Theses Doctoral

Radiant Bodies: Living with Etruscan Bronze Candelabra

Van Oppen, Brian Wallace

This dissertation considers the figural bronze statuettes crowning Etruscan candelabra (c. 520- c. 350 BCE) to discuss the value and role of body images in Etruscan art and domestic as well as funerary contexts. Candelabra rose over a meter in height to present these radiant bodies in isolation, framed by flames. The finial figures were bodies on conspicuous display, as flickering and gleaming light attracted the viewer’s gaze and focused attention on the body’s exposure, dress, and gestures. The emitted light defined social spaces such as the banquet and enhanced the interactions between participants, while candelabra themselves were objects of communal pleasure and viewing. In more personal contexts, candelabra also facilitated interaction with one’s own body by lighting activities such as grooming and self-adornment.

Ultimately, this dissertation considers the unique contributions of finial bodies in making candelabra personally and socially meaningful in domestic life, and therefore important memorial objects during a funerary transition at the end of life.By foregrounding the finials and their cultural contexts, I aim to make contributions not only to ancient or Etruscan domestic and funerary culture generally, but particularly to the role that images of the body played as they were incorporated within personal and social objects in these contexts. To this end, I apply theories of phenomenology, embodiment, and perception while considering the value of finials as body images rather than simple subject matter. Because of the relationships that candelabra developed with their users specifically through the body, as well as their conspicuous display of body images, Etruscan candelabra earn a place in these greater theoretical discussions and have value for scholars outside the Etruscan or Ancient world.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Thesis Advisors
De Angelis, Francesco
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 16, 2021