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Etruscan Nenfro Protome of an Animal
New York | Sculpture
 
Date:  6th Century BC5th Century BC
Culture:  Etruscan
Category:  Sculpture
Medium:  Stone
Dimension: H: 39 cm
Price: $15,000.00
Provenance: European Art Market, 1997; Imported into the US in 1999.
Serial No: 8208

A protome presumed to be from the arch entrance to an Etruscan tomb. With an expression of ferocity, this stone sculpture of a lion stands as a testament to the Etruscan love of oriental themes and artistic conventions, as well as to the high technical skill of Etruscan stone-workers.
The lower end of the sculpture is smooth and rectangular which implicates that it was architectural, a capstone (figural brick) and horizontally placed so the animals face can be seen from below as you enter or exit the tombs. Abstracted series of contours, lines, and planes; full of energy and expression. His lips are pulled back, revealing sharp fangs and tongue which appears to be stuck out and upwards as if cleaning the nose. His muzzle is long and the mouth slightly curls which can be a sign of famish as it stares ahead at its next meal, instilling fear and respect into anyone who might approach, beaty eyes glare protectively and his ears lay low against his cranium. Below a powerful neck are lines depicting a mane as well as sharp, saw-tooth pattern, adding to both the dynamic, as well as abstract, quality of the piece.
Carved out of nenfro, a volcanic stone indigenous to Etruria, this sculpture is very rare and most beautiful of its type. In typical Etruscan style, the focus is not on an accurate representation of a lion so much as on proportion and definition of forms and the intentional segregation of parts from one another. Although the artisan has abstracted the natural form and features of a lion, he has absolutely succeeded in capturing and encapsulating the essence, fury and power of the animal.