This Mask is a depiction of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine and sensual enjoyment. The hair, carefully styled in the Greco-Egyptian manner is framed with a wreath of grape vine. It borders a delicate and androgynous face with large and placid eyes and a quiet benign smile. The piece is exceptional in the intricacy of the design and the special attention paid to the unusual hair- styling. The veins in the grape leaves and the dapples of dew upon the fruit stand out in cautious impressure. Small funerary masks such as this are usually discovered in tombs, to act as a guide to the Elysian fields, and serve as a protector over the shade of the deceased. The gentle aristocrat that commissioned this piece did not opt for the conventional Hermes, the fierce Mars, or the wise Augustus to be his ward in the next dimension, but rather Bacchus.
For this particular epicure the ephemeral fruits of our world were pleasure and sustenance enough for this life and for the next. His Elysian fields, he hoped, would be dotted with grape vines, laden with aromatic meats, alive with the pastoral pleasures that he entertained in his life. Upon his face, the Bacchus of this mask has impressed upon him the quiet and complete satisfaction that one experiences in the presence of delightful company, rich wine, and beautiful music. The zealous happiness and simple fulfillment of the mask’s commissioner and subject cannot help but resonate with whoever falls into its presence. The grace and beauty of its execution makes this piece of art an even greater testament to the philosophy it represents. For those in ancient times, and in our own, who sprinkle libations at the altar of beauty, this piece is an idol worthy of our wine, our smile, and our admiration.