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South Etruscan (1st half of the 4th century B.C.)

Male bearded head with ivory wreath in the hair and animal ears, coming from a shell antefix. In the top right section as well as around the head residues of the shell with ornaments can be seen. The polychromatism is partly well conserved. Along with traces of prime coat, residues of white are found in the eyes, remains of red in the face, on the lips and in the beard (?) as well as at the shell transition and black in the beard.

Ivory wreath, animal ears as well as the beard basically refer to the head as Silenos. However, the face does not reflect wild, animalistic boredom, but the wrinkles of the face reflect mature wisdom from old age, because influenced by portraits of philosophers the head is given an expression of serenity, wisdom and calmness. Thus, it is not a wild liegeman but Silenos is meant as serene tutor of Dionysus. This change in the presentation of the Silenos which is known from several places starts in the late 5th century B.C. Head and polychromy remind of the Boiotic bust protomes of the bearded Dionysus from the late 5th and early 4th century B.C. This shell antefix basically corresponds to the type antefix C7 from the Cannicella sanctum and/or the antefix VSL6 from the Via San Leonardo in Orvieto. All are similar to the type B34 from the Belvedere Temple.

Furthermore, the type is known from the find spots Tarquinia, Perugia as well as from the Villa Selvasecca, near Blera, east of Tarquinia. The exemplar of the private Villa Selvasecca is, according to Söderlin, smaller in the dimension than the pieces Tarquinia and Orvieto, which probably come from public buildings. However, Selvasecca seems to be in a close connection with Tarquinia. It is obvious to consider this type, just like the comparisons mentioned before, as product of one single manufacture to be localised in the area between river Tiber in the east and the Tyrrhenian Sea in the west. Type C7 from Orvieto was found in combination with antefix C8. The shell from C8 is identical with C7. A maenad’s head appears on C8 instead of Silenos, These Silenos shell antefices, each followed by a maenad shell antefix, decorated the roof around the building.

Silen and Silenos heads are generally attributed apotropaean functions. De Grummond also considers the voice of prophecy to rest in the Silenos heads.


23 cm


Private collection The Netherlands

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