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Home > Auctions > 7th September 2021 > Roman Marble Silenus Carrying an Askos

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LOT 0071

GBP (£) 50,000 - 70,000
EUR (€) 58,760 - 82,270
USD ($) 69,680 - 97,550

Opening Bid
£40,000 (EUR 47,009; USD 55,743) (+bp*)

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Roman Marble Silenus Carrying an Askos

2nd century AD

An impressive marble statue depicting Silenus, the companion and tutor of wine god Dionysus, carrying a full askos on his left shoulder and gripping the neck of it with his left hand; Silenus depicted with muscular body and hairy chest, grinning face with richly folded flowing beard and moustache, long wavy hair falling down his neck, a garland of ivy with alternating vine leaves and blossoms resting on his head with two bunches of grapes above the forehead, projecting small horns and pointed ears; deep-set eyes and short nose with broad nostrils, emphasised wrinkled forehead with strong brow ridge and carefully carved laughter lines to the corners of the eyes; the wineskin drilled for use as a waterspout; mounted on a custom-made swivel stand. 14.40 kg total, 34cm including stand (13 1/4"). Fine condition.

From a central London gallery, acquired 5th December 2018; acquired from Brian Carter in 1986; likely acquired by Brian Carter in the early 1970s; accompanied by an academic expertise written by Dr. Raffaele D’Amato, a geological scholarly report no.TL05393 by Dr Ronald Bonewitz and a copy of a Art Loss Register certificate no.S00143252; this lot has been checked against the Interpol Database of stolen works of art and is accompanied by AIAD certificate number no.10810-178744.

See Reinach, S., Répertoire de la statuaire grecque et romaine, Paris, 1897, p.50, item 6, for Silenus in similar pose, and 58, nos.1-2, for images of Silenus in different position holding an askos on the shoulder; Smith, A.H., A catalogue of sculpture in the department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, British Museum, vol.III, London, 1904; Bianchi Bandinelli, R., Roma, l’arte romana nel centro del potere, Milano, 1969; for a younger satyr pouring from a wineskin, which he carries on his shoulders, see no.191 in Conticello, B. et al., Rediscovering Pompeii, Rome, 1990; see also for iconography Simon, E., ‘Silenoi’ in LIMC VIII, Zurich and Dusseldorf, 1997, nos.214-215; other beautiful sculptures of a young satyr carrying a wineskin in House of the Stags (House of the Deer) in Herculaneum, in Antikensammlung Museum of Berlin (inv. no. Sk 263), in BNF France (inv. no.384).

The mature satyr Silenus is usually shown engaged in activities linked to the cult of Dionysus, making music and holding the infant Bacchus, or pouring wine from a wineskin like our statue. This type shows a kind of refined realism, with wonderful detail to the general proportions, hair and beard, realistically depicted asymmetry of detail and showing the aging marks. It seems to derive from Hellenistic prototypes. The model of a satyr holding a wineskin (askos) is a subject widely visible in the Graeco-Roman repertory, as can be seen, for example, on a candelabrum in the British Museum (Smith, 1969, no.2058). This head presents a somewhat idealised version of the 'Silenus' type of Socrates, with a noteworthy arrangement of beard and moustache. The Romans appreciated portrayals of satyrs and Silens, and used them, as was probably the case for our sculpture, decorating garden fountains and water spouts.