Fragmentary terracotta relief with a lyre-carrying youth on the back of a ketos (sea creature)
3rd century B.C.
Greek, South Italian, Tarentine
Overall: 9 1/4 x 5 5/8in. (23.5 x 14.3cm)
Rogers Fund, 1920
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 161
This group of works, of varying date but acquired together, illustrates a characteristic subject among Tarentine terracottas. Although the examples are fragmentary, they show male figures reclining in a context that probably has to do with the wine god, Dionysos. The figures who support themselves on their left arm and have their lower body draped evoke participants in a symposium. The youths on the backs of creatures real and mythological introduce another realm of reality. The identity and meaning of the subjects remain to be elucidated. The difficulty is particularly great because the iconography reflects not only long-standing Greek traditions but also funerary practices, mysteries, and other observances specific to Tarentum.
M.E.P. 1923. "Greek Terracottas." Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 18(9): p. 214.