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Vulci Archeological Park Viterbo Italy Art News

Borsheim Art Newsletter:

by Kelly Borsheim copyright 21 July 2013 (original publish date)

*    A Trip to Vulci Archeological Park, Province of Viterbo, Italy
*    New Art!
*    Original Sculptures by Vasily Fedorouk
*    Stone Carving Symposium - Castelvecchio di Pescia, Tuscany, Italy
*    Blog Highlights
*    Subscription Info.

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horses graze inside the Vulci Archeological Park, an Etruscan ruin
The pastoral setting of Vulci, Italy
All images by Kelly Borsheim


Dear Art Lover,

    Back around 6th century BC, Vulci, Italia, was once a thriving and important maritime city. She is not situated along the coastline, although she is not far and has a river that gave good access, protecting the city as she grew to power. Vulci was an important center of Etruria.

    Built along the Fiora River, Vulci ('Velch' in Etruscan) is rich with volcanic basalt. You will see this stone in many of the ruins and even the Roman roads. The fertile lands and the proximity to the sea (about 10 kilometers) helped the city grow in trade. Vulci was successful in connecting the Greek and eastern cultures with those of inland Tuscany and surrounding areas. However, crisis hit the entire region and trade with the Greek colonies slowed after a few important (lost) battles. There was an attempt at economic recovery as production of ceramics and sculpture was increased. However, in 280 B.C. Vulci was conquered by the Romans and never fully recovered. In the mid-1800s over 15,000 tombs were estimated to have been opened.

[Vulci Etruscan Ruin and Archeological Park, Italy]

    Vulci lies in the Lazio region in the Province of Viterbo, very close to the southern Tuscan border, near the Maremma area. It is probably about an hour and a half OR two hour's drive northwest of Rome. Today she is virtually a ghost town looked after with loving care and with ongoing excavations. What you will see are what remains of the architecture and art, much of that devoted to various gods.

    Sadly, my friend and I did not see many things in Vulci since much of the park was closed for repairs after recent flood damage. [We were there in March and it even drizzled during the few hours of our visit.] I did not see the castle or the bridge, but I like this story about it and pass it on to you: The much newer (12th to 16th century AD) beautiful Badia bridge near the Badia Castle passes about 30 meters over the river. Legend says that the Devil himself built the bridge during the course of one night and it is still referred to as the Devil's bridge. The nearby calcium-rich stalactites are the Devil's handkerchiefs. [I believe that I have heard similar stories about other intriguing bridges in Italy and it makes a girl wonder how busy the Devil was in the construction business!]

    Despite the newer additions, the Vulci Parco Naturalistico Archeologico [Vulci Archaeological Naturalistic Park] primarily features the ruins of an Etruscan community in a virtually unpolluted landscape. It may not have it all, but it has a lot: a necropolis, ruins of a great Etruscan and Roman city, a castle, an arching bridge/aqueduct, open fields with some wooded areas and a river, lake, and waterfall. And, of course, a sacrificial altar!

Vulci Museum Etruscan Vase, Maremma, Italy

Vulci Museum Etruscan Vase, Maremma, Italy

     Figure Vases: Apparently the black figures on ceramic vases came first, originating in Athens, Greece, around 570 B.C. Vases would turn a reddish color in the kiln due to the content of the clay itself. The figures were engraved and then painted with red ferric (iron) oxide. However, in an oven without oxygen, this chemical turns black. Then the artists learned how to create the figures in red. The red figure vases date back to 530-520 B.C. Cultures mixed and artists exchanged ideas and techniques.

    Ceramic vase production reached a height in Vulci around 530 to 510 B.C. featuring a variety of shapes that aided specific functions, such as the Amphora, the Crater, and the Hydrìa (all for storing, mixing, or transporting liquids), the Lekàne (for soup), the Lékythos (perfumes and ointments), and the Stàmnos (vase with lid for protecting wine and oil).

 Vulci Museum Etruscan Vase, Maremma, Italy

     Above: I was impressed with the posters that showed examples of the vases [next to several real vases on pedestals] while explaining the different techniques and the breakthroughs of the time. I like this point made: "It is obvious in any case that the so-produced vases, "black figures" and "red figures," were born only from the ability of the artist's drawing: everything was determined by the capacity to check the line when outlining the figures then to harmonize the relations in the figurative space."

Vulci Museum Etruscan Vase, Maremma, Italy

 Vulci Archeological Park Museum Etruscan Culture, Maremma, Italy

       Above: Oh, how I would have enjoyed taking a swim here! However, the park has suffered some damage from recent flooding and that day in late March was also a bit drizzly and cold. On another day, my friend and I did, however, take a long soak in the natural hot springs (terme) in Saturnia, not too far away.

Vulci Archeological Park Museum Etruscan Culture, Maremma, Italy

Vulci Archeological Park Museum Etruscan Culture, Maremma, Italy

Vulci Archeological Park Museum Etruscan Culture, Maremma, Italy

Vulci Archeological Park Museum Etruscan Culture, Maremma, Italy

Vulci Archeological Park Museum Etruscan Culture, Maremma, Italy

Vulci Archeological Park Museum Etruscan Culture, Maremma, Italy

Roman Roads Vulci Archeological Park Museum Etruscan Culture, Maremma, Italy

Vulci Archeological Park Museum Etruscan Ruins, Maremma, Italy

     Above: The stone used here is volcanic basalt. Below: The Roman roads were made from the local basalt. You may read more about these roads and how they were made on my blog entry at


 Roman Road Ruins Vulci Archeological Park Museum Etruscan Culture, Maremma, Italy

Vulci Archeological Park Museum Etruscan Culture, Maremma, Italy

Vulci Archeological Park Museum Etruscan Ruins Maremma, Italy

Vulci Archeological Park Museum Etruscan Ruins Maremma, Italy

Vulci Archeological Park Museum Etruscan Ruins Maremma, Italy

Vulci Archeological Park Museum Etruscan ruins, Maremma, Italy

Vulci Archeological Park Museum Etruscan ruins, Maremma, Italy

     It impresses me that so many homes centuries ago included sculpture, mosaic works, and paintings or frescoes as a natural part of their spaces. The artworks were just as important as having plants… and also fountains. Today, most of those artifacts have been moved into various museums around the world.

Vulci Archeological Park Museum Etruscan ruins, Maremma, Italy

Vulci Archeological Park Museum Etruscan ruins, Maremma, Italy

Underground Etruscan Ruins Vulci Archeological Park Museum

Underground Etruscan Ruins Vulci Archeological Park Museum

     Above and below: Oh, I loved the mysterious and empty feeling of this "basement." A sign told us that this space underground we entered was probably a nymphaeum, meaning an artificial grotto or building filled with sculpture, paintings, and plants. There were also a couple of small rooms at one end that were definitely used for storage. The evenly spaced squares of light you see are openings from the floor above that alternated in a rectangular border with columns that no longer exist. The architectural drawings of what once was show a very well designed and beautiful space, on both levels.

Underground Etruscan Ruins Vulci Archeological Park Museum

Underground Etruscan Ruins Vulci Archeological Park Museum

Etruscan Culture Vulci Archeological Park Museum

Cattle Range Etruscan Ruins Vulci Archeological Park Museum

     Above: These are images overlooking the area dedicated to the tradition of the Maremma. Obviously, we were not the only curious ones on the premises!

 Etruscan Culture Mythology Ruins Vulci Archeological Park Museum

Etruscan Culture Mythology Ruins Vulci Archeological Park Museum

      Above: These images were taken in Vulci of the altar for Mithras. The sculpture is a replica, made from some material that is not stone (perhaps a type of plastic?).

    The above images were shot of a mostly underground room for worshiping the God Mithras. Two rows of elevated seating areas were supported by six arches. The number was significant . . . the same number of steps taken to reach the seventh sphere. Sacrifices of small animals were made upon the altar. There were three statues found on this location. One was of Mithras killing a bull. All were headless because in the 380th century A.D., the Christians destroyed all artworks related to a religion that was not theirs They also burned the places of worship.

    The park has a sign up that explains things better than I can. Part of it reads:

            The worship of the God Mithras, a divinity of Persian origin, was one of the eastern cults of worship that was diffused throughout Rome at the end of the 1st century A.D. A cult that reached it's maximum during the reign of Emperor Severi. Eastern Mithraism began as a secret religion, and therefore was practiced in underground places. There are two legends of the birth of Mithras. The first one tells that he was born from a stone, holding a sword in one hand and a torch in the other.

     While the other legend says that he was brought to life by a virgin in a grotto. His first act was to conquer the sun; by doing this he received a luminous crown as a gift. He then captured a bull, brought him into a grotto and slit his throat. The remains of the corpse of this animal gave life to all the plants. In particular, the blood was given to the grape vines and the bone marrow to the wheat fields, while from his semen all animals, useful to man, were born. At the end of this great performance, Mithras rose up into the sky, where he continued to protect human life.

            This God was represented by more than a bull and the sun. Always present with him, as symbolic figures, are a dog and a snake drinking the blood of the bull, while a scorpion stings his testicles, sprigs of wheat sprout from the tail of the dying animal and there is also a crow present. These animals are connected to astronomy and astrology, as the images they represent in the star constellations. The killing of the bull and the presence of the sun, lead us to think that these secret rituals succeeded the equinoxes.

    Most of the rituals of the followers of Mithraism were kept secret. However, there is some discussion as to how close the ideas in this religion mirror those of the latter appearing Christianity. Some argue that there are many similarities between "this cult" and Christianity, including ideas of a trilogy, born of a virgin, miracles, after having been made a man returning to the heavens at age 33, resurrection, and a birthday near the winter solstice (same day even). The timing of my friend and me finding this altar and comments was pretty cool since we had been having a lively discussion about how the religions of the world really seem essentially the same throughout the history of mankind. And so much of the basis of them is connected to the workings of the natural world. Of course, that is all we know, so it makes sense that our stories would be born from our experiences and observations.

Etruscan Culture Mythology Ruins Vulci Archeological Park Museum

New Art!

      It has a been a stressful three months for me as I found myself living in the middle of an Italian drama through no fault of my own. The short story is that we foreigners were asked to leave so the war between our landladies and our Florentine flatmate could commence. I am grateful that I found a flat that suits my working needs. However, it only became available on the 4th of July (Independence Day it truly WAS for this American!). A couple of artists friends of mine lived here before, and another artist before them, so the house has good vibes, and more importantly, good northern light. I am delighted to be working again and with a lot less stress in my life!

New Tuscan Mural 3 Women Pool Terrace Landscape Caprese Michelangelo Italy

      That said, a lot of good things happened during these last three months. The first is that back in April, I was able to return to Caprese Michelangelo and put in some details (such as flowers on trees) into the mural that I had to leave last fall when my hosts left Italy for a while. Here are a few snapshots that I took of the Tuscan mural before I left the paradise we call Caprese.
Tuscan Mural Detail of Woman with Come Hither Gesture Painting
    I actually enjoyed creating an environment with this mural project and look forward to my next mural! You may see the design and painting stages of this mural on the mural page here.


     Another project that I have finished is my tenebrist oil painting titled, Giuseppe's Tools.  I also featured that process in my previous newsletter from March 2013.. I must apologize: Photographing art has never been easy. I was relatively happy with my setup in Texas, and then . . . I moved! And without most of my equipment.

Tenebrism Oil Painting Old Shoe Forms Sewing Machine Old Letters Still Life Painting
        "Giuseppe's Tools"
        56 x 50 cm
        Original Oil Painting on Canvas
        by Kelly Borsheim
        Payment plans offered, contact the studio please.

        "Portraits of Mauro"
        oil paintings on canvas
        by Kelly Borsheim

Portraits on Mauro Italy

Original Sculptures by Vasily Fedorouk

    I have rarely met a person who loved to carve stone as much as my late friend and mentor Vasily Fedorouk. And I was stunned the first time I met him in 2001 in Marble, Colorado. He roughed out a belly dancer on a fountain that was taller than he was and did it in 4 days!

    I was absolutely crushed when he died in 2009 while saving his dog from the surprisingly dangerous weeds in a lake near his home. His family has put a few of Vasily's sculptures up for sale to help them keep up the home collection that he had. Please take a look and if you see one that moves you, please contact me and we can make good things happen. See the artworks here: www.vasilyfedorouk.htm

Sculptor Vasily Fedorouk Artist Self Portrait Carving Dolomite Architectonics


Stone Carving Symposium - Castelvecchio di Pescia, Tuscany, Italy

    I am thrilled and a little intimidated to announce that I have been invited to participate in my very first stone carving symposium (that is not a primarily learning event), and it is in Tuscany!

    All I really know is that I will receive a huge block of pietra serena, a grey sandstone type of rock that is used a lot in these parts of Italy. And that the 10-day event happens in Castelvecchio di Pescia. 24 July to 3 August, 2013

    I will tell you about the adventure of it all in my next newsletter! I am a bit nervous since I have not carved much of anything since I finished the Gymnast piece in Texas 2 years ago.


Recent Blog Topics:

    In the Maremma and Southern Tuscany and northern Lazio regions of Italy:

               *    The Roman Roads in Vulci, Italy

               *    Little Jerusalem Pitigliano Italy

               *    Orvieto, Italy

               *    Il Duomo in Orvieto, Italy

    *    Painter Artemisia Gentileschi & Designer Anna Anni at Palazzo Blu, Pisa, Italy

    *    Il Montino, Pisa, Italy (dine with the locals)

    *    Gardens in Florence Italy

    You may follow a variety of art topics on my blog:
    (This is a different subscription list than the one for this art newsletter.)

    Thank you for sharing my journey with me. I would be grateful if you chose to forward this newsletter to anyone you think would enjoy it.

    Pace (peace),
    Kelly Borsheim
    21 July 2013

Roman Roads Vulci Etruscan Archeological Park and Museum, Italy


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    "My Life as a Street Painter in Florence, Italy"
    by Kelly Borsheim

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