An Etruscan cista handle cast in bronze in the shape of a nude male youth, portrayed doing an arched back-bend, with his feet together and head tilted back. The acrobat is show with naturalistically detailed facial features and hair, rendered through incised lines. The flattened hands and feet hold the attachments pins, one now missing. The handle would have been originally part of a cista, a cylindrical lidded container for women cosmetics and toiletries, such as hairpins and strigils. Cistae have been largely recovered from Etruscan tombs of wealthy women.
The Etruscans were renewed as bronze-workers, adept especially in working small bronze figures which would have served as votive offerings, or, such is this case, as vessel’s handles. Bronze vessels and everyday artefacts have been largely recovered in Etruscan graves, displaying great stylistic and iconographic influences from Greek artistic production. Cista handles were usually modelled in the shape of three figures, such as pair of mythological figures or wrestlers, rather than single figures, making this example a rare find. Athletes and acrobats occur frequently in Etruscan wall paintings, sculptures and pottery, portrayed firmly with bent legs and arched bodies.
Date: Circa 5th-4th Century BC