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The Etruscan Phersu
(8 voti)
Escrito por Leonardo Torricini   



I've always been fond of the ancient cultures and particulary of the etruscans.
As for many other cultures and peoples there isn't the wide choice of models available instead for romans, greeks etc.
Perhaps it depends by the lack of evidences and historical informations, and partly for the lesser interest for subjects not strictly military or for less known cultures. Therefore we do our best in conversions of similar existing sets, then from a thing comes another one, and some original ideas.

One of the most known and strange icons of the etruscan culture is the "phersu".
This subject is common in the etruscan art since the early V century. Within the most known examples, besides the best preserved and known paint of the Auguri tomb in the necropolis of Tarquinia, this picture appears also in many bronze sculptures and painted pottery, and on other tombal paintings always in Tarqinia.

Tomba degli Auguri

The painting rapresents two men and a dog during a violent game (?) of bad taste especially for the victim, but this "show" must have been very appreciated by the people of that period considering the various existing examples of the same scene.
One of the men wear a short dress, a pointed hat, a mask and a long beard that probably is fake.
With a long lead he hold a dog that is attacking the other man covered only by a loin-cloth and bearfoot.
This other man is armed with a bludgeon but has a bag on the head obstructing his view, while the lead of the dog is entangling his body all around.

Tomba delle Olimpiadi

We can imagine the poor man trying to defend himself blindly with the bludgeon, while the lead obbliged the dog closer and blocked his moves increasingly more.

It is suppose that this strange game, exclusive of the etruscan world, may have been part of some funeral rituals, a primeval form of the campanian and roman gladiators and venators games, or a theathre rapresentation.

Tomba del Pulcinella

Something more is known about the script "PHERSU" referred to the masked figure, we can't be certain, but is commonly accepted that the meaning was "person", perhaps intended as masked character of recitals, considered that was always masked and with a strange hat that seem tipical of the etruscan actors, the same figure appairs infact also in other less cruel scenes as dancer and mime.

Tomba senza nome


At least in one other paint it seems that a naked athlete is holding the lead instead of the Phersu, but the other part of the painting is lost so we can't be sure that would rapresent the same game.


Tomba del gallo

It seems that the etruscan word "Phersu" evolving in the latin "persuna" is become the actual italian "persona" and also the english "person".


To create a toysoldier is necessary a good sculpor and a lathe-pantograph; i'm not certainly able enough to sculpt decently a toysoldier from zero, partly for the proportions but mostly for the faces, the muscles, the hands etc. I wouldn't be able at a normal dimensions, at 1/32 and 1/72 scale don't even think about...
The lathe-pantograph then seem to me a science fiction gear, unavailable.

However I'm able to re-sculpt and modify the existing toysoldiers, and some new materials makes the job easyer.
As we use to say, if you can't jump over the obstacle go around it!

For first I needed to find some toysoldiers with similar poses and clothes, to use the useful parts.
Especialy within the range of 1/72 scale the choice is almost unlimited, sometimes with the problem of availability.
For the Phersu i used the body of an Orion roman sailor and the head of an Hat auxiliary archer.
For the victim two egyptians from the Atlantic set and the dog is from the Revell conqistadores.

The victim didn't need many conversions parform for the loin-cloth, so for first I directly converted the plastic toysoldiers.
I used the legs of one and the upper part of the other to create the right position, then I cutted away the shield and part of the spear, finaly I create the bludgeon and the bag on the head with some vinilic glue.
I also used some drops of resin and glue to enlarge some parts that appeared too thin and to fill gaps and slots.

To sculpt the loin-cloth i had to made a silicon mould and create a first resin copy of the converted piece, to make possible the work with scalpels, cutters, files and sandpaper.
For the clonation i follow the steps in the tutorial about moulds and copies published on the technics section of the website.

It would be impossible to work so well on the plastic, the resin copies can be bended with heat as for the plastic, but with an important and positive difference, it doesn't melt on the surface as the plastic.
It is good also because can be cutted and glued back much easyer than the plastic, same about the paint that doesn't need priming.
The only problem is that being hard instead than flexible as the plastic, it is also more fragile in the thin parts. Pushed too much the parts doesn't bend as the plastic, they get broken.

For the Phersu and the dog I made also copies with resin from the original toysoldiers, to work easyer because as for the victim's cloth they needed deeper changes.

For the Phersu I removed the useless parts as the whip, I shorten the dress and replaced the head with the archer's head.
With some very thick vinilic glue I made longer the point of the hat and with some thick paper I made the visor and the side points, I cover the paper with some glue to herden it and add some thickness.
Finaly i glued a pointed piece of plastic for the beard and try to resculpt the mustaches and the sides of the mask.

I had to make thinner the dog with file work, replace the tail and add plastic bits for the ears, besides change the legs position. The piece attached to the lead is a plastic bit made larger and flatted on both sides with heat, and drilled.

At that point i "waxed" very well the pieces to apply an anti-adhesive treatment and with the silicon i made the moulds to product my conversions, to paint or to send to anyone who's interested.


And here's the Phersu set ready.




I would like to reproduce the same set at 1/32 scale to obtain pieces less fragile, and better details only possible working on bigger parts.
There aren't problems for the Phersu and the victim, as I know already what to use.
The problem that's blocking me, due to the limits of my sculptorial skills already mentioned, is to find a dog in the right scale: there's a post on the forum of the SoL website and I found immediately the smaller dog, but I'm still in search of the bigger one...
Within certain limits doesn't need to be of the same shape and position neighter, as you can see from the differnce between the Revell original and my conversion, but a dog to begin (even only to lend for one month to make a mould, then I work on the copies and then give back the original piece) unluckely is necessary.
Therefore if someone find me a 1/32 dog would resolve the problem, and obviously will receive a copy of the set once realised.
Very wellcome are also chritics, advises, suggestions and eventual corrections about this and my other contributions on the website, and proposals and new ideas to realise new original sets.