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Antefix in the Shape of a Mask of Silenos (c. 470-460 BCE)

For Artwork in Focus we explore individual artworks, critiquing their style and discussing their socio-political context. Today we look at Antefix in the Shape of a Mask of Silenos (c. 470-460 BCE).

About the Work

Title : Antefix in the Shape of a Mask of Silenos
Year : c. 470-460 BCE
Medium : Terracotta with traces of paint
Dimensions : 23.5 cm h x 20 cm w x 14 cm d (9 1/4 x 7 7/8 x 5 1/2 in.)
Location : Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In Greek mythology, Silenos or Silenus is the companion and teacher to the Dionysus, the God of wine. He is also considered to be the father of the satyrs, who were the followers of Dionysus.

Who is Silenos

According to the digital catalogue of the Harvard Art Museums :

“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.”

As is common with depictions of Silenos, here also he is shown with large and round features. His big, donkey-like ears, in Greek mythology, alluded to his great intelligence and wisdom.

Other Details

Antefix in the Shape of a Mask of Silenos is housed in the Harvard Art Museums in Room 3400. It is part of the museum’s collection of the North Arcade. The piece has been housed at the Fogg Art Museum since 1972.

To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit Artwork in Focus.

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