Bust of Dionysus

Dionysus was a multi-faceted deity. In his capacity as god of wine, he symbolized fertility and the regeneration of nature. His rituals combined ecstatic and mystical elements. Important was also his chthonic dimension: as was the case with other deities of fertility and regeneration, his mythical adventures included a visit to the Underworld.

This terracotta bust was produced in a Boeotian workshop of the 4th c. BC and represents a bearded (and thus aged) Dionysus holding a drinking cup (kantharos) on the right hand, and an egg on the left. The kantharos was the standard symbol of wine-drinking and accompanies the god in most representations. The egg symbolized fertility, although it may have also been related to chthonic elements of Dionysus’ cult.

Such busts were used as funerary or ritual offerings, and were often decorated with bright colours. In this example, traces of red and yellow pigment, as well as parts of the white slip, are preserved.

Vlassopoulous Ch. 2006. Cat. no. 64, in Choremi-Spetsieri Α. – Zarkadas Α. (eds), The Paul and Alexandra Canellopoulos Museum. Ancient Art, Athens, 102-103.