Handles of a vase decorated with Hippalectryon creature

Pair of semi-circular handles belonging to a vase or pot of relatively large dimensions made of solid bronze. Both symmetrical and parallel handles end in two spherical end pieces that fit into a piece with two circular holes. These handles connected at the extremes of the vessel would be welded or fixed over the shoulders of the vessel. The handles end in two sculpted figures; A hippalectryon, is a type of fantastic hybrid creature of Ancient Greek folklore, half-horse (front) and half-rooster (hind), including the tail, wings and hind legs. Its colour varies between yellow and reddish. No myths related to it are currently known. The oldest representation currently known dates back to the 9th century BC, and the motif grows most common in the 6th century, notably in vase painting and sometimes as statues, often shown with a rider. It is also featured on some pieces of currency. The precise function of the Hippalectryon remains a mystery; as an apotropaic and prophylactic animal, it might have been dedicated to Poseidon and tasked to protect ships. Other studies interpret it as a grotesque beast to amuse children, or a simple fantastic decorative element without any specific function.

Made of relatively expensive bronze, rather than ceramic, metal plates like this example were probably part of the tableware owned by wealthy or aristocratic individuals.

Utilitarian vessels for the serving of wine, like this Etruscan plate, were popular in the classical world beginning in the early Geometric period. They were very popular in symposia. Different models of this vessels (jugs, plates, bowls) were exported all around the Mediterranean, particularly to Italy, and as can be seen with this example, they were assimilated into the Etruscan culture. The general shape of the vessel continued for centuries and well into the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Etruscan art received direct influences from figurative Greek art, fundamentally as concerned the conception of the human body and naturalist depictions. This can be seen clearly in the wide production of terracotta sculpture from the 6th century BC and in the fresh colours used to decorate necropolis.

Although there is still no consensus among historians as to the origin of the Etruscans, they were peoples who developed a culture in the region of what is today Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio on the Italian Peninsula during the 8th to the 1st century BC. During the Villanovan Period (9th to 8th century) the Etruscans created settlements which developed into great cities, benefiting from the abundance of crops, good climate and copious metal deposits. From the 8th century on, when the Phoenicians and Greeks began to make forays into their territory, Etruscan leaders took advantage of the commercial contacts to become wealthier and adopt the technology of these newcomers. In the 6th century, considered the “classical” period of this civilization, the Etruscans were already organized into independent city-states with a monarchical regime which would take control of the emerging city of Rome.


- BENEDETTINI, M.G. Il Museo delle Antichità Etrusche e Italiche: Dall’Incontro con il mondo Greco alla Romanizzazione. Universitá La Sapienza. 2007.
- BRENDEL O. Etruscan Art. New Haven and London. Yale University Press. 1995.
- Catálogo de exposición: Príncipes etruscos. Entre oriente y occidente, 2 de octubre a 18 de enero 2009, Fundación Caixa Forum. 2008.
- CIANFERONI, G. C. Catálogo de exposición Los etruscos. Museo Arqueológico Nacional. 27 de septiembre 2007-6 de enero 2008. Ministerio de Cultura. Madrid.
- PRAYON, Friedhelm. Los etruscos: historia, religión y arte. Acento. Madrid. 2001.
- RICHTER, G. M. A. Handbook of the Classical Collection. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York. pp. 108-9, fig. 71. 1930.
- Visiting the Etruscan Cities, Ara Edizioni. 2015.

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