(800 B.C. to 100 B.C.)
Italian art history begins with the Etruscans. Etruscan Civilization was created on the now known Tuscany region of Italy. It isn't known where they came from, but the character of their art and many distinctive features of their religion make it clear that the original Etruscans were from a region in Asia Minor. During the Iron Age (1000 to 1 B.C.), urban civilization spread throughout Etruria - Tarquinia was probably the oldest city and is the most famous. The other centers were Caere (Cerveteri), Vulci, and Veii (Veio). When they arrived, they brought a high level of a Greek-like culture with them. Like the Greeks, the Etruscans lived in fortified cities. Their civilization stretched from the Arno River in the North to the Tiber River towards the center of the Italian peninsula in the South. The Etruscans were an agrarian people, but they also used military means to dominate the region. At the height of their power (c. 500 B.C.), the Etruscans dominated Italy from the Po river in the north to central Campania. These people rose to prosperity and power, and then disappeared, leaving behind many unanswered questions concerning their origin and their culture. For their Greek contemporaries and Roman successors, the Etruscans were clearly a different ethnic group. Little Etruscan literature remains and the language of inscriptions on their monuments has been only partially deciphered. They had an alphabet based on the Greek alphabet. Etruscan art appears nowhere as related primary upon the influences, concepts and methods of Greek art. There are marked similarities to the art of the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon, Egypt, Asia Minor, and even Assyria. It also promotes Italian elements and reflects distinctively Etruscan religious beliefs. Etruscan art had great influence on subsequent Roman styles and was largely absorbed by the 1st century B.C.
Etruscans built palaces, public buildings, and early temples in wood and brick, so nothing remained. Ceramic models of temples, as well as traces of later stone structures, indicate how temples were built in enclosures and had tiled, gabled roofs supported on pillars, like their Greek counterparts. An Etruscan temple, to meet religious requirements, was located on a north-south axis and stood on a high podium with a four-columned porch. Roman temples were patterned on the form developed by the Etruscans. Most Etruscan cities were fortified and with encompassing walls enforced by double gates and towers. No remains of Etruscan homes have been found. The Etruscans also built aqueducts, bridges, and sewers. Outside the cities were cemeteries containing family tombs. They were built underground but had large vaults of overlapping stones covered by mounds of earth.
Sculpture and painting
The Etruscans created artistic objects mostly for religious purposes. Important part of their art is associated with their funerary customs. The cult of the dead, similar to contemporaneous Egyptian practices, produced a highly developed sepulchral art. The sculptured lids of sarcophagi often represented a single figure or a couple with the haunting archaic smile so evident in early Greek sculpture. The most famous Etruscan works are in terra-cotta, or baked clay, and these include besides sculptures on sarcophagi, also works from temples. As a consequence of abundant ore deposits, bronze statuary was common and the Etruscans brought the art of bronze working to a very high level of achievement. Extant examples of their craftsmanship in bronze include the life-size statue of Orator and Brutus. They rank as the finest bronze statues of its era. Most Etruscan sculpture, however, was executed in clay. Surviving Etruscan painting in underground funerary vaults, consists of murals on the stone or plastered stone walls and ceilings of tombs. Frescoes frequently depict banquets, festivals, and scenes of daily...