As Arretium, Arezzo was an important member of the 12-city Etruscan confederation, and the town was quite famous in Roman times for its mass-produced corallino ceramics. This past comes to light with a few standout finds in the 14th-century Convento di San Bernardo, built atop the remains of a Roman amphitheater and well worth an hour of browsing. Among the Etruscan artifacts upstairs is an utterly charming urn with human arms as handles and a lid shaped like a human head—the piece could hold its own as pop art and manages to convey the sophistication and humanity of the Etruscans. Ground floor rooms house the remnants of the mass-produced corallino clay pottery that from 50 b.c. to a.d. 70 put Roman Arezzo on the map of the ancient world. Room 8 shows off the commercial weight of this enterprise with the remnants of the famed Ateius workshop, which at its height had branch ateliers in Pisa and Lyons. These clay vases of Arezzo were much less expensive than the silver vessels on which they were modeled, and they flooded the empire in the same way mass produced made-in-China plastic imitators have today usurped so many hand-crafted items. Plus, they were available in the same shapes as more finely wrought vessels, and decorated similarly. Not that Aretines didn’t value quality: A wide-mouthed vase, the so-called crater of Euphronius, was made by namesake Greek master in the 6th century b.c. and used to mix wine and water. It would have been extremely precious even in its own time, a symbol of the great status of the Arezzo resident who had shipped from Greece through the Greco-Etruscan port of Spina, on the Po delta, and from there carted overland across the Apennine passes. Similarly exquisite is a highly refined tiny portrait of a toga-wearing man incised on gold and silver leaf and protected by a glass disk, dating from the a.d. early 3rd century and reflecting a goldsmithing tradition for which Arezzo is still well known.
Museo Archeologico G. C. Mercenate
Via Margaritone 10
Our Rating Hours Daily 8:30am–7:30pm Phone 0575-20882 Prices 4€ adults, 2€ 18–25, under 18 free
MapVia Margaritone 10 Arezzo
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