The first release in the new series Essays on the Ancient: “Etruscan Dress” by Larissa Bonfante

  • Premiering at the Fondazione Luigi Rovati and at MiArt during Art Week.


    Translated for the first time into Italian, an unsurpassed text for the study of Etruscan clothing: a wealth of images reveals how fashion can become a useful tool for reconstructing the history of a people and its relations with other Mediterranean cultures. The volume inaugurates a new series by Johan & Levi in collaboration with Fondazione Luigi Rovati, dedicated to the exploration of ancient civilizations. Judging from the variety of garments depicted with an abundance of detail in the artistic production of the Etruscans, this people was affected by multiple cultural influences, including in fashion. So much so that, if "Etruscan-style" dress existed, it would be impossible to imagine it outside the context of trade relations and frequent exchanges between the peoples of the Mediterranean and Near East. This is the case of the different variants of the chiton, a garment of Greek origin, but also of hairstyles such as the long braid worn on the back, of Eastern derivation, or the tutulus of Greek import, declined, however, according to typically local forms. In order to identify the most indigenous features of Etruscan fashion, Larissa Bonfante makes an articulate analysis of its development from the 8th to the 5th century B.C. She does so through a rich iconographic journey that follows the evolution of individual garments, footwear, ornaments and hairstyles, about which written sources have left little information. It is thanks to the artists, in fact, that we know about the taste for luxury that led the Etruscans to adorn themselves with jewelry and accessories; the habit of wearing tailored clothing as opposed to the loose, flowing garments of the Greeks; reluctance to the nudity of the latter and a fondness for a wide range of hats as opposed to the Greek custom of going bareheaded; or, again, the female custom of wearing clothing that elsewhere was reserved for men, such as the semicircular tebenna, the short cloak tucked upside down, and shoes with laces. custom that reflected the freedom women enjoyed in public life and society compared to other coeval civilizations. For Bonfante, clothing becomes an important historical document for dating the finds and attributing a gender, social rank and even a name to the figures represented. If Etruscan fashion is an expression of influences absorbed from Greek and Near Eastern models and then transmitted to the Roman world, this polarity does not exclude the space of a specifically Etruscan style.



    Larissa Bonfante (Naples, 1931-New York, 2019) was an archaeologist, ethruscologist and academic, professor emerita at New York University and a member of the American section of the National Institute of Etruscan and Italic Studies in Florence, honored with the Gold Medal Award for archaeology in 2007 by the Archaeological Institute of America. Her publications deal particularly with Etruscan language and culture.


    Etruscan dress

    Larissa Bonfante

    Translation by Elena Balzano
    Essays on the Ancient, Johan & Levi