Painted plaques


British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

These five painted terracotta plaques were found in a tomb in the Banditaccia cemetery in 1874, named the Boccanera tomb after the two brothers who found them. The three central plaques were mounted on the wall at the back of the tomb, and the two sphinxes flanked the inside of the doorway. In Etruria sphinxes are often associated with death and depicted as guardians of the tomb.It is rare for scenes in Etruscan tombs to depict episodes from Greek mythology, but this one seems to represent the Judgement of Paris. From left to right are shown Hermes, messenger of the gods, approaching Paris with his task, and then the three goddesses Athena, Hera and Aphrodite, from whom Paris had to choose the most beautiful. The four women facing to the right are probably attendants. Paris was to choose Aphrodite, as she had promised him the most beautiful woman in the world. This was Helen of Troy; his decision set off a chain of events which began the Trojan War.Most Etruscan tomb-paintings are painted directly on to the plastered tomb walls, but these examples painted on terracotta panels represent a more unusual technique. Above is a guilloche pattern, which is also found incised on metalwork, while below are crimson and cream stripes.


  • Title: Painted plaques
  • Date Created: -560/-550
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 98.00-102.00cm; Width: 56.00-57.00cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: painted
  • Subject: sphinx; mythical figure/creature; deity
  • Registration number: 1889,0410.1-5
  • Production place: Made in Etruria
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot La Banditaccia
  • Period/culture: Etruscan
  • Material: pottery
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Helbig, Wolfgang. Excavated by Boccenero

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