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Chimera of Arezzo Critical Essay

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Updated: Jan 29th, 2020

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The Chimera is a bronze statue created in the late 5th or early 6th century BC (Davies 120). The height of the bronze is 80 cm and it is now a part of the collection of Museo Archeologico in Florence (Davies 120). There is no information about the author of the piece, but it is known that Benvenito Cellini found and restored it in the Renaissance (Dunstan 16).

Firs, the tail was missing and it was thought that it was a depiction of a lion, in spite of a goat’s head growing from its back (Cohen 1). Soon, the tail was discovered and the piece obtained its complete form. The sculpture is seen as a conventional example of Etruscan Art.

The Subject Matter of the Piece

The Chimera is a depiction of an ancient Greek monster born by the horrible Typhon. The creature has a body and a head of a lion, a goat’s head (growing out of the monster’s back) and a snake for the tail. The monster was defeated by the Greek hero (Gardner & Kleiner 151). This creature was seen as a manifestation of horror and evil.

The monster is depicted as if it is about to attack. The heads are all looking in the same direction. The lion is roaring and is about to jump to attack the enemy. Though the Chimera is depicted as a wounded monster with blood springing from the wounds, the creature is ferocious and it is not going to be easily defeated. The hair of the mane is bristling up and every muscle is seen under the skin.

The sculpture is believed to be a part of a larger ensemble and it can be a depiction of the fight between the creature and the Greek hero (Cohen 1). Nonetheless, other parts of the ensemble were never found and it is still unclear whether there were other parts.

The Chimera as a Manifestation of the principles of Etruscan Art

The Etruscans were famous for their sculpture. Sculptors worked with terracotta and bronze. The Chimera is made by casting process which was typical of the Etruscans. Dunstan also emphasizes that the Chimera is an example of the “power of Etruscan metalwork” as the surface of the sculpture is patterned and the muscles are depicted with great precision (16). Notably, bronze is soft material unlike stone.

This softness enabled the Etruscans to create remarkable postures and characters in motion. The casting process also helped achieve realistic depiction of details. Importantly, this process was later adopted by Roman sculptors who resorted to casting process as well.

However, it is necessary to note that the process of creation is less important than the themes used. Thus, the Etruscans had two major themes revealed in their sculptures. One of these themes was animals and mythological animals to a greater extent (Dunstan 16). The Etruscans strived to attribute the form to mythological creatures, to give the flesh to fears or aspirations, so-to-speak.

The Chimera is one of such animals and it is now seen as conventional. It is possible to state that the Chimera suggests that the Etruscans paid a lot of attention to the spiritual sphere. They perpetuated characters from the myths and this shows their devotion to the sphere of spiritual.

Importantly, Etruscans were inspired by Greek myths and artistic methods. It is possible to trace certain similarities between Etruscan and Hellenistic artistic methods. Thus, the use of mythological themes and realistic depiction of characters in motion are some of these similar traits.

Apart from the theme of myths, it is possible to state that the Etruscans were fascinated by motion and strength. Though it is a sculpture, the Chimera is a symbol of motion as the creature seems to be moving. Precise depiction of the creature’s hair, its muscles and even its wounds creates a special feeling of motion. Though, Chimera is a mythological creature it is created in a very realistic way.

Furthermore, the Etruscans paid special attention to depiction of feelings. The Chimera is representation of such concepts as fear, power, strengths, ferocity, despair, etc. The wounded monster is in pain, but it is still ready to attack. Hence, it is possible to suppose that the Etruscans were fascinated by strength and power.

Importantly, Etruscan Art affected Romans significantly. Romans also resorted to the themes of ancient myths and created numerous mythological animals. Roman sculptors’ attention to details is also well-known.


To sum up, it is necessary to note that the Chimera is a conventional example of Etruscan Art. The bronze piece reveals a mythological monster. The piece embodies major features of Etruscan Art. Thus, the Etruscans were inspired by such themes as mythological animals, power, strength and fear.

The Chimera is in motion, which is also typical of Etruscan Art. It is necessary to note that the piece says a lot about the Etruscans as it embodies certain characteristic features of the culture.

Works Cited

Cohen, Beth. “New Light on a Master Bronze from Etruria.” American Journal of Archaeology. 114.3 (2010):1-10. Web.

Davies, Penelope J.E., et al. Janson’s Basic History of Western Art. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice, 2014. Print.

Dunstan, William E. Ancient Rome. Lanham, MA: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2010. Print.

Gardner, Helen, and Fred S. Kleiner. Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: The Western Perspective. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.

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