Banquet scene, Tomb of the Leopards, c. 480-470 B.C. Etruscan; Tarquinia, Italy. Fresco. Scala / Art Resource NY
Elite Etruscan women held a privileged place within their society and were known to participate in public activities. They were shown in tomb paintings dining with men at banquets, as in this example. Such practices distinguished them from proper Greek women, who did not join their men at the symposium (drinking party). On the lids of sarcophagi (coffins), Etruscan women were also represented reclining with their husbands.
Right: Hand Mirror, 470/50 b.c. Etruscan, probably from Vulci. Bronze; 16.8 × 15.1 × 0.7 cm (6 5/8 × 6 × 5/16 in.). The Art Institute of Chicago, Katherine K. Adler Memorial Fund, 1984.1341. Center: Cista (Storage Box), late 4th century b.c. Etruscan, Praenestine. Bronze; h. 41.3 cm (16 1/4 in.), diam. 23.7 cm (9 3/8 in.), h. of handle 8 cm (3 1/8 in.). Lent by the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, 25033. Left: Foot of a Cista (Storage Box), early 5th century B.C. Etruscan, probably Vulci. Bronze;15.6 x 10.4 x 5.4 cm (6 1/8 x 4 1/8 x 2 1/8 in.). The Art Institute of Chicago, Katherine K. Adler Memorial Fund, 1999.559.
Etruscan women possessed costly objects that not only assisted in their beautification but also symbolized their status. Two of the most popular objects were bronze hand mirrors, which are thought to have been marriage gifts, and a type of cylindrical container known as a cista (lidded chest), used to hold jewelry and unguents. These goods were often buried with women and frequently contained inscriptions naming mythological figures and deities, indicating that their owners were likely literate.
Earrings (Bauletto), 540/510 b.c. Etruscan. Gold; w. 1.15 cm (7/16 in.). Lent by the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, 239066.1–2.
High-status Etruscan women also wore costly and elaborate gold jewelry in order to attest to their social position, including bracelets, earrings, necklaces, rings, and headbands, which were produced locally by master Etruscan goldsmiths. Such lavish displays of wealth were not limited to Etruscan women, as men and children were also known to wear gold pendants.