Marble statuette of Dionysos
This statuette represents Dionysos the Greek god of wine and festivities. He is wearing a chiton, a typical ancient Greek tunic, Thracian boots, and belted panther skin, and a goatskin cape with the arms of the goatskin draping over his arms. The creator of the statuette depicts Dionysos as a young man through his soft facial features. In addition, the god has two curly locks of hair that that are shown on the front of this sculpture in the round. The goat skin cape completely covers the back side of the statuette, which suggests that the goatskin is an important symbol of Dionysos.
The statuette represents the legend of Dionysos Melanaigis. It was originally located in a temple that was dedicated its subject, in Methana, Greece, where many races were held annually, and where the champions would be commemorated. The reason this statuette and this temple were important is the legend behind Dionysos Melanaigis. In the town of Attica, known now as the town of Dionysos, the leader of Attica, Icarius was visited by a stranger named Dionysos. Icarius and his daughter, Erigone, welcomed this stranger into their home and gave him fresh goat’s milk and food. Dionysos was so pleased with their hospitality that he revealed to them that he was a son of Zeus. He blessed Icarius with the first grape vine, and taught him how to make wine from the grapes. Icarius shared the wine with the inhabitants of Attica. One night some shepherds drank too much wine and became sick; they feared that Icarius had poisoned them, so they killed him. When Erigone had discovered that her father had been murdered, she hung herself, but not before placing a curse on all the women of Attica. Soon families started to discover that all their daughters were killing themselves, so the people of Attica called to the oracle at Delphi to help them. The oracle told the people to sacrifice the first grapes that were harvested every year and celebrate an annual festival in honor of Erigone. This became the first worship of Dionysos and over many years the people continued to worship him in a festival where they drank wine and would sacrifice a goat in his honor because goats are a symbol of fertility.
Marble Statuette of Dionysos fits into Janson’s History of Art because of the many Hellenistic features that are depicted on the statuette. One work of art that the statuette could replace in the textbook is Charioteer from Motya (Figure 5.30). This figure and the statuette have many similar features. They both represent a youthful boy standing in a contrapposto with the head looking slightly to the right. Both the Charioteer and Dionysos are draped with clothing that hide all of the curves of their figure. In addition, the uses of these two figures were very similar. Dionysos’ statuette was placed in a temple where many races were held annually. This Charioteer was also set up in a public place where games were held and the statue would commemorate the success of the champions.
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