Corinthianizing pilaster capital with Silenos
about A.D. 200–260
Sculpture in Stone (MFA), no. 307; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 113 (additional published references).
Height x width (at top): 33 x 40.3 cm (13 x 15 7/8 in.)
Medium or Technique
Marble from Dokimeion (modern Afyon) in Asia Minor
Antioch Mosaic Gallery (Gallery 214A)
The head and the arms of the Silenos have been broken away, including the left shoulder. The surfaces have been chipped and are somewhat worn. There are considerable remains of root marks, and a pleasing yellow patina.
The polished surface, especially of the Silenos and the background including the molding of the abacus, combined with the florid drilling of the acanthus leaves, dates this pilaster capital in the third century A.D. The loss of anatomic structure in the fat-bellied, spindly legged Silenos parallels the distortions used in the genii of Season sarcophagi in the late Severan to Tetrarch or Constantinian periods.
An unusual feature is that the figure is very nearly detached from the face of the capital and stands on a platform that extends out beyond the general plane of the nonfigural elements. While the general type of the capital (figure in the center, with acanthus leaves as prop for the volute at each corner and an echinus or acanthus leaves) is common, here there is no row of acanthus as groundline. Also, an unusual feature, the acanthus leaves are perfectly erect, not bent over at the top, and the capital’s stalk-volutes are completely hidden behind foliage, not visible going all the way down to the base of the capital. This capital is, in fact one of the most sculptural of surviving examples; it is less like a relief than a statue set in a background.
Silenos, the companion of Dionysos, is identifiable by his potbelly and the wineskin that lies beside him. Architectural decoration, like this unusually fine and individual piece, made by sculptors from Asia Minor is found in all parts of the Roman Empire. Pieces might be sent out prefabricated from the quarries or, particularly in the case of better-quality work, they might be carved at the actual building site.
(J. B. Ward-Perkins: Phrygian “alabaster”)
By 1901: with Edward Perry Warren (according to Warren's records: Bought in Naples.); purchased by MFA from Edward Perry Warren, December 1, 1901
Henry Lillie Pierce Fund