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Appliqué of a Silen
Period: Circa early fourth century BC
Culture: Greek
Material: Bronze
Dimensions: 6.4
image 1
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This lively appliqué whimsically portrays a mask of a Silen. It would have originally adorned a vessel, adhered along the upper portion of the outer wall and serving as an ornament with which to secure the join of the looping handles to the vessel body. The vessel was most likely a situla, which was a bucket or pail with twin high-arching bail handles. There were originally two open hoops above the Silen’s horns, through which the handle terminals would hook. This mask of a Silen has been splendidly represented with a combination of finely hammered repoussé and intricately detailed cold-working. He bears the goat horns of Pan, as well as the equine ears of a satyr, both emerging from his unruly locks. Like an old satyr, his face reveals the reveler with a pug nose, full radiating multilayered beard, and thick downturned moustache. His exaggerated brows arch along the curvature of his wide open lidded eyes.

It was common for situlae to be embellished with Dionysiac creatures. Such revelers were long associated with wine and imbibing and would have been celebrated participants in the merriment. Therefore, they were expected and appropriate décor for all implements and utensils associated with wine festivities. Often, such appliqués would take the form of a young or old satyr, a Silen, or Pan. In fact, into the Hellenistic period, there was a conflation of Pan and satyrs, with their bestial attributes intermingling and amalgamating, as here, with goat horns and equine ears. Usually, the opposing handle plate would have been an open spout for dispensing the liquid therein. The expressive features of this Silen mask accentuate the fancifulness his visage would have brought to the simple geometric situla that it once adorned.


S. K. Collection, Germany, 1986. 
Private Collection, Germany, 2015.