Czére Andrea szerk.: A Szépművészeti Múzeum közleményei 105. (Budapest, 2006)

NEW ACQUISITIONS - ÚJ SZERZEMÉNYEK - JÁNOS GYÖRGY SZILÁGYI: Etruscan Grave Marker with Reliefs in the Collection of Classical Antiquities

NEW ACQUISITIONS ETRUSCAN GRAVE MARKER WITH RELIEFS IN THE COLLECTION OF CLASSICAL ANTIQUITIES On the occasion of the centenary of the Aluseum of Fine Arts, the Ministry of Education and Culture enriched the Collection of Classical Antiquities with the purchase of a significant work of Etruscan art. The 52x52 cm object with a height of 30 cm once served as the base of a grave marker carved out of local stone, i.e. the so-called pietra fetida. The artefact is thought to have been found in Sarteano near Chiusi about halfa century ago and its significance lies in the fact that all of its four sides are decorated with reliefs that have remained almost completely intact. The grave marker belongs to a well-known group of objects, and is dated to the later phase of their production, around the 480s BC. The objects were made in present-day Chiusi (Etruscan Camars, Roman Clusium). The execution of its reliefs alone makes the Budapest piece an important representative of late-archaic Etruscan art, but its exceptional significance can rather be attributed to the iconography of those same reliefs. The reliefs on its four sides represent scenes from funerary games: horse and running races, wrestling and boxing, discus­and javelin-throw r ers, as well as umpires and scribes, the feats of acrobats, musicians accompa­nying the events, and —most interestingly in the relief cycle —two masked figures. The latter were identified as the phersu figures in Tarquinian tomb frescoes by J.-P. Thuillier in the first scholarly publication on the reliefs a decade ago. The significance of the reliefs is manifold. The scenes depicted can also be observed on tomb frescoes and vases from the South-Etrurian centres of the sixth-fifth centuries in an almost identical form, which suggests the use of a common pattern book. This indicates that the funerary rites followed a more or less identical programme in the great Etruscan centres. An even more important aspect of the reliefs, pointing ahead to the following millennia of European culture, is the fact that today's sporting events and main circus attractions appear side by side on them, clearly showing their mutual significance as related to funerary rites: originally all of them represented the so-called "rites de passage". Their meaning underwent gradual modifications over the millennia, but never disappeared completely. The continuity is primarily ensured by the figure of the phersu who turns up under a different designation in the funerary processions of Roman noblemen, appears in mediaeval carnivals as well as in the comic scenes of passion plays, and enjoys his renaissance in the modern circus, where the clown