This damaged head representing Dionysos, the god of wine, originates from the vicinity of the city of Smyrna, present-day Izmir. In the more northern city of Pergamon (present-day Bergama), at the start of the second century B.C. sculptors were at work on a monumental altar dedicated to Zeus, the supreme god, representing the battle between the gods and the Giants. It is on view in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.
The head in the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden shows Dionysos as a young, beardless god. His facial expression is ecstatic. His waving, curly hair is held together by a fillet. Underneath it, next to his right temple, a bunch of grapes is depicted. For the Greeks Dionysos was the god of wine, intoxication and ecstasy. The Romans knew him as Bacchus.
Sculptures from the Pergamon school are characterized by large, well-muscled figures. Attention is paid to detail and there is a lot of movement in the figures. In this Hellenistic period sculptors became interested in expressing deep emotions like pain and the agony of death. Dionysos was venerated at various festivals.