Dated: March 20, 2007.
By Mr. Leonardo Torricini
I've always been fond of ancient cultures and particularly the etruscans. As for many other cultures and peoples there isn't the wide choice of models available unlike the romans, greeks etc. Perhaps it is due to the lack of evidence and historical information, and partly due 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 painting 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.
Tomb of Auguri
The painting represents 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 holds a dog that is attacking the other man covered only by a loin-cloth and barefoot. 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. We can imagine the poor man trying to defend himself blindly with the bludgeon, while the lead pulled the dog closer and blocked his moves increasingly more.
Tomb of Olimpiadi
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 theatre rapresentation.
Tomb of 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 typical of the etruscan actors, the same figure appears in fact also in other less cruel scenes as dancer and mime.
Tomb without name
At least in one other painting it seems that a naked athlete is holding the lead intead of the Phersu, but the other part of the painting is lost so we can't be sure that would represent the same game.
Tomb of Gallo
It seems that the etruscan word "Phersu" evolving in the latin "persuna" is become the actual italian "persona" and also the english "person".
MAKING THE SET
To create a toy soldier is necessary a good sculpor and a lathe-pantograph, I'm certainly not able enough to sculpt decently a toy soldier 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 an existing toy soldier, and some new materials makes the job easier. As we use to say, if you can't jump over the obstacle go around it!
For first i needed to find some toy soldiers with similar poses and clothes, to use the useful parts. Especially 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 performed 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 the 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 created a resin copy of the converted piece, to make possible the work with scalpels, cutters, files and sandpaper. It would be impossible to work so well on the plastic, the resin copies can be bent 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 cut and glued back much easier 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 easier 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.
And here's the Phersu set ready.
I wuold 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, 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. 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 mounth to make a mould, then i work on the copies and i give back the original piece) lucky 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 welcome are also critics, advice, suggestions and eventual corrections about this and my other contributions on the website, and proposals and new ideas to realise new original sets.
Many thanks to Mr. Torricini.
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