Finely Decorated Etruscan Oinochoe with Satyr and Maenads


A finely decorated Etruscan red-figure oinochoe, modelled in dark brown terracotta, featuring a flared foot, a globular body, a cylindrical neck and a trefoil lip. One single applied strap handle to the side. The neck and the upper part of the vessel’s body display a geometrical and floral decoration, comprising stylised leaves and palmettes. The oenochoe’s body is decorated with a highly naturalistic and dynamic depiction of two young women, probably Maenads, shown facing each other, and a Satyr, depicted between the two women. The first woman is here portrayed wearing a traditional Etruscan dress and headpiece, facing left, and holding in her right hand a thyrsus, a staff associated with the Greek god Dionysus, symbolising prosperity and fertility. The second woman is depicted facing right, looking towards her companion and the Satyr. She wears a traditional Etruscan dress and headpiece, with a panther skin on her right shoulder. In Greek mythology the panther was considered a sacred animal to Dyonisus. The Satyr is depicted as a nude bearded man, with anatomical features naturalistically rendered. He is shown dancing, trying to approach the woman on his right. Further decoration includes the large palmettes beneath the handle. The vessel is believed to come from the area of Lake Bracciano, near Viterbo, Italy.

Date: Circa 6th-4th century BC
Provenance: Ex. Hertfordshire private collection. Auctioned at Bonham’s in May 1988.
Condition: Fine, repaired to the foot. Signs of aging and earthly encrustations to the surface. Original pigmentation still visible.


Maenads and Satyrs were important characters in the Dionysian Thiasus, usually portrayed while drinking wine and dancing to music. In Greek culture and mythology, Maenads were the female followers of Dionysus, while Satyrs, also known as Silenus, were male figures with ears and a tail resembling those of a horse. This extraordinary scene depicts a wild dance between a Satyr and two Maenads, portrayed here celebrating life trough music, dance and obviously, wine.

An oinochoe is a form of ancient Greek wine jug, which would likely have been used during the symposium. The decoration on the vessel’s body appears then extremely appropriate considering how this vase would have been used in Ancient Times. To find out more about Dionysus and the  Dionysian Thiasus please see our relevant blog post: Dionysus: Madness, Realise and Wine.


Weight 450 g
Dimensions W 15 x H 24 cm

Pottery and Porcelain


Roman Mythology