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Antefix with female head

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek


This beautiful antefix has well-preserved traces of original colour which are visible to the naked eye. The palmette leaves were once painted alternately black and red with white outlines while the background around them was once painted bluish-black. Today most of the colours are faded or worn away. The original skin colour is pale pink and only preserved on the right side of the face. Most of the face displays the white grounding layer. The hair is painted red on top of black, iris and pupil are painted black and tear ducts and lips are red. Visual examination of the cross-sections shows that all pigments have been applied in a very thin layer on top of a whitish ground. The VIL-imaging reveals a strong luminescence of Egyptian blue on the background around the palmettes and on the right side of the face and hair where it appears as scattered particles as part of a mixture of different colours used to obtain the right shade.

Description of object

The antefix represents a female head surrounded by a floral shell frame. The shell consists of five palmettes of seven leaves each, alternating with smaller lotus flowers. Atop the head is a diadem decorated with discs alternating with ovals in relief. Around the neck is a necklace in the form of a thick, twisted band. The antefix has been mould-made of reddish yellow clay with many inclusions. The antefix is fairly complete with a few chips missing from the edge of the shell frame and on the right volute. Some areas of the surface are covered with greenish biological growth and black dots. Other examples from the same mould sequence have been associated with the Belvedere Temple at Orvieto.

Choice of methods

Visual examination

  • Macroscopic
  • Microscopic in situ

Technical imaging

  • UV
  • VIL
  • IR


  • Cross section
  • Microscopy

Visual examination

The palmette leaves were once painted alternately black and red with white outlines. Today this is only visible on the lower left palmette. This is also the case with the black background around the palmettes whereas the background surrounding the other palmettes appears today as a pale greyish tone. The black background surrounding the palmettes has been mixed with small grains of Egyptian blue is used on the volutes, roll and concave band.The background below each palmette is painted red, as is the upper band. The skin has been painted a pale pink colour but this is only preserved on the right side of the face. The lips are painted red. The eyes, upper and lower rim and eyebrows are painted black. The hair is painted red on top of black. The diadem on top of the head is painted red. Red is also to be found unintentionally applied on the white volute below the palmettes.

Technical imaging

VIL: The VIL-imaging reveals the extensive use of Egyptian blue on the background around the palmettes and the outer leaves of the lotus flower which means that black was mixed with Egyptian blue to obtain a bluish-black effect. A few bright white particles are observed on the right side of the face The particles distributed in the hair appear more fine-grained than on the face.

UV-FL: The UV-FL image did not provide any useful information.

IR: The IR was performed to obtain information on under drawings, but the images did not yield any useful results.

Other types of investigation

Sampling A sampling strategy was developed on the basis of the preliminary investigation. Small samples are taken and prepared for cross-section and subsequent analysis in order to identify the different pigments.

Sample 1: Skin colour from the right cheek Sample 2: Red from the left side of the hair Sample 3: Greyish-black from the background surrounding the palmettes.

Microscopy of cross section: Visual inspection using an optical microscope shows that the pigments in the cross-section of all samples have been applied in a very thin layer on top of a whitish ground with few red grains. The flesh colour is a mixture of black and bright red grains in a white matrix. The cross-section taken from the hair shows a thin black layer with a thicker red layer on top.


J. Christiansen and N.A. Winter (2010), Etruria I. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. Copenhagen, 104, cat. No. 47.

M.S. Sargent (2012) Investigation into the polychromy of some 5th century BCE Etruscan architectural terracottas In: J.S. Østergaard (ed.), Tracking Colour. The polychromy of Greek and Roman sculpture in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. Preliminary report 4. Copenhagen, 26-44.

C. Brøns (1), S. B. Hedegaard & K. L. Rasmussen (2018), The real thing? Studies of polychromy and Authenticity of Etruscan Pinakes at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. Studi Etruschi LXXIX – MMXIV, 195-223.

S.B. Hedegaard (2018), Reconstructing Etruscan Architectural Polychromy: Antefixes from the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, in S. Bracci, G. Giachi, P. Liverani, P. Pallecchi & F. Paolucci (eds.) Polychromy in Ancient Sculpture and Architecture. Proceedings of the 7th Round Table, Florence, 4-7 November 2015, Sillabe, Florence, 36-42.

  • HIN 452
  • Antefix
  • c. 400 B.C.E.
  • Classical
  • Terracotta
  • Acquired in 1924 in Orvieto.
  • H. 37 cm.; W. 41.9 cm.

Selected photos

  • Hin452_t_0
  • Hin452_d_face
  • Hin452_d_skin_rigth_side
  • Hin452_d_skin_x26
  • Hin452_d_hair
  • Hin452_d_palmette
  • Hin452_d_blackbluish_x26
  • Hin452_d_red_on_white_volute
  • Hin452_d_whiteground
  • Hin452_mi_1c_x10
  • Hin452_mi_2a_x20
  • Hin452_vil_t_0
  • Hin452_d_skin