Antefix with Gorgona

The petrifying head of the gorgon, with its staring eyes, grimacing mouth, protruding tongue, and snaky hair, had the ability to ward off evil. This antefix exploits the gorgon's protective power.

Etruscan buildings were often constructed from perishable materials, and the upper parts were protected by decorative polychrome terracotta elements. Antefixes were used to conceal the ends of the convex tiles along the eaves of the roof. Made in a mold, they were generally modeled in the form of a male or female face. During the early 5th century BC, the female face began to break free of Archaic conventions and Ionian models under the influence of Athenian creations.

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, they usually took the form of a male or female face.

In Greek mythology a gorgon is a ruthless female monster while at the same time being a protecting deity, a figure stemming from the most ancient religious concepts. Her power was so great that anyone who tried to look at her was immediately turned to stone. Thus, her image may be found in many different places, from temples to wine kraters, to ward off evil. The gorgon has been depicted wearing a belt of snakes curled around and facing each other in the form of a buckle. This particular iconography can be seen on the facade of a temple in Corfu, going back to 600 BC, one of the oldest representations of this type.


- ARVID, Andrén. Architectural terracottas from Etrusco-Italic temples. Lund. C. W. K. Gleerup. 1940.
- Aspects de l'art des Étrusques dans les collections du musée du Louvre. Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux. Paris. 1976 - 1977.

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