Art

Antefix in the Shape of a Mask of Silenos

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Antefix in the Shape of a Mask of Silenos, c. 470-460 BCE
Architectural Element
Greek
,
5th century BCE
Classical period, Early
Creation Place: Gela (Sicily)
Terracotta with traces of paint
23.5 cm h x 20 cm w x 14 cm d (9 1/4 x 7 7/8 x 5 1/2 in.)
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Frederick M. Watkins
, 1972.49
Department of Ancient and Byzantine Art & Numismatics
,
Commentary
Re-View Exhibition, Spring 2008, gallery label information:

Attached to a tile, this mask of Silenos would originally have peered down from the edge of a roof. Such antefixes were common in Greek temple decoration, which was often executed in painted terracotta in the Greek cities of South Italy and Sicily. Like the satyrs depicted on the large red-figure krater (1960.236) behind you, the silens were mythical companions of Dionysos, characterized by their thirst for wine. Old Silenos was the father of the satyrs. Despite his startling appearance, with a furrowed face, bulbous nose, and equine ears, he was thought to be a creature full of wisdom and skilled in music, and his representation may have hinted at the rebirth promised to worshippers of Dionysos. This antefix is composed of two separate ancient pieces joined in modern times.
Provenance
Charles L. Morley to Frederick M. Watkins, 1961; Bequest to the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, 1972.
Bibliography
The Frederick M. Watkins Collection, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1973)

Caroline Houser, Dionysos and His Circle: Ancient Through Modern, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1979), no. 35.

Stephen R. Wilk, Medusa: Solving the Mystery of the Gorgon, Oxford University Press (UK) (Oxford, NY, 2000), p. 166, fig. 9.7

Exhibition History
The Frederick M. Watkins Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 01/31/1973 - 03/14/1973
Dionysos and His Circle: Ancient through Modern, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 12/10/1979 - 02/10/1980
Re-View: S422 Ancient & Byzantine Art & Numismatics, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 04/12/2008 - 06/18/2011