The peristyle gardens of Roman houses and villas were filled with decorative marble reliefs such as this one. The masks of a young maenad and a bearded silenus are carved on one side in high relief. A shepherd’s crook, known in antiquity as a pedum, and two cymbals rest between them. Dionysiac cult objects and theatrical masks are often depicted on similar marble ornaments found in Pompeii, where they were suspended between the columns of the peristyle or set on tall pillars around the garden. Other themes, however, are also represented; on the other side of this piece, in low relief, a ketos, or sea monster, rides atop the waves.
Inherited by a private collector, Wales, from his wife in 1974. Consigned by the private collector to Bonhams, London, October 28, 2004, lot 60. Acquired at the auction by Phoenix Ancient Art, New York. Sold by Phoenix Ancient Art to Renée E. and Robert A. Belfer in 2006. Given by Renée E. and Robert A. Belfer to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2012.
The work has been on loan to, and on display at, The Metropolitan Museum of Art since 2007
2004. Bonhams London, October 28, 2004 lot 60 (ill)., London.