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Panel with the Triumph of Dionysos

Object Name:
Panel
Date:
4th–6th century
Geography:
Egypt, Akhmim (former Panopolis)
Culture:
Coptic
Medium:
Wool, linen; tapestry weave
Dimensions:
8.62 in. high 13.37 in. wide (22 cm high 34 cm wide)
Classification:
Textiles
Credit Line:
Gift of George F. Baker, 1890
Accession Number:
90.5.873
  • Description

    In this panel, which may have adorned a tunic, the god Dionysos celebrates his conquest of India. At the center, Dionysos rides a biga (chariot) drawn by panthers. He wears an animal-skin chiton (tunic), a chlamys (cloak), and a mural crown, which was given to the first soldier to enter a besieged city or fortress. In his right hand is a bunch of grapes. Flanking the god are maenads, women who formed part of his retinue and who were said to be fierce warriors in his Indian war. Each woman wears a beautifully rendered chiton (tunic), unfastened at the shoulder to reveal one breast. To the far left, a horned and bearded satyr dances; satyrs are also identified as followers of Dionysos and as his soldiers. The maenad on the right, holding a knife, grabs the head of a captive dressed in trousers. Delicate grapevines, closely identified with the god and his attempts to introduce viticulture to the East, fill the background. Dionysos’s campaign in India was a well-known theme in the Mediterranean world from the Hellenistic era through the early Byzantine period. The epic poem, the Dionysiaka, composed by the fifth-century poet Nonnos of Panopolis, details the god’s exploits in India.

  • Provenance

    Emil Brugsch-Bey, Cairo (until 1890; sold to Baker); George F. Baker, New York (1890; gifted to MMA)

  • See also
    What
    Where
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
444351

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