Dionysos, British Museum

Dionysos, British Museum

A Seated Dionysos

The last addition to the Lucy Wharton Drexel collection of Roman sculpture acquired only a short time before the death of the donor is a life-sized marble statue representing a nude figure of a man seated on a rock over which a panther’s skin is spread, and resting his right arm on the head of a lion, Fig. 142. It was procured from a dealer in Rome into whose hands it had passed after being sold at public auction by the Nazarene College, which, according to report, had acquired possession of it in 1622 at the time they inherited the Palazzo dei duchi Caetani. At some period of its history the statue had been built into a fountain to serve this purpose passages had been bored from the nape of the lion’s neck through the mouth and from front to back straight through the human torso. To this vandalism is doubtless due the fact that both jaws of the lion have been broken, the upper so badly as to entail the restoration of the nostrils and left cheek, and also the fact that the shoulders and back of the torso are somewhat eroded by water.

The other restorations which the statue has undergone include the head, the thumb and forefinger of the left hand, the big toe of the right foot, and two portions of the right leg where ancient pieces had been rejoined. The method by which this mending was done as well as the style of the restored head indicate that the restorations may date from so early a period as that of the renaissance.

Fig. 142.—Seated Dionysos.
Museum Object Number: MS5483
Image Number: 10857

With the exception of these restored parts, the entire statue, including both the lion and the rock, is made from a single block of fine white marble which shows in places the yellow tinges of oxidation. The workmanship of the statue is uneven the modeling of the torso is good, that of the arms and feet and especially that of the lion’s legs is poor. A possible explanation is that a less skilful artist was given the incomplete work of his superior to finish, or it may be that a mutilated original was at hand for the sculptor to copy so that while working on the torso he had a model to guide him, whereas when fashioning the arms and feet he was obliged to rely upon his own unaided powers.

Seated figures of the gods are common in Greek sculpture from the early archaic period. Among the pre-Persian marbles from the Akropolis, on the frieze of the Knidian Treasury at Delphi, are found seated figures of deities. But it was in a somewhat later period of Greek art that there was evolved this particular type of statue, that of a god seated on a rock, one foot extended, one drawn beneath him and the whole attitude expressive of weariness. Three gods in particular are so depicted, Hermes, Herakles and Dionysos, and the question arises as to which of these deities is here represented.

The type of seated Hermes is perhaps the most familiar in the Museum is a copy of the Herculaneum bronze representing Hermes seated on a rock, his right foot extended, his left drawn beneath him in an attitude quite similar to that seen in Fig 136. Still more closely analogous to this statue is one in the British Museum the god in this case rests his left arm on a rock beside which is a cock. But a cock belongs to Hermes, whereas neither a lion nor a panther’s pelt are numbered among his attributes.

The lion suggests Herakles and in general the statue presents analogies to the colossal statue in the Palace Oldtemps in Rome, recently reproduced in the Brunn-Bruckmann plates, but here the hero sits, as would be expected, upon a lion’s skin, not upon that of a panther. He carries, moreover, a club which makes his identification sure. Whether other attributes than the lion’s skin are essential is doubtful a statuette of Herakles, now lost, that known as the Hercules of Feurs, apparently represented the god with no other attributes than the lion’s skin on which he was sitting. But that Herakles should be seated on any other kind of a skin than that of a lion seems incredible.

And what of Dionysos? The panther’s skin suits him entirely, but the lion at the side of the seated figure does not suggest the god of wine. The presence of the lion seems all the more strange in view of the fact that there is in Florence a statue very closely analogous to this one. It represents a seated figure in precisely the same attitude, the right foot extended, the left drawn beneath him, the left hand resting on the thigh and the right shoulder raised by the position of the arm, which in this case, however, is held not above a lion but above a panther. How can the presence of a lion instead of a panther be explained? We learn that in the course of the development of the Dionysiac cult, new symbols were joined to Dionysos which had originally belonged to the oriental gods assimilated by him. Among these was the lion, which, it is now thought, was borrowed not from the Phrygian Cybele but from the Lydian Bassareus. The shifts in religious beliefs and the influence of one cult upon another are generally faithfully reflected in vase-paintings, so that it is to vases one must turn for proof of the association of the lion with Dionysos. Such proof is not wanting on a black-figured kylix dating from the sixth century is a picture of Dionysos holding a kantharus above the head of a lion who sits apparently in eager expectation of a share of its contents. *

On another well-known kylix in Würzburg, Dionysos appears in a chariot drawn by a panther, a lion and two deer. This association of the lion with Dionysos in vase-paintings and the close correspondence of the statue illustrated in these pages with the Florence statue which certainly represents Dionysos, warrants, I believe, the theory that the former reproduces an old type of Dionysos statue in which the lion has been substituted for the panther.

It remains to determine the date of this statue, a problem which involves both the fixing of the date of the Greek original and that of the Roman copy, for there is nothing about either the workmanship or style of the marble in the Museum to indicate that it is itself a Greek original. The probability is that it is one of those numerous statues made to adorn the villas or gardens of wealthy Romans of the early empire. Such Roman copies, frequently repeated and freely modified, though they may not be taken to reproduce accurately the Greek types from which they are descended, are yet of great importance to the student of sculpture for determining what those types were. The originals are lost, but the copies remain and reflect, if but dimly, the conceptions of the Greek masters.

The original type of seated Dionysos from which the statue in the Museum is derived goes back to the fourth if not to the fifth century B. C. The beautiful monument of Lysikrates in Athens erected in 335 B. C. to commemorate a choregic victory is adorned with a frieze which depicts in low relief the punishment administered to the Tyrrhenian pirates by Dionysos. Here the god appears seated on a rock in an attitude not unlike that of the statue to which we call attention and there is a chance that this type of seated Dionysos may have an even earlier origin. We have already noted the resemblance of the statue to that of Herakles in the Palace Oldtemps in Rome. The original of this statue has been traced to Myron and it is entirely possible that the seated Dionysos type was derived from that of the seated Herakles or that it was itself invented in as early a period as that of Myron.

* Gerhard, Auserksene Vasenbiller I, Pl. XXXVIII.

Cite This Article

H., E. H.. "A Seated Dionysos." The Museum Journal IV, no. 4 (December, 1913): 164-167. Accessed June 17, 2021.

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[Sculpture of Dionysus Reclining, from the East Pediment of the Parthenon at the British Museum]

Unknown 6.5 × 5.4 cm (2 9/16 × 2 1/8 in.) 84.XT.179.1

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[Sculpture of Dionysus Reclining, from the East Pediment of the Parthenon at the British Museum]

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Daniel Wolf, Inc., sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1984.

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Defining Beauty: The Body in Ancient Greek Art
The British Museum
26 March – 5 July 2015

Early on in the British Museum’s Defining Beauty exhibition, we meet a series of mannequin-like kouroi (youths) from the 6th century BC, all wearing “archaic” smiles. Their mathematically calculated proportions, fixed gaze and regimented stance, influenced by Egyptian sculpture, appear otherworldly. They look like something you might think of when asked to think about antiquity. But towards the end of the 6th century, Greek kouroi lost this “permanent smile of self-satisfaction” and became more naturalistic. They started to smile like humans. The exhibition charts the evolving ideas of beauty within Greek art, as sculptors moved from creating stiff, unreal kouroi to attempting to depict the Platonic Form of beauty. It is specifically designed so as to frame what it describes as “encounters” with sculptures that are often incredibly life-like. To do so, the scale of the museum’s Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery, which opened in March 2014, is used to full effect. Some exhibits are raised on stands at shoulder height, forcing the spectator to gaze upwards, while the biggest statues are set against pleated backdrops of rich blue and red, which give the impression of closed stage curtains, or the drapes of a boudoir. Spotlit from above, their huge bodies cast hulking shadows on the floor beside them. Elsewhere, the lighting is kept to a minimum so that the statues are clearly visible from a distance—the marble copy of Polykleitos’ (fl. 450–420 BC) 5th century BC wounded Amazon, for instance, can be seen from the opposite end of the gallery.

Throughout the exhibition, the divisions between gender roles in Greek society are apparent. For men, the cultivation of an attractive, healthy, physical form was a civic duty, directly linked to military fitness and athletic honour. In a section entitled “The Ideal Body”, we meet a grouping of three naked, muscular male statues indicative of the sought-after Greek look. The copies of Diskobolos by Myron (fl. 470–440 BC) and Polykleitos’ Doryphoros, along with the original Ilissos, taken from the west pediment of the Parthenon and sculpted by Pheidias (fl. c. 490–430 BC), throw impressive shadows. As Ian Jenkins, exhibition curator, comments in a British Museum blog post, “the Greek body beautiful was a moral condition and one to which only the Greeks among the peoples of the ancient world were attached”. Greek warriors are depicted nude and victorious, unlike, for example, the Assyrians, who portrayed their enemies in defeat as naked, and thus submissive.

Marble statue of a naked Aphrodite crouching at her bath

By contrast, women, be they gods or mortals, are veiled with diaphanous cloths, or even, in the case of one marble statue of a sea nymph, salt spray and sea breezes – all of which reveal the contours of the body without actually revealing it. This is seduction carried out within strict parameters. Women’s bodies, the exhibition notes, had to be covered up and controlled within Greek public life, so as not to risk the release of some chaotic force of nature. Female nudity was abnormal outside of cult and the sex industry, states Jenkins in the comprehensive exhibition catalogue: “When it occurs in Greek art, it is almost always sexually charged.” Openly naked women are whores or monsters or maenads, not respectable wives. The goddess Aphrodite is an exception—she is naked, but often crouching or preparing to bathe. Her nakedness seems to be seen only when she appears to be caught unawares, placing the viewer firmly in the role of voyeur.

The exhibition culminates in the unprecedented combination of two key examples of what has, at various points in time, constituted representations of “ideal beauty”: Pheidias’ marble statue of Dionysos, taken from the east pediment of the Parthenon, and the Belvedere Torso, named after the Vatican Palace courtyard in which it was displayed. When Lord Elgin brought the Parthenon sculptures back from Athens in the early 1800s, a genteel Britain was initially unaccustomed to the realism portrayed in these sculptures. The statue of Dionysos reclines, legs stretched out and suspended in mid-air, in a position that seemed “alarmingly naturalistic” to Londoners. In British Museum director Neil MacGregor’s introduction to the catalogue, he describes the shock experienced by art connoisseurs, used to relatively pristine Roman copies, upon seeing the Greek originals: “Battered, stained and with many parts missing, the sculptures from Athens were not to everybody’s taste.” Yet Britain quickly took on the mantle of Greek art, fusing these new ideals with its own traditions so completely that the Parthenon horsemen became national icons. “Greek naturalist sculpture, and especially the Parthenon sculptures, provoked in nineteenth-century British and French societies a radical re-appraisal of their own values and national identities,” explains Leoussi.

Figure of Dionysos from the east pediment of the Parthenon

In spite of the remarkable efforts of the British Museum to preserve the Parthenon sculptures as a global resource, it is difficult to ignore the ongoing debate around where the sculptures should be housed, London or Athens. In the catalogue, Matthew Bell, Professor of German and Comparative Literature at King’s College London, describes the playwright Friedrich Schiller’s (1759 – 1805) “moral and aesthetic outrage” at the plundering of Greece and Italy by British gentry and the French military. “What made the situation even worse was that the treasures were often not enjoyed. Their British owners seemed more interested in possessing than appreciating them,” notes Bell. In the exhibition at least, the sculptures can be publically appreciated in what the British Museum describes as “the context of world history”, but there seems little reason why they could not be viewed similarly in Greece.

The Torso, meanwhile, is a 1st century BC copy of a Greek bronze. It is lacking, obviously enough, a head, arms and legs, and thus loses much of its potential for expression and defining characteristics. Scholars have surmised that the figure may be Herakles, or Ajax, contemplating suicide after losing Achilles’ armour to Odysseus. The Italian Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo, an admirer of the Torso, even “declined the suggestion that he restore [it]”, says MacGregor, because it was so close to perfection. However, what is most notable about the juxtaposition of the two pieces is the difference in texture and quality of the surviving marble: the Torso looks smooth and supple still, while the surface of Dionysos is eroded, and scarred with lesions. To those looking at it in the present day, the statue is beautiful both because of the gain registered in its survival, and the loss evoked by its imperfection.

In bringing together two paragons of beauty that are now physically flawed, the final room of the exhibition sums up this state of absence. Though the possibility of new discoveries remains, there is much that has been lost in the intervening centuries which can simply never be recovered. In particular, countless bronze statues no longer survive because they became more valuable as scrap metal rather than art in late antiquity. As Bell states, “since the early seventeenth century, the Belvedere Torso had been seen as a melancholy symbol of the passing of ancient greatness, and indeed the transience of all human things.” Romanticising the fact that these beaten up sculptures are not how they appeared to the Greeks is surely rooted in the tension that lies at the heart of any encounter with classical antiquity—the chasm that lies between the present and the past is emphasised when we look at these worn out bodies. Indeed, a gigantic plaster cast of Athena Lemnia in gilded technicolour, reconstructed from Roman copies of a bronze Greek original and displayed earlier on, is impressive, but feels a little too perfect to provoke the kind of visceral response the exhibition seems to be driving at. Defining Beauty succeeds in showing the spectator not what it was like to live when the sculptures were new, but how different, how alien the ancient Greeks actually were—although Dionysos may look more realistic, the figure is no less mysterious than the kouroi. An encounter with these exquisitely constructed human forms, spoiled but not ruined by time, is the most lucid expression of this difference.

Jenny Messenger read Classics at Oxford and Bristol. She is a financial journalist based in London.

Dionis în artele plastice [ modificare | modificare sursă ]

Primele reprezentări ale zeului Dionis în mijlocul cortegiului său, adesea însoțit și de Ariadne, se întâlnesc pe vazele grecești din secolul VI î. e. n. Celebre sunt scena "Întoarcerii lui Hefaistos în Olimp" de pe așa-numita vază a lui François, cea cu menade a pictorilor olarilor Kleophrades (München), Amasis (Würzburg și Louvre) și Kleophon, și în fine cea a călătoriei zeului pe mare, spre Naxos, de pe tava lui Exechias (München, Staatliche Antikensammlung).

La jumătatea secolului V î. e. n. se produce o schimbare în iconografie zeul care fusese până atunci bărbos, încununat cu iederă și purtând veșminte lungi, ia de acum încolo o înfățișare adolescentină. Atributele îi sunt pe lângă tirs, toiagul său ornat cu conuri de pin și frunze de viță de vie, un kantharos (vas pentru vin), pantera și șarpele. Cu aceste atribute e reprezentat de Lydos, pe craterul lui Pronomos (Napoli 3240) și în scena gigantomahiei de pe friza de est a Parthenonului, metopa "Est 2" (in situ Atena). Pe aceeași friză de est a Parthenonului figura Dionis și în sfatul olimpienilor înaintea luptei cu giganții, ca ideal al nudului grecesc împodobea frontonul de est al templului Γ] . Din secolul al IV-lea reprezentarea ca tânăr imberb devine canonică, după cum se poate observa pe vasele din Panticapaion (Kerci, Ucraina) și din regiunea Puglia sau în reliefurile monumentului lui Lisicrate din Atena, care descriu lupta cu pirații tirenieni. Paralel supraviețuiește în operele elenistice arhaizante și tipul zeului bărbos, prin așa-zisul tip "Louvre-Freiburg". Dionis mai poate fi reprezentat, începând cu sec. IV î. e. n., și prin măști, datorită originii teatrului din cultul său.

Reprezentări ale zeului se întâlnesc des în pictura murală din Pompeii, de pildă ca patron al misterelor într-un ciclu scenic influențat de cultul orfic în "Vila Misterelor" sau, împreună cu Ariadne pe insula Naxos, într-o scenă din "Casa del Citarista" (azi în Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Napoli). Nunta cu Ariadne și cortegiul dionisiac sunt și temele preferate de sarcofagele și mozaicurile romane.

Arta medievală nu îi acordă multă atenție zeului. Dacă este totuși înfățișat, de exemplu în ilustrații ale manuscriselor lui Hrabanus Maurus și Fulgentius-Metaforalis, atunci în postura de zeu al vinului, cu o cunună din vița de vie și cu o cupă în mână.

Astfel îl reprezintă, mult mai des, și artiștii renascentiști. Bacchanalele sunt de exemplu o temă a gravurilor lui Andrea Mantegna, care îl influențează și pe Albrecht Dürer. Dionis-Bacchus apare la ambii artiști ca un satir durduliu și amețit de băutură. Acest tip se regăsește mai târziu la Tițian ("Il Baccanale degli Andrii", ca. 1518, Prado, Madrid) și la Peter Paul Rubens ("Bacchus", 1638-40 , 191 x 161.3 cm, Ermitaj, St. Petersburg]).

Michelangelo Buonarroti îl sculptează în tinerețea lui chiar pe zeul Dionis clătinându-se și având înfățișarea unui adolescent molatic (sculptură din marmură, 1497/98, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florența)[1], șocându-și puternic contemporanii, care căutau în imitarea artei antice idealul bunei măsuri. În felul acesta neconformist, ca întruchipare a senzualității și a vanității în figura unui tinerel stricat, îl pictează și Caravaggio. Acesta s-a identificat chiar cu zeul în autoportretul în postura de "Bacchus bolnav" (ca. 1593, Galleria Borghese, Roma) [2]. În baroc tipul acesta iconografic se transformă, subordonat tematicii vanității, într-un copilandru bând vin, de exemplu la Guido Reni (Gemäldegalerie Dresda).

Pictura flamandă îi consacră lui Bacchus în secolele XVI și XVII un loc în festivitățile campestre, în mijlocul țăranilor, de pildă în "Nunta țărănească" a lui Johann Liss (Szépmüvészeti Múzeum, Budapesta). Acest motiv e preluat și de Velázquez (imaginea din stânga).

Educația lui Dionis de către nimfe și legătura lui amoroasă cu Ariadne devin teme ale protoclasicismului francez din epoca raționalismului, de exemplu la Nicholas Poussin, în "Mercur îl încredințează pe Bacchus nimfelor", ca. 1625-27, Musée du Louvre, dar și în diverse reprezentări ale Bacchanalelor cu accentul pus pe exercitarea cultică a dansului și a muzicii.

Arta rococoului nu a mai fost atât de interesată de temă, ea tinzând spre aplanarea pasiunilor în viziunile ei grațioase. Artiștii l-au citat pe Dionis doar ca personificare a toamnei sau a lunii octombrie. Ca o concluzie a atitudinii secolului XVIII față de zeu pare interpretarea cu un iz ușor sentimental dată salvării Ariadnei de către clasicistul german Johann Heinrich von Dannecker în celebrul său grup statuar "Ariadne pe panteră" (1814, Liebieg-Museum, Frankfurt) este exemplificată puterea femeii asupra pasiunilor masculine.

De-abia naturalismul îl redescoperă cu adevărat pe Dionis, la cumpăna dintre secolele XIX și XX, de pildă în autoportretul în care Lovis Corinth se reprezintă ca un Bacchus cherchelit, exponent al vitalității triumfând asupra morții (1908, colecție particulară). Bacchus corespunde în acest rol lui Pan în literatura naturalismului (Knut Hamsun) și Dionis-ului nietzschean din "Nașterea tragediei".

The J. Paul Getty Museum

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Attic Red-Figure Stamnos

Tyszkiewicz Painter (Greek (Attic)) 37.5 × 30 cm (14 3/4 × 11 13/16 in.) 83.AE.326

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Athens, Greece (Place Created)

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37.5 × 30 cm (14 3/4 × 11 13/16 in.)

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The stamnos is complete, restored from fragments. On Side A, led by a satyr playing the double aulos, Hermes and Dionysos walk to the right on either side of a bearded man, perhaps Hephaistos. Both Hermes and Dionysos look back over their shoulders. All three carry drinking cups Dionysos holds an ivy tendril in his upraised left hand and Hermes carries the caduceus in his left. On Side B Herakles walks to the right between two youths. The foremost youth plays a lyre, holding a plectron in his right hand. Herakles holds his club over his left shoulder and carries a drinking cup in his right hand. He looks back at the youth behind him who also carries a drinking cup. All three are nude except for drapery around their shoulders. There is a groundline and a tongue pattern around the shoulder of the vessel.

By 1979 - 1983

Nicolas Koutoulakis, 1910 - 1996 (Geneva, Switzerland), sold to Stefan Hornak, 1983.

Stefan Hornak (Simi Valley, California), donated to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1983.



I. THEBES Main City of Boeotia (Boiotia)

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 12. 4 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[In Thebes, Boiotia] there is also a story that along with the thunderbolt hurled at the bridalchamber of Semele there fell a log from heaven. They say that [King] Polydoros adorned this log with bronze and called it Dionysos Kadmos. Near is an image of Dionysos Onasimedes made it of solid bronze. The altar was built by the sons of Praxiteles."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 16. 6 :
"Near the Proitidian gate [of Thebes, Boiotia] is built a theater, and quite close to the theater is a temple of Dionysos surnamed Lysios (Deliverer). For when some Theban prisoners in the hands of Thrakians had reached Haliartia on their march, they were delivered by the god, who gave up the sleeping Thrakians to be put to death. One of the two images here the Thebans say is Semele. Once in each year, they say, they open the sanctuary on stated days. There are also ruins of the house of Lykos, and the tomb of Semele."

II. MT. CITHAERON (KITHAIRON) Mountain in Boeotia

Site of the most famous Orgia of Dionysos. The orgies are more fully described in the mythology sections of this site.

III. POTNIAE (POTNIAI) Village in Boeotia

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 8. 2 :
"Here [in Potniai, Boiotia] there is also a temple of Dionysos Aigobolos (Goat-slayer). For once, when they were sacrificing to the god, they grew so violent with wine that they actually killed the priest of Dionysos. Immediately after the murder they were visited by a pestilence, and the Delphic oracle said that to cure it they must sacrifice a boy in the bloom of youth. A few years afterwards, so they say, the god substituted a goat as a victim in place of their boy."

IV. TANAGRA Village in Boeotia

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 20. 4 :
"In the temple of Dionysos [at Tanagra, Boiotia] the image too is worth seeing, being of Parian marble and a work of Kalamis. But a greater marvel still is the [pickled and preserved body of a] Triton. The grander of the two versions of the Triton legend relates that the women of Tanagra before the orgies of Dionysos went down to the sea to be purified, were attacked by the Triton as they were swimming, and prayed that Dionysos would come to their aid. The god, it is said, heard their cry and overcame the Triton in the fight. The other version is less grand but more credible. It says that the Triton would waylay and lift all the cattle that were driven to the sea. He used even to attack small vessels, until the people of Tanagra set out for him a bowl of wine. They say that, attracted by the smell, he came at once, drank the wine, flung himself on the shore and slept, and that a man of Tanagra struck him on the neck with an axe and chopped off his head. for this reason the image has no head. And because they caught him drunk, it is supposed that it was Dionysos who killed him."

V. ANTHEDON Village in Boeotia

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 22. 6 :
"There are a sanctuary and an image of Dionysos in front of the city [of Anthedon, Boiotia] on the side towards the mainland."


Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 23. 5 :
"The town [of Akraiphnion, Boiotia] lies on Mount Ptous, and there are here a temple and image of Dionysos that are worth seeing."

VII. LARYMNA Village in Boeotia

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 23. 7 :
"Here [in Larymna, Boiotia or Lokris] there is a temple of Dionysos with a standing image."

VIII. COPAE (KOPAI) Village in Boeotia

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 24. 2 :
"On sailing across it [Lake Kopais in Boiotia] you come to Kopai, a town lying on the shore of the lake . . . Here is a sanctuary of Demeter, and one of Dionysos."

IX. MT. HELICON (HELIKON) Mountain in Boeotia

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 30. 1 :
"There is also [in the shrine of the Mousai] on Helikon . . . a Dionysos by Lysippos the standing image, however, of Dionysos, that Sulla dedicated, is the most noteworthy of the works of Myron after the Erekhtheus at Athens."

X. CREUSIS (KREUSIS) Village in Boeotia

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 32. 1 :
"Kreusis, the harbor of Thespiai [in Boiotia], has nothing to show publicly, but at the home of a private person I found an image of Dionysos made of gypsum and adorned with painting."


I. DELPHI (DELPHOI) Village & Sanctuary in Phocis (Phokis)

Aeschylus, Eumenides 20 ff (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"[The Pythia, prophetess of the oracle at Delphoi :] These are the gods I place in the beginning of my prayer [Gaia, Themis, Phoibe and Apollon] . . . and I worship [also] the Nymphai where the Korykian rock is hollow . . . Bromios [Dionysos] has held the region--I do not forget him--ever since he, as a god, led the Bakkhai in war . . . I call on the streams of Pleistos and the strength of Poseidon, and highest Zeus."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 32. 1 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Adjoining the sacred enclosure [of Apollon at Delphoi, Phokis] is a theater worth seeing, and on coming up from the enclosure ((lacuna)) . . and here is an image of Dionysos, dedicated by the Knidians."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 13. 7 :
"For eleven ladies who are named daughters of Dionysos there is held a footrace this custom came to Sparta from Delphoi."

II. PANOPEUS Village in Phocis

Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 4. 3 :
"Homer speaks of the beautiful dancing-floors of Panopeus [in Pholis], I could not understand until I was taught by the women whom the Athenians call Thyiades. The Thyiades are Attic women, who with the Delphian women go to Parnassos every other year and celebrate orgies in honor of Dionysos. It is the custom for these Thyiades to hold dances at places, including Panopeus, along the road from Athens. The epithet Homer applies to Panopeus is thought to refer to the dance of the Thyiades."


Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 33. 11 :
"They [the people of Amphikleia in Phokis] celebrate orgies, well worth seeing, in honor of Dionysos, but there is no entrance to the shrine, nor have they any image that can be seen. The people of Amphikleia say that this god is their prophet and their helper in disease. The diseases of the Amphikleans themselves and of their neighbors are cured by means of dreams. The oracles of the god are given by the priest, who utters them when under the divine inspiration."

IV. BULIS (BOULIS) Village in Phocis

Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 37. 3 :
"The buildings in Boulis [in Phokis] are not very wonderful among them is a sanctuary of Artemis and one of Dionysos. The images are made of wood, but we were unable to judge who was the artist."


I. CALYDON (KALYDON) Main City of Aetolia (Aitolia)

Pausanias, Description of Greece 7. 21. 1 - 5 :
"[In Patrai, Akhaia] is also a sanctuary of Dionysos surnamed Kalydonios (of Kalydon), for the image of Dionysos too was brought from Kalydon. When Kalydon was still inhabited, among the Kalydonians who became priests of the god was Koresos, who more than any other man suffered cruel wrongs because of love. He was in love with Kallirhoe, a maiden. But the love of Koresos for Kallirhoe was equalled by the maiden's hatred of him. When the maiden refused to change her mind, in spite of the many prayers and promises of Koresos, he then went as a suppliant to the image of Dionysos. The god listened to the prayer of his priest, and the Kalydonians at once became raving as though through drink, and they were still out of their minds when death overtook them. So they appealed to the oracle at Dodona . . . On this occasion the oracles from Dodona declared that it was the wrath of Dionysos that caused the plague, which would not cease until Koresos sacrificed to Dionysos either Kallirhoe herself or one who had the courage to die in her stead. When the maiden could find no means of escape, she next appealed to her foster parents. These too failing her, there was no other way except for her to be put to the sword. When everything had been prepared for the sacrifice according to the oracle from Dodona, the maiden was led like a victim to the altar. Koresos stood ready to sacrifice, when, his resentment giving way to love, he slew himself in place of Kallirhoe. He thus proved in deed that his love was more genuine than that of any other man we know. When Kallirhoe saw Koresos lying dead, the maiden repented. Overcome by pity for Koresos, and by shame at her conduct towards him, she cut her throat at the spring in Kalydon not far from the harbor, and later generations call the spring Kallirhoe after her."


I. NAXOS Main Town of Naxos

Naxos was an island held sacred to Dionysos, with festivals celebrating his nurturing (the locals claimed he was raised on the island's small mountain) and his marriage to Ariadne.


I. ANDROS Main Town of Andros

Pausanias, Description of Greece 6. 26. 2 :
"The Andrians too assert that every other year at their feast of Dionysus wine flows of its own accord from the sanctuary."


I. METHYMNA Town in Lesbos

Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 19. 3 :
"I am going on to tell a Lesbian story. Certain fishermen of Methymna [on the island of Lesbos] found that their nets dragged up to the surface of the sea a face made of olive-wood. Its appearance suggested a touch of divinity, but it was outlandish, and unlike the normal features of Greek gods. So the people of Methymna asked the Pythian priestess of what god or hero the figure was a likeness, and she bade them worship Dionysus Phallen. Whereupon the people of Methymna kept for themselves the wooden image out of the sea, worshipping it with sacrifices and prayers, but sent a bronze copy to Delphoi."

II. MYTILENE Town in Lesbos

Aelian, Historical Miscellany 13. 2 (trans. Wilson) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"A man from Mytilene called Makareus, who was a priest of Dionysos, though to all appearances a mild and reasonable person, was the most unscrupulous of men. When a visitor arrived and deposited with him a quantity of gold, Makareus dug a hole in a corner of the temple and buried the gold. Later the visitor came to ask for its return. Makareus took him in as if about to hand it back, murdered him and dug up the gold, putting the visitor's body in its place. He thought that in this way he could escape divine as well as human attention. But matters did not turn out that way. How so? A short time elapsed, and the biennial festival of the god took place. He made opulent sacrifices. While he was occupied with the bacchic celebrations his two sons were left at home. Imitating their father's sacrificial ritual they approached the family altar while the offerings were still burning. The younger exposed his neck, the elder found a knife lying unused and killed his brother as a sacrificial offering. Members of the household who witnessed this raised a cry of horror. Hearing the shouts their mother jumped up, and seeing that one son was dead, while the other still held the blood-stained knife, she snatched from the altar the half-burnt log and with this killed her son. The news reached Makareus. He left the ceremony with the utmost haste and anxiety, burst into the home, and killed his own wife with the thyrsos he was carrying. The outrageous acts became generally known Makareus was arrested and tortured he confessed to what he had done in the temple, and during the ordeal he expired. The victim of his injustice received public honours and burial at the demand of the god. So Makareus paid no contemptible penalty, as the poets have it, with his own life, that of his wife and furthermore those of his sons."

III. TENEDOS Island near Lesbos

Aelian, On Animals 12. 34 (trans. Scholfield) (Greek natural history C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"The people of Tenedos keep a cow that is in calf for Dionysos Anthroporraistos (Man-Slayer), and as soon as it has calved they tend to it as though it were a woman in child-bed. But they put buskins on the newly born calf and then sacrifice it. But the man who dealt it the blow with the axe is pelted with stones by the populace and flees until he reaches the sea."


I. RHODES Main Town of Rhodes (Rhodos)

Strabo, Geography 14. 2. 5 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"The city of the Rhodians lies on the eastern promontory of Rhodes . . . [and it] has been adorned with many votive offerings, which for the most part are to be found in the Dionysion (Temple of Dionysos) . . . there are also the paintings of Protogenes, his Ialysos and also his Satyros, the latter standing by a pillar, on top of which stood a male partridge. And at this partridge, as would be natural, the people were so agape when the picture had only recently been set up, that they would behold him with wonder but overlook the Satyros, although the latter was a very great success. But the partridge-breeders were still more amazed, bringing their tame partridges and placing them opposite the painted partridge for their partridges would make their call to the painting and attract a mob of people. But when Protogenes saw that the main part of the work had become subordinate, he begged those who were in charge of the sacred precinct to permit him to go there and efface the partridge, and so he did."


I. LIBETHRA (LEIBETHRA) Town of Pieria in Macedonia (Makedonia)

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 30. 9 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"On Olympos is a city Libethra, where the mountain faces, Makedonia, not far from which city is the tomb of Orpheus. The Libethrians, it is said, received out of Thrake an oracle from Dionysos, stating that when the sun should see the bones of Orpheus, then the city of Libethra would be destroyed by a boar."


The Thracian god Sabazios was closely identified with Dionysos.

Herodotus, Histories 5. 7 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"They [the Thrakians] worship no gods but Ares, Dionysos [Sabazios], and Artemis [Bendis]. Their princes, however, unlike the rest of their countrymen, worship Hermes [Zalmoxis] above all gods and swear only by him, claiming him for their ancestor."

Herodotus, Histories 7. 111 :
"The Satrai [tribe of Thrake] . . . alone of the Thrakians have continued living in freedom to this day they dwell on high mountains covered with forests of all kinds and snow, and they are excellent warriors. It is they who possess the place of divination sacred to Dionysos [i.e. Sabazios]. This place is in their highest mountains the Bessoi, a clan of the Satrai, are the prophets of the shrine there is a priestess who utters the oracle, as at Delphoi it is no more complicated here than there."

Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 6. 11 (trans. Conybeare) (Greek biography C1st to 2nd A.D.) :
"If it is some Edonoi [a Thrakian tribe] or Lydoi (Lydians) who are conducting their Bakkhic revels, you are quite ready to believe that the earth will supply them with fountains of milk and wine, and give them to drink thereof."

Suidas s.v. Saboi (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Saboi : Demosthenes in the speech On Behalf of Ktesiphon mentions them. Some say that Saboi is the term for those who are dedicated to Sabazios, that is to Dionysos, just as those dedicated to Bakkhos are Bakkhoi. They say that Sabazios and Dionysos are the same. Thus some also say that the Greeks call the Bakkhoi Saboi. But Mnaseas of Patrai says that Sabazios is the son of Dionysos."


I. PERGAMON Main City of Teuthrania

Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 18. 6 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"To make images of iron is a very difficult task, involving great labour. Very marvellous too are the heads of a lion and wild boar at Pergamon, also of iron, which were made as offerings to Dionysos."


Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 6. 11 (trans. Conybeare) (Greek biography C1st to 2nd A.D.) :
"If it is some Edonoi [a Thrakian tribe] or Lydoi (Lydians) who are conducting their Bakkhic revels, you are quite ready to believe that the earth will supply them with fountains of milk and wine, and give them to drink thereof."

I. SMYRNA City in Aeolis - Lydia

Herodotus, Histories 1. 150 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"This is how the Aiolians lost Smyrna. Some men of Kolophon, the losers in civil strife and exiles from their country, had been received by them into the town. These Kolophonian exiles waited for the time when the men of Smyrna were holding a festival to Dionysos outside the walls then they shut the gates and so got the city."

II. LEBEDUS (LEBEDOS) Town near Colophon in Ionia - Lydia

Strabo, Geography 14. 1. 29 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Lebedos, which is one hundred and twenty stadia distant from Kolophon. This is the meeting-place and settlement of all the Dionysiac artists in Ionia as far as the Hellespontos and this is the place where both games and a general festal assembly are held every year in honor of Dionysos."


I. MYUS (MYOS) Town in Ionia - Caria (Karia)

Pausanias, Description of Greece 7. 2. 11 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"I found nothing in Myos [in Karia] except a white marble temple of Dionysos."


I. BYZANTIUM (BYZANTION) City of the Bosporus (Greek Colony)

Herodotus, Histories 4. 87 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"[The Persian general Darius] when he had viewed the Bosporos also, he set up two pillars of white marble by it, engraving on the one in Assyrian and on the other in Greek characters the names of all the nations that were in his army : all the nations subject to him . . . These pillars were afterward carried by the Byzantines into their city and there used to build the altar of Artemis Orthosia, except for one column covered with Assyrian writing that was left beside the temple of Dionysos at Byzantion."


I. BORYSTHENITES Town in Scythia (Skythia) (Greek Colony)

Herodotus, Histories 4. 79 :
"He [Skyles an historical king of the Skythes who adopted Greek customs] conceived a desire to be initiated into the rites of Dionysos Bakkheios and when he was about to begin the sacred mysteries (telete), he saw the greatest vision. He had in the city of the Borysthenites [a Greek colony] a spacious house, grand and costly (the same house I just mentioned), all surrounded by sphinxes and grypes (griffins) worked in white marble this house was struck by a thunderbolt. And though the house burnt to the ground, Skyles none the less performed the rite to the end. Now the Skythians reproach the Greeks for this Bacchic revelling (bakkheuo), saying that it is not reasonable to set up a god who leads men to madness.So when Scyles had been initiated into the Bacchic rite (Bakkheios), some one of the Borysthenites scoffed at the Skythians : &lsquoYou laugh at us, Skythians, because we play the Bacchant (bakkheuo) and the god (theos) possesses us but now this deity (daimon) has possessed your own king, so that he plays the Bacchant (bakkheuo) and is maddened by the god (theos manenai). If you will not believe me, follow me now and I will show him to you.&rsquo
The leading men among the Scythians followed him, and the Borysthenite brought them up secretly onto a tower from which, when Scyles passed by with his company of worshippers, they saw him playing the Bacchant (bakkheuo) thinking it a great misfortune, they left the city and told the whole army what they had seen. After this Skyles rode off to his own place but the Skythians rebelled against him."

II. GELONUS (GELONOS) Town in Scythia (Greco-Scythian Colony)

Herodotus, Histories 4. 108 :
"The [Skythian] Boudinoi are a great and populous nation . . . They have a city built of wood, called Gelonos [settled by both Skythians and Greek colonists] . . . and their houses are wooden, and their temples for there are temples of Greek gods among them, furnished in Greek style with images and altars and shrines of wood and they honor Dionysos every two years (trieteris) with festivals and revelry (bakkheuo). For the Gelonoi are by their origin Greeks, who left their trading ports to settle among the Boudinoi and they speak a language half Greek and half Skythian."

Votive Relief of Dionysos and Ikarios

The subject depicted here is unclear. It may represent a poet welcoming the god Dionysos into his house to give thanks for a victory in a poetry competition. Or it may reference a particular story from the mythology of Dionysos and show the god, with his satyrs and drunken followers in tow, visiting Ikarios, a farmer in Attica, to introduce him to the gift of wine.

According to the myth, when Ikarios demonstrated the cultivation of grapes and the resulting vintage to his people, they thought he was trying to poison them. In drunken haste they killed Ikarios, bringing the wrath of Dionysos on the murderers and the people of Athens

Naples, National Museum 272.
Similar copy in the British Museum (2190)

Purchased in 1884 from the Paris Beaux Arts

Hauser: Die Neu Attischen Reliefs (1889), 191, no.4
Lippold: Griechische Plastik, 368 (n.7)
Ruesch: Guide to the National Museum, Naples, 87-
Brunn-Bruckmann: Denkmäler Griechischer und Römischer Skulptur, 344b
Walston: Catalogue of Casts in the Museum of Classical Archaeology (1889), 92, no.498

Detailed Curatorial Notes

Provenance: Appeared in the sale of J.R. Goven, London, 1857 (see bibliography), lot 85, where it was purchased by Falke for £2 13s. Subsequently appeared in the sale of Emile Gavet, Paris, 1897 (see bibliography), lot 392, entered the collection of Baron Ferdinand Rothschild the same year.

Commentary: From Thornton & Wilson 2009 - 'The figures represent autumn and winter. A set of dishes from the same workshop in the Castello Sforzesco, Milan, have the four seasons, with a figure of autumn from the same model as the figure on this flask. Some of the grotesques seem to be derived from the "Petites Grotesques" of Jacques Androuet Ducerceau but less meticulously followed than in some earlier cases. This flask is from one of the most ambitious and elaborate maiolica services of the late 16th century. At least 43 pieces bearing the device and motto, decorated with white-ground grotesques and "istoriato" scenes, are recorded [for a list see Thornton & Wilson 2009, no. 240].

There is no evidence as to the original size of the service, but the exceptional variety of forms surviving suggests that it may have been very extensive. Some contemporary aristocratic maiolica services were enormous one made in Faenza in 1590 for Count Camillo Gonzaga, for instance, consisted of 601 pieces, the varied shapes of which are described in the contract documents. One supplied by the Patanazzi workshop in the 1590s consisted of over 300 pieces of some 40 different named forms. In the ARDET AETERNUM service, there seem likely to have been at least two of each of the types of pilgrim flask and Autumn and Winter on the BM flask may have been paired with representations of Spring and Summer on a companion one.

The "impresa" represents a piece of burning "asbestos". This was a material, according to Pliny the Elder in his "Natural History", which came from the mountains of Arcadia medieval interpretations suggested that, once set fire to, it could not be extinguished, which is the point of ARDET AETERNUM. According to Camillo Camillo's "Imprese illustri di diversi" of 1586, the emblem and motto were adopted by a young Sienese nobleman, Curtio Borghesi, as an indication of "la perseveranza dell'animo suo". It was an evidently suitable emblem for undying love, and this is clearly its meaning when used as the reverse of a double-portrait medal (illustrated) of Alfonso II d'Este (1533-97), Duke of Ferrara, and the young Margherita Gonzaga, whom he married as his third wife in 1579.

As early as 1836, in one of the first ever monographic studies on individual pieces of maiolica, Giuseppe Boschini described two plates from the series, linked them to the medal, and suggested that theiy were made for use at the Ferrarese court at the time of the Duke's marriage to Margherita and Alfonso. The Ferrarese court was famous for its elaborate banquets and court ceremonial. The service is not listed in the inventory of Alfonso's possessions made after his death in 1597, but that is perhaps because his successor had acted quickly to transfer various possessions made after his death in 1597, but that is perhaps because his successor had acted quickly to transfer various possessions, including "la maiolica che è nei camerini", to his new home in Modena.

Following the argument of Boschini, generations of scholars assigned the date 1579 to the service, and Alfonso Lazzari in his 1913 book, "Le ultime tre duchesse di Ferrara" wrote a vivid but entirely invented description of the use of the service at the wedding. However, no contemporary documentation has been found of this, and recent scholarship suggests a dating of the medal to the 1590s, some years after the marriage. The discovery that the large plate from the series in Milan is based on an engraving after Marten De Vos which is likely to be from the mid-1580s proves that at least part of the service must have been made some years after 1579. The "impresa" could have been used by the couple up to Alfonso's death in 1597, and by Margherita even afterwards: the sentiment of the "impresa" would not have been inappropriate to a widow.

Reasonably enough, some scholars since Boschini have supposed that the service was made at Ferrara. However, there is no documentary evidence for production of artistic maiolica in the circle of the Este court at Ferrara in the closing years of the 16th century. Furthermore, the style and technique are so close to works marked as made in the workshop of the Patanazzi family and that is almost certainly the correct attribution. The close similarities to the service made for the Count of Lemos, which. may have been made in the Patanazzi workshop in 1599, suggest that this service was made some years after 1579, perhaps from the last decade of the century.'

A salt from the same service is also in the British Museum, (reg. no. 1884,0618.3), there is also a medal in the BM collection which has the inscription ARDET AETERNUM (reg. no. G3,FerrM.81).

Satyr and Silenus

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Satyr and Silenus, in Greek mythology, creatures of the wild, part man and part beast, who in Classical times were closely associated with the god Dionysus. Their Italian counterparts were the Fauns (see Faunus). Satyrs and Sileni were at first represented as uncouth men, each with a horse’s tail and ears and an erect phallus. In the Hellenistic age they were represented as men having a goat’s legs and tail. The occurrence of two different names for the creatures has been explained by two rival theories: that Silenus was the Asian Greek and Satyr the mainland name for the same mythical being or that the Sileni were part horse and the Satyrs part goat. Neither theory, however, fits all the examples in early art and literature. From the 5th century bc the name Silenus was applied to Dionysus’ foster father, which thus aided the gradual absorption of the Satyrs and Sileni into the Dionysiac cult. In the Great Dionysia festival at Athens three tragedies were followed by a Satyr play (e.g., Euripides’ Cyclops), in which the chorus was dressed to represent Satyrs. Silenus, although bibulous like the Satyrs in the Satyr plays, also appeared in legend as a dispenser of homely wisdom.

In art the Satyrs and Sileni were depicted in company with nymphs or Maenads whom they pursued. (Their amorous relations with nymphs are described as early as the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite.) The Greek sculptor Praxiteles represented a new artistic type in which the Satyr was young and handsome, with only the smallest vestiges of animal parts. Hellenistic artists developed that concept into humorous or forceful representation of half-animal subjects as an escape from the merely human.

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