The Etruscans were the dominant economic and cultural power in central Italy from the 8th to the 3rd century BC. Positioned culturally between Greece and Rome (which they ruled from 616 to 509 BC), their relationship with and influence upon these two great civilizations rendered them instrumental in shaping western art. A deeply religious people with no surviving literary tradition, they have fascinated the public since the first significant Etruscan works of art were discovered in the 16th century. The MFA, Boston possesses one of the best collections of Etruscan art in the United States. Uniquely, it contains one of only two sets in the world of thirty-three reproductions of tomb paintings from the rich necropolis of Tarquinia. These were commissioned and acquired between 1888 and 1908 at a time when the tombs had only recently been discovered and were still in pristine condition.
The Etruscans prepared extensively for the afterlife and the journey to it. Elaborately decorated with wall-paintings, their tombs – where families gathered to bury their loved ones – can be thought of as stage sets for the send-off to the hereafter. Taking advantage of the MFA’s vivid tomb painting reproductions to recreate the environment of such a tomb, this exhibition will create an immersive experience for visitors, transporting them back in time. Within the exhibition space, original works of art will be organized primarily by chronology and secondarily by theme. The exhibition will span the origins of the Etruscans and the Villanovan and Orientalizing periods of Etruscan art (roughly the 8th and 7th centuries BC) to the Etrusco-Hellenistic period (about 330 – 100 BC).
Drawing on the strengths of the MFA’s excellent collection of Etruscan art, this exhibition provides a rare opportunity for visitors to take a journey to the past and to engage directly with an intriguing lost culture that stood between Greece and Rome.
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