Down to the real nitty gritty

In the ancient Mediterranean, people preferred to drink wine diluted with water and used various vessels to mix the two. One type of such vessels, the dinos, typically has a large, rounded body and a wide mouth; it was placed on a stand so that wine could be poured for the guests at symposia.

The black-figure dinos in the picture was made around 525 BC and was found in Etruria (possibly in Caere, one of the most important Etruscan cities). The vase shows traits of both East Greek and Etruscan art: it was probably made by a Greek craftsman who immigrated from Ionia to Etruria.

Black-figure dinos, 525 BC
© 2013 Musée du Louvre / Philippe Fuzeau

The vessel was most likely recovered from a tomb because it is perfectly intact, with even the tiniest details clearly visible. The motifs on the body are arranged in bands: a row of tongues at the top of the belly and a row of rays at the bottom, surmounted by alternating lotus buds and flowers. A row of ivy leaves – a characteristic motif of Dionysus – surrounds the rim. In keeping with the function of the dinos, the central band depicts the followers of Dionysus going round and round: the merry party is made up of eight maenads and nine satyrs. The former stride in fine clothes and with delicate gestures among the wildly dancing satyrs. The naked male figures, depicted with animal features (long ears and tails), are each shown doing a different step of the dance. Only one of them is standing still – could he be the chorus leader? “Twist, turn, dance…”

Featured image: dancing satyrs – detail of a black-figure dinos created by the Louvre E 736 Painter; ca. 530 BC (© 2013 Musée du Louvre / Philippe Fuzeau). The maenads and satyrs are here dancing to the music of Shirley Ellis, the video was inspired by an episode of the Judy Garland Show (1964), especially by the impeccable rhythm of Bobby Banas.

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