Magna Graecia, Apulian, ca. 370 to 360 BCE. A sizeable and attractive red-figure skyphos (wine cup), depicting (on Side A) a winged nude Eros in profile, riding a horse adorned by a petite dolphin brand on its buttocks, and (on Side B) a nude male satyr with characteristically pointy asinine ears, standing with legs crossed at the knees, his torso skewed toward the right, and his profiled head turned toward the left, carrying a cloak over his right arm while leaning against his pedum (shepherd's crook), and extending his left arm outward. Standing beside him is a female maenad nymph, dressed in flowing chiton and carrying a thyrsus (pine cone tipped staff) in one hand - all suggesting a Dionysian context. Beneath each handle is an intricately delineated ensemble of stylized palmettes; above the scenes is a narrow register ovalo, and below a somewhat wider meander band with three checkerboard and one "x" panel interspersed. Size: 16.25" W handlespan x 11" H (41.3 cm x 27.9 cm)
The dolphin brand on Eros' horse is quite interesting. Did you know that in ancient Greece, dolphins were beloved for their intelligence and giving nature. Dolphins were so highly revered that killing one was considered a crime punishable by death. Some argue that the dolphin is Greece's national animal. Indeed the dolphin's importance to ancient Greece has a deep history. Dolphins appear repeatedly in the murals adorning Minoan palaces, and Greek mythology includes many references to the dolphin. Eros is oftentimes depicted riding across the sea on the back of a dolphin - an image associated with Dionysian religion. On this skyphos, the artist presents a twist on this theme with Eros riding a horse that is cleverly branded with a dolphin.
One myth that associates dolphins with an altruistic nature and keen intelligence involves Dionysus, the god of wine and pleasure, transforming himself into a young mortal when sailing to the island of Naxos, so that he would not attract a great deal of attention to himself. However, on his journey, Dionysos overheard the crew discussing a scheme to sell him as a slave. Upset by this, Dionysos turned the oars into fearsome serpents, and the frightened sailors elected to jump overboard. Soon Poseidon felt sorry for the sailors and transformed them into dolphins. The god of the sea welcomed them to his kingdom and declared their mission to help all seamen in peril.
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-Artemis Gallery; ex-private New Jersey, USA collection; ex-Frau Ruth Sorge collection, Germany, acquired in the 1980s
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Professionally repaired from numerous pieces with touch up and restoration over the break lines.