Bronze bust of a woman


British Museum

British Museum

This distinctive bronze bust of a woman is one of the earliest large-scale Etruscan bronze figures to survive. It was found in the 'Isis Tomb' in the Polledrara cemetery in Etruria. The tomb was rich in imported luxury goods from Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean. The bust is made of bronze sheet hammered to shape (the sphyrelaton or hammered technique), like some early Greek figures. It was made at a time when bronzeworkers were not yet confident in attempting large cast figures. The right hand and the bird are cast and added separately. Originally a skirt was attached, made of horizontal strips of bronze sheet decorated with animals. Only fragments survive The horned bird was once thought to identify the figure as the Egyptian goddess Isis, which is why the tomb is known as the Isis Tomb. However, it is more likely that the figure represents a native Italic deity, perhaps a fertility goddess, as she holds one hand to her breast, like earlier figures from Syria and Asia Minor. The horned bird was often depicted by the early peoples of Italy and north of the Alps, and may have had some significance in local cult worship.

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  • Title: Bronze bust of a woman
  • Date Created: -600/-575
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 39.00cm; Height: 39.37cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: cast; repouss
  • Subject: deity; bird
  • Registration number: 1850,0227.15
  • Production place: Made in Italy
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Isis Tomb
  • Period/culture: Etruscan
  • Material: bronze
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Braun, Emil