Oenochoe

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The word oenochoe comes from Ancient Greek «οἶνος–χέω», whose meaning derives from the function of the vase: “wine-pour”. This bronze oenochoe possesses a beautiful green patina with some blue patches.

From a flat base it widens and rises to form markedly rounded shoulders, followed by a short, wide neck ending in a mouth with a long angled spout similar to the prototype of beaked jug 9 established by Beazley (see the Museo Arqueológico Nacional inv. 1999/99/156). A great striped vertical handle joins the mouth to the body of the jug, and this handle forks at the lip of the vase and ends in the form of a possible reclining panther, or other feline, on each side, given that decoration with zoomorphic motifs was customary on Etruscan oenochoai. The handle ends on the body with an applique in the form of an inverted palmette with spiralling stalks which end in leaves on either side, among which can be seen the bust of a bearded man with an open mouth. Perhaps it is a Silenus, given its connotation with wine. This was a customary model for Etruscan jugs, as can be seen in the three examples conserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (n. 12.160.1, 12.160.2 y 12.160.3). This typology was mainly produced in the city of Vulci, Civita Castellana, from where it was exported throughout Italy and to the rest of Europe.

Made of relatively expensive bronze, rather than ceramic, metal jugs 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 oenochoe, were popular in the classical world beginning in the early Geometric period. Olpes and oenochoes were used to transfer wine from the large krater (mixing bowl) because wine in antiquity, due to its high alcohol content, was usually mixed with water in a krater to create a less powerful beverage. They were very popular in symposia. Different models of this jug 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.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

- 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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