Etruscan Paintings

Junior (College 3rd year) ・Art ・APA ・2 Sources


The Etruscan civilization existed between the eighth to third century BC and was rich in artistic and architectural embellishments, which are the only surviving artifacts of this ancient way of life. These artifacts depict the Etruscan lifestyles, beliefs, and craftsmanship, and have been preserved through time to the current duration as engraves on the walls of tombs and fragments of built structures. The Etruscans believed in life after death; thus, they equipped the dead with all the necessary requirements for the afterlife ranging from tomb paintings, sculptures, and pottery, which the dead could use in the afterlife. The tombs were in the towns such as Tarquinia, Cerveteri, Chiusi, and Vulci, and the paintings on the walls depicted the lively and colorful scenes from the Etruscan mythologies, daily lives, and tomb occupants.

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Subject of The Paintings on The Tomb Walls

Etruscans imagined the life after death, which was a significant part of their religious beliefs and greatly influenced their art forms. For instance, Tomba Deglia Uguri II exposed in 1878 his drawings that are invaluable in giving a peek into the early lives of the Etruscan people. The tomb had a back wall with men painted on it. As a matter of fact, two men were painted on both sides of the door wearing chitons and black cloaks with red lining. They had their hands raised to symbolize that they were lamenting. This shows that the civilization had elaborated mourning practices and that they held their dead kinsmen in high honor. These scenes and subjects communicate a somber mood considering that the individuals had lost a valuable kinsman to them. However, they also inspire respect and admiration as to how the Etruscans managed to keep such an elaborate set of drawings in their culture. It demonstrates order, patience, and ingenuity, which are admirable qualities that the paintings portray.

Additionally, they drew music instruments on the walls, which were meant to indicate the need for music by the dead. This inspired a mood of enlightenment, since it demonstrates that these people had an elaborate idea of the afterworld. It is impressive that they could organize their thoughts and imaginations to purposely design such art forms. However, there are elements of sadness, as one looks at the picture and imagines the rationale and events surrounding them, which are largely pegged on death (Poulsen, 1922).

Penultimately, the dressing code of white tunic and black dots, red and brown cloak, and shoes worn during the funeral ceremonies was a subject on the tombs. Additionally, Etruscan daily life activities such as dancing, hunting, fishing, and sporting events had a spot on the walls. These inspire a mood of storytelling and gets the observer tuned in for the narrative told in pictorial form. Some tombs focused on the joys of living scenes such as feasting, as the Etruscans were famous to have lived luxurious lives that included eating exotic foodstuffs. These scenes depict an insight into the social status of Etruscan women that they could attend drinking ceremonies. These could be seen in the tombs at Veii (Cartwright, 2017).

Finally, tombs had paintings of doors and in certain cases guards. It has symbolized the fact that the dead had gone through a gateway into another place and were being guarded. These paintings inspired a mood of hope and celebration. As a matter of fact, they offered relief for the bereaved in knowing that their loved ones were guarded and had lived on the other side.

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  1. Cartwright, M. (2017, February 08). Etruscan tomb paintings. Retrieved on May 26, 2017 from
  2. Poulsen, F. (1922). Etruscan tomb paintings, their subjects and significance. (Digitized in 2012). Retrieved on May 26, 2017 from
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