34 1/2 x 85 3/4 x 9 1/2 inches
Gift of Lee and Joe Jamail in honor of Caroline Wiess Law
This white marble panel depicts the triumphant return of the god Dionysus after spreading the miracle of wine culture to India and the East. A masterpiece of high-relief sculpture, it would have formed the front of a sarcophagus, a magnificent place of final rest.
Dionysus, wearing the headdress of grapes and grape leaves, is at the composition's center. His languorous pose and relaxed state of undress suggest sensuality. Around him, graceful female celebrants called maenads dance and play music. Satyrs—male followers with both human and animal characteristics—try to interest the maenads. Riding the donkey at far right is the old satyr, Silenus, and beside him is the forest creature Pan, who looks back at Dionysus. Young cherubs caress the god's feet and guide the panthers pulling his cart. Captives taken in India ride an exotic elephant at the rear of the parade.