The Sarcofago degli Sposi (Sarcophagus of the Spouses) is a masterpiece of Etruscan terracotta work. It was discovered in 1881 at the Banditaccia necropolis at Cerveteri, broken into more than four hundred pieces. Painstakingly reassembled, it is now one of the highlights of the Museo Nazionale Etrusco (National Etruscan Museum).
Dating back to between 530 and 520 BCE, the tomb depicts a married couple half-reclined on a banqueting-couch. The portrayal of two spouses sharing such a couch is a uniquely Etruscan trope. The man lovingly rests his arm on his wife's shoulder. He is naked apart from a cloak, while his partner is very elegantly attired. She wears a type of hat known as a tutulus and sports a pair of pointed sandals (calcei repandi).
The Sarcofago degli Sposi was discovered by Felice Bernabei, the founder of the Museo Nazionale Etrusco, which is housed in Villa Giulia. The 16th century villa was originally built for Pope Julius III (r. 1550-55) by the architect Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola (1507-73).
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private and
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