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Gallery Text

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 mixing bowl for wine and water (1960.236), 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.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Antefix in the Shape of a Mask of Silenos
Architectural Elements
Work Type
architectural element
c. 470-460 BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Gela (Sicily)
Classical period, Early
Level 3, Room 3400, Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Art, Ancient Greece in Black and Orange
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Physical Descriptions
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.)
Charles L. Morley, (by 1960) sold; to Frederick M. Watkins, New Haven, CT, (1961-1972), bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1972.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Frederick M. Watkins
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Publication History

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

32Q: 3400 Greek, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

Google Art Project

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu