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Apulu (Apollo of Veii)

Etruscan temples had unique features compared to Greek and Roman ones. They used terra cotta figures instead of stone and placed them on rooftops. The figures showed lively scenes, like Hercules' third labor. Etruscan art had a distinct style, with stylized faces and bodies.  Speakers: Dr Steven Zucker and Dr. Beth Harris.

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Video transcript

(jazzy music) - [Voiceover] The ancient Etruscans built temples that in some ways looked like Greek and Roman temples but are also distinct. - [Voiceover] But when we look at them from the front, they certainly look like ancient Greek temples. But they're really different. - [Voiceover] For one thing, the Etruscans did not use the Greek orders, that is doric, or ionic, or corinthian. For another, they had very deep porches and the temples tended to be more square. - [Voiceover] And they're not made of stone the way ancient Greek temples were. - [Voiceover] We're looking at the fragments of four large scale terra cota figures from the temple at Veii, which was a principle city of the Etruscans. And we're seeing them in the Etruscan museum in Rome. - [Voiceover] In ancient Greek architecture, we might expect to see figures like this occupy the pediment. But instead, these figures lined the rooftop. - [Voiceover] And like ancient Greek sculpture, they were very highly painted. - [Voiceover] So it's such an interesting moment in Italy in the 6th century. We have Greek colonies in the south of Italy, we have the Romans in Rome although ruled by Etruscan kings, and then up in the northern part of Italy we have a confederacy of about a dozen Etruscan city states. So Italy is a complicated place in the 6th century B.C.E. - [Voiceover] These are slightly larger than life. And although they were placed equidistantly, they do enact a specific scene. - [Voiceover] This is a scene from ancient Greek mythology. It's the third labor of Hercules. Hercules is sent out to capture a very large deer with golden horns. Now, this deer is very special to the goddess Artemis. And actually the idea is that the person who sent Hercules on this labor wants to annoy Artemis. - [Voiceover] So then she punishes Hercules. Now Hercules is known in the original Greek is Herakles. And he's shown here with the golden hind under him. He has been able to capture it and now he's being confronted by both Artemis and her brother Apollo. - [Voiceover] They want the deer back. - [Voiceover] And so Hercules promises to release it once he shows it to the king who sent him on this labor. - [Voiceover] Something we find in Etruscan sculpture is this sense of movement and liveliness. We see that in the sarcophagus of the spouses, for example. And we see that here with the figure of Apollo, who is striding forward. And Hercules too, whose body is leaning forward and whose knee is raised. We see that sense of musculature and animation. - [Voiceover] These are terra cotta, that is they're clay. So they would've been modeled in an additive process. - [Voiceover] Apollo wears that archaic smile that we're used to seeing from the Carros figures. But he's still very different than the Greek figures. His smile is a little bit more animated, his proportions of his body are different. - [Voiceover] And the look on this face is not one that is looking out into a generalized space, he is catching the eye of Hercules. He is engaged directly, and therefore engages us. - [Voiceover] And just like their faces are stylized, their bodies are also highly stylized. There's almost a sense of twisting at the hips and the shoulders are overly rounded and broad. This is not a naturalistic depiction of the body. - [Voiceover] And the artist seems to favor detail. For instance, look at the way that the drapery falls flat, creating these lovely little loops. And look at the marvelous detail of the feet. This is such a tease, because here we have this engaging, lively sculpture from a culture whose literature has been lost and who we know so little about. (jazzy music)