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HOME : Classical Antiquities : Paestum : Paestum Red-Figured Stemless Kylix
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Paestum Red-Figured Stemless Kylix - DC.116
Origin: Mediterranean
Circa: 330 BC to 320 BC
Dimensions: 7.5" (19.1cm) depth
Collection: Classical
Condition: Fine

Additional Information: Attributed to the Painter of Naples. Art Logic--Rainer Kreisel (San Francisco), with Numisart (Munich) 2005, The Property of a Florida Collector, Christie's (New York) 2007

Location: UAE
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Dionysus, Greek god of Wine is commonly portrayed as one of two archetypes. Either, he is depicted as the quiet and epicurean God who quietly enjoys his wine on his Olympian throne, or as a wild and carnal spirit that animates the most feral nature of man. It is this second and darker Dionysus that is depicted on this Kylix. The carnal Dionysus was worshiped by the Bacchants, an all-female cult of the most arcane sort in Ancient Hellas, and later in Rome. It was in the name of the wine God that the cult- members raised themselves into wine and drug- ridden hysteria, consumed the flesh of live animals, and participated in massive orgies.

This depiction of Dionysus every bit merits the zeal and activity of his Bacchant worshipers. He leaps through the air, the leader of a procession, undoubtedly in his honor. The chalmys flippantly draped over his shoulders sways with the rush of his movement. He is bedecked in beaded bandoliers, and a wreath frames his head. In his right hand he holds a Tympanum, ready to be struck into a frenzied cacophony or hypnotic beat. His left hand holds a staff, much like the ones used by the processional leaders of festivals. He looks back over his shoulder, as if to lead on the festival train behind him. His left pectoral muscle is grossly exaggerated, giving a stylized and very strikingly feminine feature to the male body. The Kylix’s meandering border of grape leaves further accentuates the fantastic fluidity of the form.

Who knows what role this piece played in the life of a wealthy aristocrat, or perhaps a devoted Bacchant? Given the elegance of its execution and the unusualness of its subject, it is very possible that this piece was an integral sacramental ornament of the Bacchant. Perhaps from its lip, the Bacchantes once supped their wine or sprinkled their spices. Regardless of its purpose, or the wonderful and arcane rites that the Kylix may’ve witnessed, it is undeniably a phenomenal work of art. The virility of its Dionysus is a testament to the artist’s ability and the boisterous revelry of the human spirit. - (DC.116)


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