Head of a statue of Dionysos
Late Hellenistic period
Findspot: Nubia (Sudan), Meröe (Begrawiya), Pyramid N 5
Greek, Etruscan, & Roman Bronzes (MFA), no. 068; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 119 (additional published references).
Height: 13 cm (5 1/8 in.)
Medium or Technique
Bronze, silver, shell
Greek Classical Gallery (Gallery 215B)
Encrusted and partially cleaned; much of the inlaid eyes, made of shell, survive. Vine leaves are twined in his long locks; the whites of the eyes are inlaid. This head, the hand, and the foot were found in a tomb of circa A.D. 15. Another head of the same type, life-size and thought to come from northern Syria, was in the New York market in 1963. It is probably a Hellenistic original, and all these statues go back to a creation in the circle of the Pouring (Dresden-Palermo) Satyr of Praxiteles. (Comstock & Vermeule, Greek, Etruscan & Roman Bronzes)
Although the modeling of the two faces differs, this and another bronze head doubtless form a pair. They were cast by means of the lost wax method in two pieces, soldered together at the area of the diadem. This technique provided for the easy application of the eye inlays from the inside out. The gap at the neck fitting, appearing right-angled in profile view, allowed for the attachment of the heads to statues whose height can be reconstructed to about 75 centimeters. Several elements clearly identify them as representations of the Greek god Dionysos: the locks of the hair gathered in braids, the floral diadem over the brow, the headband (of red copper with silver inlays), and the full, youthful facial features. According to C. Vermeule, the statue type may be traced to the work of Praxiteles. Owing to the existence of two such heads, it is doubtful that they were intended to stand alone as separate statues. More likely they stood together in a functional context that required a statue pair. They probably served as lamp stands, part of the valuable, imported luxury goods decorating the royal palace. (Sudan catalogue)
December, 1921, excavated at Meroe, North Cemetery, Pyramid Beg. N 5 (tomb of Prince Arikankharer), Chamber A by the Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; 1924, assigned in the division of finds by the government of the Sudan to the MFA.
Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition