Ancient Lighting Techniques: Cortona’s 2021 Show of Etruscan and Pompeii Artifacts

Etruscan bronze chandelier, part of the permanent collection of Cortona’s Etruscan Museum, created in the 4th century B.C. for a local sanctuary

Until Sept. 12, 2021:  LIGHTS FROM THE DARKNESS, FROM THE LAMPS OF THE ETRUSCANS TO THE GLOW OF POMPEII.  MAEC (Museum of Etruscan Art, Cortona), Palazzo Casali, Piazza Signorelli, Cortona. Open daily 10 am – 7 pm.  Admission:  €10, for children ages 6 – 12 admission is €7.

For the first time, an exhibition dedicated solely to the lighting techniques of the Etruscans and Pre-Roman society has been created by the MAEC.  “Lights from the Darkness, From the Lamps of the Etruscans to the Glow of Pompeii” pulls archeological finds from esteemed institutions from across Italy, including Florence, Perugia, Tarquinia, and Villa Giulia in Rome.  Archeological artifacts from Pompeii are also on display, including a statue found depicting a teenage boy standing roughly one and a half meters tall.

The Etruscans inhabited the Tuscan and western Umbrian territories during the Iron Age, reaching their “Golden Age” at about 750 BC. The Etruscan society assimilated with the Romans starting in the 4th century, and was considered completely Roman by 27 BC. Italian societies of antiquity have shown strong connections to the Etruscans, proven by their methods of creating illuminated spaces in Etruscan fashion. This is highlighted by the sections dedicated to the Nuragic and Pre-Roman cultures in which both divine lighting techniques (lighting using natural methods) and artificial lighting techniques (man-made illumination methods) are showcased. The exhibition as a whole aims to connect and celebrate the relationship between the Pompeiians and their Etruscan relatives, with an added emphasis on the eco-sustainability of the illumination practices.

Some artifacts on display include bronze candleholders, a statue on loan from the MANN (Naples National Archeological Museum), an incredible Etruscan chandelier from the museum’s own collection, and a painted mural depicting a candelabra at mealtime. There are also multiple three-dimensional models which the public is encouraged to engage with in the immersive room. With so little known about the ancient Italian construction and home decor, this show at the MAEC is not to be missed.  (stephanie klein)