VATICAN CITY, MARCH 8, 2012 ( "The Etruscans: Heroic Ideal and Lustrous Wine" is the title of an exhibition presented this morning in the Vatican Museums, which will open in Palazzo Mazzetti in the Italian city of Asti on March 17.

According to the Vatican Information Service, the exhibition brings together more than 300 pieces, some of which are little known or are being put on display for the first time. One hundred and forty artefacts come from the Gregorian Etruscan Museum of the Vatican Museums, and the others from the principal Etruscan collections in Italy.

The exhibition, which documents the historical and cultural ties between the eastern Mediterranean and the Etruscan world, opens with the helmet of Villanova, symbol of the first contact between the Etruscans and the community of the Tanaro Valley. The helmet was discovered in the late nineteenth century in the river which runs through Asti. The first section of the exhibition is dedicated to the importation of heroic and Homeric ideals into Etruria through a number of features (such as myth, trade and athleticism) which characterised the early phases of Etruscan culture. With the spread of Homeric verse in Italy, the image of authority in the Etruscan community began to change, adopting the model of the prince-hero whose merits included not only military prowess but also the accumulation of wealth. One of the most important pieces in this section of the exhibition is the bronze mask, from the Vatican Museums, which also adorns the poster for the event.

Section two is dedicated to banqueting ceremonies in their various forms, as documented on precious objects, and on sculptures and paintings. Among the items on display will be the original layout of the frescoes of the "Tomb of the Black Sow", which were removed from the hypogeum in order to conserve them. Another exhibit is the sarcophagus of the Vipiniana of Tuscania, with the image of the deceased participating in the banquet on the lid (held in the National Archaeological Museum of Florence) and the myth of Niobe depicted on the base (part of the collection of the Gregorian Etruscan Museum). The section closes with a number of votive heads of various kinds including children and old people, and two masks held in the store rooms of the Vatican Museums and which come from Etruscan shrines.

The exhibition closes with the Etruscan room of Racconigi Castle, which belonged to Carlo Alberto of Savoia, an example of the Etruscan artistic style which was popular in Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.