statue of a divinity in Rome,(21) exactly resembled the Massiliot statue of the Ephesian Artemis, and was perhaps manufactured in Velia or Massilia. The guilds, which from ancient times existed in Rome, of potters, coppersmiths, and goldsmiths,(22) are almost the only proofs of the existence of native sculpture and design there; respecting the position of their art it is no longer possible to gain any clear idea.

Artistic Relations And Endowments Of The Etruscans And Italians

If we endeavour to obtain historical results from the archives of the tradition and practice of primitive art, it is in the first place manifest that Italian art, like the Italian measures and Italian writing, developed itself not under Phoenician, but exclusively under Hellenic influence. There is not a single one of the aspects of Italian art which has not found its definite model in the art of ancient Greece; and, so far, the legend is fully warranted which traces the manufacture of painted clay figures, beyond doubt the most ancient form of art in Italy, to the three Greek artists, the "moulder," "fitter," and "draughtsman," Eucheir, Diopos, and Eugrammos, although it is more than doubtful whether this art came directly from Corinth or came directly to Tarquinii. There is as little trace of any immediate imitation of oriental models as there is of an independently-developed form of art. The Etruscan lapidaries adhered to the form of the beetle or -scarabaeus-, which was originally Egyptian; but --scarabaei-- were also used as models for carving in Greece in very early times (e. g. such a beetle-stone, with a very ancient Greek inscription, has been found in Aegina), and therefore they may very well have come to the Etruscans through the Greeks. The Italians may have bought from the Phoenician; they learned only from the Greek.

To the further question, from what Greek stock the Etruscans in the first instance received their art-models, a categorical answer cannot be given; yet relations of a remarkable kind subsist between the Etruscan and the oldest Attic art. The three forms of art, which were practised in Etruria at least in after times very extensively, but in Greece only to an extent very limited, tomb-painting, mirror-designing, and graving on stone, have been hitherto met with on Grecian soil only in Athens and Aegina. The Tuscan temple does not correspond exactly either to the Doric or to the Ionic; but in the more important points of distinction, in the course of columns carried round the -cella-, as well as in the placing of a separate pedestal under each particular column, the Etruscan style follows the more recent Ionic; and it is this same Iono-Attic style of building still pervaded by a Doric element, which in its general design stands nearest of all the Greek styles to the Tuscan. In the case of Latium there is an almost total absence of any certain traces of intercourse bearing on the history of art. If it was--as is indeed almost self-evident--the general relations of traffic and intercourse that determined also the introduction of models in art, it may be assumed with certainty that the Campanian and Sicilian Hellenes were the instructors of Latium in art, as in the alphabet; and the analogy between the Aventine Diana and the Ephesian Artemis is at least not inconsistent with such an hypothesis. Of course the older Etruscan art also served as a model for Latium. As to the Sabellian tribes, if Greek architectural and plastic art reached them at all, it must, like the Greek alphabet, have come to them only through the medium of the more western Italian stocks.

If, in conclusion, we are to form a judgment respecting the artistic endowments of the different Italian nations, we already at this stage perceive--what becomes indeed far more obvious in the later stages of the history of art--that while the Etruscans attained to the practice of art at an earlier period and produced more massive and rich workmanship, their works are inferior to those of the Latins and Sabellians in appropriateness and utility no less than in spirit and beauty. This certainly is apparent, in the case of our present epoch, only in architecture. The polygonal wall-masonry, as appropriate to its object as it was beautiful, was frequent in Latium and in the inland country behind it; while in Etruria it was rare, and not even the walls of Caere are constructed of polygonal blocks. Even in the religious prominence--remarkable also as respects the history of art--assigned to the arch(23) and to the bridge(24) in Latium, we may be allowed to perceive, as it were, an anticipation of the future aqueducts and consular highways of Rome. On the other hand, the Etruscans repeated, and at the same time corrupted, the ornamental architecture of the Greeks: for while they transferred the laws established for building in stone to architecture in wood, they displayed no thorough skill of adaptation, and by the lowness of their roof and the wide intervals between their columns gave to their temples, to use the language of an ancient architect, a "heavy, mean, straggling, and clumsy appearance." The Latins found in the rich stores of Greek art but very little that was congenial to their thoroughly realistic tastes; but what they did adopt they appropriated truly and heartily as their own, and in the development of the polygonal wall-architecture perhaps excelled their instructors. Etruscan art is a remarkable evidence of accomplishments mechanically acquired and mechanically retained, but it is, as little as the Chinese, an evidence even of genial receptivity.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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