Marble statue of Dionysos

Roman, about AD 40-60
Copy of a Greek original of about 325 BC; said to have been found at Posilipo, Campania, Italy

The god of wine

Dionysos is heavily draped, and his hair bound with an ivy wreath. His beard is long, recalling Archaic and early Classical images of the god. Ironically, this rather sober statue type acquired the nickname Sardanapallos in modern times, after a mythological Assyrian king who was notorious for his effeminate and depraved lifestyle. The figure probably originally held a thyrsos in the raised right hand.

Dionysos was often represented in this way in Roman times, and many versions of the figure exist. The god was popular not only because of his association with wine and good living, but also because his cult involved the participation of his revellers, both mythological and human. His entourage of satyrs and maenads provided a vast repertoire of subjects for artists, and their often wild antics made superb subjects for decorative reliefs, wall paintings, vessels and sculpture. This statue may seem restrained, but multiple copies of a popular relief sculpture exist with a figure of the same type, but drunk and propped up by a satyr.

During the fourth century BC, Dionysos' image underwent a radical change, and sculptors created a youthful and effeminate statue type. The Sardanapollos type, also created in the fourth century, was obviously an exception. The Romans elaborated the type further, often showing the god with subsidiary figures.

The statue is carved out of one large block of Pentelic marble, except for the missing right arm, which was made separately and attached.

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Height: 2.200 m

Museum number

GR 1878.11-6.1 (Sculpture 1606)


Castellani Collection


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