Hellenistic Terracotta Mask of Silenus


A characterful Hellenistic terracotta fragment depicting Silenus; possibly referencing a comedic mask. The face has a large forehead, thick furrowed eyebrows, a small rounded nose, and the beginnings of a full beard. Over the head are textured components, representing the wild hair of the satyr.

The piece is formed in the half round with a concave, hollow, back. It has been truncated leaving a raw irregular edge at the bottom. There is also a single perforation on the top of the head which would allow the piece to be strung.

Date: Circa 3rd - 2nd Century BC
Provenance: Ex Moonen collection, Belgium, 1980's. Then Archea, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Condition: Good condition. The details of the face are legible, The bottom section has been truncated and has a raw, irregular edge. There is a small chip to the left-hand side and a hairline crack over the bridge of the nose. Over the surface are light grey and darker green earthly encrustations. There is a small patch of dark reddish brown residue on the reverse.


SKU: MJ-43 Category: Tags: , ,

Terracotta figurines are the most common sculpture types found across Hellenistic sites. They vary from simple crude figures to finely rendered creations. Although present in a variety of different circumstances, a common usage was as a votive offering in funerary and sanctuary contexts. Terracotta figures were cheap to make and easily replicable, making them well suited for this purpose. As divine objects, it was forbidden to destroy votive items. As a result, sanctuaries and shrines were often packed with such objects and the walls became additional surfaces for display. Many votives were made in a way allowing for them to be hung up, such as the flat back and perforation featured in this example.

The Silenus or Satyr figure was commonplace in Greek mythology. They both presented as wild creatures; half-man, half-animal, and often accompanied the god Dionysus, as they were associated with his cult. . They are often seen pursuing nymphs through the forest, causing mischief, or drinking.

Weight 27.9 g
Dimensions L 2.4 x W 3.6 x H 5.2 cm

Greek Mythology

Pottery and Porcelain


Reference: For a similar item,The British Museum, item GR.28.1887

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