Head of A Young Woman, photo by Artemesia

The Head of a Young Woman is in the Etruscan Museum in Chiusi, Italy. It dates to about 475 BCE, when the city was called Clusium. It was found in one of the many Etruscan underground tombs in the area. The work is in terra cotta, with a lot of detail worked into the surface, and then painted. Note the hair covering, a sort of veil anchored by a headband. The eyebrows are raised and painted. And notice the finely crafted lips. This is the only life-like piece in the museum. All of the other works are either abstractions, like the one below, or formalized depictions.

 

Canopic Jar With Head, Photo by Verity Cridland

I discussed Etruscan burial urns here. In Chiusi, there are other kinds of burial cases, including three part figures: a vase to hold the ashes; a head, usually in terra cotta, which acts as a lid to the vase; and a metal or terra cotta throne in which the the vase sits. These were placed in underground burial sites dug into the soft stone, on benches carved from the walls. It is possible that this is one of those heads, but I’d guess not, because all of the examples at the museum look like this one, not like the finely crafted young woman. I think it was a figure placed in the tomb as a remembrance for the afterlife.

 

The artist has captured an expression of sorrow, just before crying; I can feel the tears welling up in her eyes. Perhaps it is the sorrow of a daughter for her lost mother, or a mother grieving for her lost child. I hope she was able to find peace.