Ivory Pyx with the Triumph of Dionysos in India

Date: mid-500s

Geography: Made in possibly Syria

Culture: Byzantine

Medium: Ivory

Dimensions: Overall: 3 3/16 x 4 7/8 x 4 1/2 in. (8.1 x 12.4 x 11.4 cm)

Classification: Ivories

Credit Line: Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917

Accession Number: 17.190.56


Ivory pyxides—cylindrical boxes, carved from cross sections of an elephant's tusk—were used in Antiquity to hold valuables, and later used by Christians to hold the consecrated host. This pyxis shows scenes from classical mythology. Dioinysos, a son of Zeus, rides in his chariot overseeing his conquest of India. The pyxis recalls the epic stories of Dionysos penned by a fifth-century poet of Egypt, Nonnos of Panopolis; both attest to the persistent popularity of Dionysiac themes well into the Christian era.