Wagon Plates – Step 1

Hello everybody,

My first work for the V-Must project is for Etruscanning 3D. It consists in the digital restoration of seven Etruscan plates in bronze of the middle orientalizing period (670 – 650 b.C.), which come from the Monte Michele tomb number 5 in Veii. They were part of the decoration of the wooden wagon chest that has been found in the main chamber of the tomb. Unfortunately the roof of the tomb felt down and this event, in addition with the high perishability of wood, determined the loss of the main structure of the wagon. The aim of the virtual restoration of the plates is to find some clues on how was the vehicle like.

All the plates have the same height of 14 cm while the length, which in total is more than 5 m, is different for each of them. The decoration is subdivided in three different levels and it is repeated in all the laminae. In the top and bottom levels it is composed by a braid motif (guilloches) and by a floral motif of rosettes in the central one.

Fragment of the decoration (Photo by Museum of Villa Giulia)
Fragment of the decoration (Photo by Museum of Villa Giulia)

The first goal of my work was to determine the technique used to decorate the plates. At the beginning I focused my attention on the rosettes: using the brush tool of Photoshop I traced the shape of the best preserved one and I compared it with all the others.

Draving of the rose
Drawing of the first rosette.

They appear to be identical in the shape, but slightly different in their rotation. This information let me suppose that they have been made using a ready-made tool, a punch with a flower-shaped tip. The differences in the rotation are due to the manufacturing work.

Repetition of the motif.

After that, I repeated the same process with the guilloche: the result was much more interesting. The braids are composed by modules of three waves that go from the top left to the bottom right.

Drawing of the first group of waves.

Tracing the shape of the first group of three waves and comparing it with the rest of the braid, it appeared that each group of waves is different from the others: the only common element is the distance between the three lines.

Braidal motif full
Variations in the trend of the braidal motif.

In this case it is clear that the craftsman did not use a punch to repeat the motif. He probably used a burin with a tripartite tip.

In the end of this preliminary step I made a comparison between the plates. Unfortunately we have proper pictures of only two of them. As my expectation, in the second plate the rosettes are identical to the previous ones, confirming the use of a punch.

Surprisingly, the braids appear extremely different, much more irregular in their shape and in their position in the space. Several time the external wave of a group had been deleted by the craftsman in tracing the next group.

The irregularity of this work and the poor ability in managing the space let me suppose that this plate was carried out by a second craftsman, less experienced than the first one, which probably was an apprentice of the workshop.


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