First half of the fifth century BC
Height: 47 cm
Ø hem 18 cm
Ø foot 12 cm
This amphora is in an ovoid shape that slightly tapers towards the bottom. The lip has a trapezoidal profile; the distinct cylindrical neck has a slightly concave profile; the foot is a reversed echinus. The shoulder is fairly pronounced with two rod handles. The amphora is made of light-brown clay; the surface seems abraded with some gaps in the decoration caused by the detachment of the paint. The lower part of the lip is completely covered by a band of black paint. The neck is decorated with two mirror-images of plant elements separated by three-petal lotus flowers. The seven-leaf pendulous palmette leaves are interspersed with floral motifs with three petals. At the top of the shoulder is a thin black line followed by a chain of tongues of the same hue. Both the decorative elements are interrupted at the height of the two handles, which are also covered, on the exterior, by black paint. The foot is painted entirely in black, except for a thin unglazed line. A radial pattern appears on the unglazed background at the base. Above this, there is a thick dark band followed by a register decorated with a wave pattern. On the belly are depicted a maenad and a satyr immortalized during the moment that precedes the beginning of a ritual dance. The maenads were the followers of the god Dionysus and periodically met in places immersed in nature to celebrate the worshiped divinity with ecstatic dancing, music and everything that could lead to the “enthousiasmòs”. This state of consciousness involved the intertwining of the human nature as a prerequisite to penetrate the divine nature; therefore, it cannot be associated with any frenzy, nor to a simple state of intoxication, because it was a real divine possession. The satyrs are male mythical figures, who personify the forceful life of nature. Also linked to forests and mountains, just like the maenads, they took part in the Dionysian cults. These minor divinities, in fact, accompanied the girls devoted to Dionysus with dances and songs, up until mating with them once they reached the mystical fury. The maenad depicted on this vase has a long garment that wraps around her body, and her hair is in a headband. Both arms are pictured upwards with the palms of the hands facing the ground, while the knees are slightly bent. The woman’s face is turned to the left staring at the satyr. The latter is rendered in a more dynamic pose compared to that of the figure that faces him. His left foot rests on the ground while the right is suspended. His torso and head are rotated in the direction of the woman, and his arms are symmetrically leaned toward the latter. The whole representation is surrounded by elements of nature that are suggestive of forest environments where the Dionysian cults were celebrated. The amphora, clearly of Etruscan origins, can be dated to the second half of the fifth century BC, when the worship of the god Dionysus was linked to Vulci. This worship was associated particularly with cultivation of vines, an activity that was of great importance for the economy of the city. Among the various comparisons, it is possible to cite a jar preserved in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, which depicts Dionysus among a maenad and a dancing satyr.