Guide to Ancient Etruscan Art


Becker, J.A., Frischer, B., Harris, B., Neel, J., Taylor, L., & Zucker. (2019). Guide to Ancient Etruscan Art.

Reviewed by: PSH, Lehman College


This resource is a collection of histories, images, and commentaries on different pieces of Etruscan Art. The Etruscans are the predecessors of the Romans, and thus their art and culture had deep influences on Roman art. This text goes into depth about different art styles, architecture, and the speculated purposes of various art pieces. It was published by Smarthistory, which is a leading nonprofit organization producing equitable art histories from around the world. Under the Creative Commons license, there is a disclaimer that this publication is not endorsed or associated with AP® Art History by College Board. Because of this, I will assume that this resource would be very useful to high school students taking an AP art history course. This guide is one of six books about art history around the Mediterranean including Grecian and Roman art. This specific textbook is broken into thirteen sections across 61 pages, so not only is it a quick read but it is also concise in its focus on the art that is included in the text.


Content: The language used in the book is very easy to read—set at a high school junior reading level. There is no confusing historical jargon that would make the content difficult for a new learner to get through; this resource could even be used by someone going to a museum who wants a bit more supplementary information (that is how easy it is to read this). Each chapter goes into depth about different pieces of Estrucan art or general types of artwork from the period. For example, section 2 is about burnished black ceramicware called Bucchero, which includes information about its history, how it was made, and what influenced this style, while Section 3’s primary focus is the Temple of Minerva. There could be an improvement in the background history of the areas where these pieces were crafted or excavated, as this would give better context to what readers are learning about. The images are brightly colored and enrich the text, and all images are accompanied by the name of the work, where to find it, and a small description of the picture if the work doesn’t have a name. They are generously dispersed throughout the text, but not too much so that it overwhelms the text. At the end of every chapter, there is a shortlist of websites, podcasts, books, and videos for additional reinforcement. The textbook also includes a discussion between two contributors of the book discussing a piece of art.

Structural, Organization, & Technical: This piece is offered in a free PDF format and a hard copy (color, double-sided, comb-bound) for $24.13. The pdf opens into a Dropbox document which is a bit difficult to maneuver as it is presented as one long document and in a small font. However, the user can go to the table of contents, click on a chapter, and they will be brought to that chapter in the text automatically.

Images & Interactive Features: There are many images dispersed equally throughout the text. The pictures are brightly colored, as they seem to be taken straight from an excavation site. But, because of this, the colors used in the photos may be relevant to the meaning behind the art itself which may hinder the experience of those who are colorblind. There are small descriptions under every photo used, but these mostly include the name of the artwork, where one can go to see the piece in person (such as the Vatican Museum), and a Creative Commons license when available. At the end of every chapter, there is a list of links online users can click on that will take them to supplemental resources like podcasts, museum articles, and videos. I found only three links that were broken. Books are also included on this list, but they lack an ISBN or link that makes finding them easier.

Social Justice & Equity: There is a good array of people from different backgrounds who contributed directly and indirectly to this project. At the beginning of every chapter, under the title, the author is credited. I think more effort could’ve been made to bring more Italian historians to directly contribute as authors to this project, as most of the authors are American. That being said, there are many references and supplemental articles that were written by Italian and other international historians. This book consists of the history of the individual pieces of art being interpreted in every chapter, so there is not much (and not necessary) in terms of the inclusion of diverse groups. There is a discussion on trade with foreign regions and how that impacted the art, and I think more on that line of thought would have greatly enriched the text.

Accessibility: This resource is not the most accessible, as it only comes in as a hard copy or as a Dropbox file. People can download it to their computers, and from there it becomes a proper PDF file. There are no options of downloading it as a Word Document or any other alternative. The Creative Commons license can be found on the fourth page of the document, with a CC-BY-NY-SA license. This means that this resource can be remixed and built upon but must include a credit to the original authors and must be under the same license as the original work. All the pictures included are images of original frescos, pottery, and statues, which may or may not have meaning behind the colors used. The images lack an alternative text or text-to-speech option for those that have sight impairments.

Overall Review

This is a very useful and engaging resource; however, there is much room for improvement. The richly colored images are engaging for many readers as it is a feast for the eyes to see the rich colors of red, blue, and gold that the Etruscans used, but these colors might be a hindrance for colorblind readers. While there is a basic description under every picture, I don’t believe they are descriptive enough to provide an equal experience for blind learners. The text itself is easy to read, understand, and stay engaged with. However, it does focus on very specific statues, frescos, and metalwork–I think it could have expounded upon the history of the people who made the art some more to provide a more holistic background for the reader to contextualize the art. The formatting of the document can pose difficulty to someone who is not tech-savvy, especially since–besides the cover page–the text needs to be magnified. I think if a disabled learner was using this resource, much would be lost in their learning experience. There is a lack of alt-text for the images, and text-to-speech option, and the colors in the pictures may or may not have bearing on the meaning of the image. I would recommend this text to a casual learner, or someone just breaking into the subject. This text does not seem suited for someone well established in the field or this area of study and needs to be improved to be more accessible for disabled students.


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Evaluating OER for Social Justice Copyright © 2022 by PSH is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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