Greek, South Italian
Late Classical Period
about 350–340 B.C.
the Varrese Painter
Place of Manufacture: Italy, Apulia
Vase-Painting in Italy (MFA), no. 037.
Height (max.): 28.1 cm
Medium or Technique
Ceramic, Red Figure
Not On View
Situla (type 2)
A: Dionysos is seated on a rock or outcropping suggested by a row of white dots; similar dots indicate the terrain throughout this scene and the one on the reverse. Two maenads stand on either side of the god, while at the right a nude satyr has fallen asleep against a marble louterion. Dionysos is seated to the right but turns to look at the maenad at the left, who holds a phiale in her left hand and a pair of yellow and white fillets in her right. The god’s legs are covered by his himation, which has fallen about his waist to reveal the upper body. His face, drawn in three-quarter view, is framed by long curly hair and a thick white fillet, loosely tied at the temples and decorated with yellow dots. With his left hand he rests his thyrsos on his lap and with his right holds out his kantharos, its handles foreshortened, its body tinted gold over the added white. A drip of glaze has run down the god’s right leg.
The maenad at the left wears a short mantle over a chiton, the hem and central panel of which are decorated with crosshatching and white dots. Her hair is tied in back into a tall chignon; the shoes, bracelets, earrings, necklace, and radiate stephane are rendered with added white. A dotted fillet hangs behind her at the left. The maenad at the right leans on the louterion with her left arm, her left foot drawn up; she too wears white earrings, necklace, and bracelets. The chiton beneath her himation is plain, without crosshatching. Her hair is pulled back over a white fillet, which has a small finial in front. In her left hand she holds a thyrsos; with her right she extends toward Dionysos a jug of wine, the fluting of its white body drawn with dilute glaze. On the ground before her is a phiale; farther left lies a tympanum.
The sleeping satyr props his head against the louterion with his right arm, his back padded by a himation. Only the context and the thyrsos leaning against his leg identify him as a satyr, since the ears and tail are not visible. The face and body are rendered in three-quarter view. A realistic touch is the coarse black hair covering the chest and belly. He wears white boots and a fillet identical to that of Dionysos; the kantharos about to slip from his limp fingers is also the same. The louterion is drawn with added white, and with the flutes of the stand and other details in dilute glaze. In the background, arching over the three right-hand figures like a trellis, is a grapevine tinted with yellow and white.
B: In this more standardized scene, Dionysos is seated between two standing maenads; the satyr is gone and so is the grapevine. The god is seated to the left, a phiale in his right hand and a thyrsos held against his left shoulder. He is seated on a himation, which lies across his lap without covering the genitals. Added white is used for the thyrsos and for the wreath of ivy on his head. The maenad facing him at the left turns toward him, a wreath in the raised left hand, a situla in the lowered right. She is jeweled and draped like the left-hand maenad on side A, but her chiton is plainer and she wears a kekryphalos. The maenad at the right, with shorter hair, wears a belted chiton without himation; shoes, necklace, earrings, and bracelets are in added white. The white dot on her forehead may indicate a fillet. A garland of white-petaled flowers hangs from her right hand, and in her left arm she cradles a branch with a pendant fillet. Floating in the upper field are a pair of rosettes, a cloth fillet, and two white fillets like those worn by Dionysos and the satyr on side A.
Below the faux handles on either side are two large, enclosed palmettes, their tips touching in the center, flanked by smaller, unenclosed palmettes and tendrils. The band circling the lower body consists of groups of three stopt maeanders to right, alternating with saltire-squares. Around the middle of the rim is a band of dotted egg-pattern. The interior is glazed.
According to Trendall and Cambitoglou (RVAp, I, p. 343), “this vase goes very closely in style with no. 34 [a nestoris in a Kiel private collection], and, like it, must be accounted one of the Varrese Painter’s better works.” Schauenburg compares the shape, ornament, and general style of another situla by the painter, Kiel B 776 (RVAp, Suppl. II, p. 89, no. 12/35a), which also has a grapevine over the main scene; see Schauenburg Jdl 106 (1991), pp. 184-185, pl. 36, 1-3. The chiton of the female flute player on the Kiel situla has crosshatched decoration like that of the Boston maenad, as does the chiton of Helen on catalogue no. 28; compare also the peplos of Hippodameia on British Museum F 331 (RVAp,I , p. 338, no. 13/5, pl. 109,2). The situlae of the Group of the Dublin Situlae are not far removed in shape and style. For an example, see Galerie Günter Puhze, “Kunst der Antike”, Katalog 9 (Freiburg im Breisgau, 1991),no. 229; RVAp, Suppl. II, p. 105, no. 15/35b.
For South Italian situlae, see K. Schauenburg, “Meded” 43 (1981), pp. 83-89; idem, RM 88 (1981), pp. 107-116; idem, AA 1981, pp. 462-488; and A. D. Trendall, “NumAntCl” 19 (1990), pp. 117-134, particularly p. 119 and the bibliography on p. 127. For bronze and silver situale of this type, see B. Barr-Sharrar, in Barr-Sharrar and Borza, “Macedonia and Greece,” pp. 127-130.
(text from Vase-Painting In Italy, catalogue entry no. 37)
By 1978: Los Angeles market, Summa Galleries inv. 71 (according to A. D. Trendall and A. Cambitoglou, The Red-Figured Vases of Apulia, vol. 1: Early and Middle Apulian , p. 343, no. 35, pl. 111, 2-4); by 1990: with Atlantis Antiquities, 40 East 69th Street, New York and Hesperia Arts Auction, Ltd., 29 West 57th Street, New York; sold at Hesperia Arts Auction, Ltd., Park Lane Hotel, 36 Central Park South, New York, November 27, 1990, part 2, lot 35; by 1992: with Acanthus, 24 East 81st Street, New York 10028; purchased by MFA from Acanthus, June 24, 1992
Museum purchase with funds by exchange from a Gift of Horace L. Mayer and Paul E. Manheim and the Helen and Alice Colburn Fund