Etruscan Amber Carving of a Siren
Period: 6th-5th century B.C.
Dimensions: L. 7.5 cm.
Ex- Sotheby’s Antiquities London, 8.12.1994, lot 11
This relief is sculpted in a large triangular amber fragment. Despite some small cracks, the dark brown surface is very well preserved and all engraved details are clearly visible.
This work shows a Siren, an hybrid creature with the body of a bird and a woman’s head. This famous classical mythological figure first appears in Greek epic poems such as the Odyssey, where Sirens sang with such sweetness that sailors were lured to their death; fortunately Odysseus escapes this fate by ordering his crew to put wax in their ears and to tie him to the mast. This figure became popular in Etruscan imagery even if its meaning was related to the funerary world. As other monsters, Sirens might help the deceased to travel to the underworld. Nice stylistic parallels of this relief may be found in small Etruscan bronze sculpture which has been largely influenced by Archaic Greek art.