Handle attachment in the form of a mask, 1st century B.C–1st century a.d., Late Hellenistic or Early Imperial
Greek or Roman
Bronze; H. 10 in. (25.4 cm)
Bequest of Walter C. Baker, 1971 (1972.118.98)
Despite all the change and innovation in Hellenistic iconography, there was also continuity. This mask demonstrates the tendency to perpetuate, if not to revive, styles going back to the Classical and even to the Archaic period, a tendency that gained impetus from the second century B.C. on, as Greek artists were being called upon to cater to the demands of the Roman art market.
Images related to Dionysos, Greek god of intoxication and ecstasy, were well suited to the luxurious and hedonistic life that wealthy Romans led in their villas. This handle attachment was for a wine bucket. The wreath of ivy leaves and the fillet crossing the forehead are associated exclusively with the god of wine and his followers. The mask brings to mind Archaic images of Dionysos, who until the fifth century B.C. was always shown with long hair and a beard. But the pointed, equine ears mark the mask as a representation of a satyr or Silenos, the quasi-human woodland creature in the rowdy entourage of the god.