UnknownAncient Rome. 2nd century

The State Hermitage Museum

The State Hermitage Museum
St. Petersburg, Russia

The figure of Dionysus wearing ceremonial dress, in the middle of the hall, is majestic. He stands freely setting aside his left leg, which allows him to lift and open widely his arms displaying his major attributes. He holds a bunch of grapes in the raised left hand which is to remind of the fact that he is the patron of wine-making, while a pine-cone in his right hand characterizes him as the god giving eternal power of fertility to everything that grows in nature. He is wearing a crown of ivy leaves and berries on his head and high boots with flaps instead of ordinary sandals on his feet decorated with panthers’ heads, his favourite animals and companions. Dionysus has a short chiton pulled up under the belt in a blouse fashion, a panther’s fell covers his breast.

The numerous small and large folds create picturesque light-and-shade effects on the marble surface. The heavy border of the cloak falling down behind the god’s right shoulder makes the composition well-balanced. The large mass of the cloak offsets the voluminous figure of a female idol placed on the other side of the statue that supports the raised left hand. Such supports were functionally important in marble compositions, besides in most of religious sculpture their side figures had a certain meaning of their own. Noteworthy is the intricate coiffure of Dionysus consisting of long curls falling in pairs onto his breast, the sculptures of gods from the Greek Archaic period used to have such coiffures. The idol demonstrates the same hairdo, its cloak has typical zigzag folds while the central fold of its chiton looks like a swallow’s tail. All these details are borrowed from the representation of dress in ancient statues. The master intentionally used these archaic details to stress the ancient origin of Dionysus’ cult and its great popularity.

The statue is a Roman work undoubtedly modelled on a late Classical Greek original. The fact that its prototype dating from the 4th century B.C. was well known is proved by its numerous copies owned by different museums. The State Hermitage Museum, St.Petersburg. Photo by Vladimir Terebenin.


  • Title: Dionysus
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: Ancient Rome. 2nd century
  • Provenance: Collection of Marquis Campana, Rome. 1862
  • Physical Dimensions: h1630 mm
  • Original Title: Дионис - бог вина и виноделия, покровитель растительных сил природы
  • Type: Statue
  • Medium: Marble

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