Roman Redware Bowl with Bacchus and Maenad


A Roman redware bowl decorated with moulded relief to the inside. The vessel features gently sloping walls, creating a shallow bowl, which rests on a small foot. Inside are two figures; a male to the left and a female to the right. The male figure appears clothed, a swirling cloak about his shoulders. He holds a long staff in one hand and is crowned with a garland wreath. The staff in his hands and the garland across his head would suggest that this figure is Bacchus, the Roman god of wine and ecstasy. He gazes upon the female figure, who is animated in her composition. She appears with her right hand raised, holding a wreath above her head. She is dressed in a flowing ‘chiton’ which gathers around her feet. Her torso leans backwards, giving an elegant curve to her spine. The pose, along with her raised wreath would suggest she is a maenad, amidst the throes of an ecstatic dance.  The bowl itself is typical of the African redware style, and of a similar size and design to similar wares. The bowl is made with terra sigillata technique of north African provenance and constituted a precious kind of fine ware, reserved for the elites as a way to display prestige at banquets and dinner parties.

Date: Circa 4th - 5th century
Condition: Fine condition with some signs of wearing on the reliefs. Professionally repaired.

In stock

‘Terra sigillata’ is a type of fine red Roman pottery with glossy surface slip, which was made in specific areas of the Roman Empire. Terra sigillata is most easily identifiable by its clear and shiny red paint, as well as by the relief decoration, which was modelled, embossed, or applied. In addition, some vessels are impressed with stamps or “seals”. The terra sigillata pottery style was common throughout the Roman Empire from the 1st to the 7th century, with the main bases of production in the African province (modern day Tunisia and Algeria) and the city of Aretium (modern day Arezzo). The interior reliefs were likely attached using liquid fired clay and moulded into the shapes. Alongside Roman mythology, other divine representations from other ancient religions were adorned onto redware pottery, with biblical stories becoming a prominent feature on this type of pottery. Bacchus was commonly portrayed in these kinds of vessels, given his association with wine and banquets.

According to Ancient Greek and Roman mythology, Dionysus (or Bacchus) was the god of grapes and wine. In connection with these attributes, Dionysus was also associated with release and with extremes of state: from the giver of sensual pleasures, to more chaotic and destructive passions. Part of Dionysus’ power and mystery derives from the fact that he was a relatively young god, and the final addition to the pantheon of the twelve Olympians.

Weight 263 g
Dimensions L 18.2 x W 18.2 x H 3.5 cm

Pottery and Porcelain



Roman Mythology

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