Some scenes from the birth and education of Dionysus:
The birth of Dionysus, son of Zeus and Semele. The young mother, wearing a diadem, rests on a royal bed, with draperies at her back. The basin will be used for bathing the new-born infant. The chiaroscuro effect gives the scene the appearence of a high relief. The figures have a very sculptural quality.
Hermes is depicted entrusting the new-born Dionysus to the nymphs of Mount Nysa; Silenus was later to be responsible for his education. The temple column, on the left, aludes to the divine character of the child, while the bare tree on the right represents the wild nature of the myth of the god of wine. The nymphs who brought Dionysus up were subsequently transformed into stars: the Hyades.
Scene representing the childhood of Dionysus. The young god is depicted riding a goat, together with another child, framed by a woman playing a drum and a shepherd.
Dionysus is seated between two dancing Bacchantes. The border is composed of bucrania surrounded by racemes on a pale yellow ground. The series is interrupted, in the centre of each side, by medallions featuring swans and, at the corners, by four different theatrical masks.
The scene represents the Triumph of Dionysus, with the god seated on a throne under a tholos. He is surrounded by the four Seasons, more or less easily identifiable, while a serving boy offers him wine. The border is composed of vine tendrils peopled by winged figures alternating with masks. In the corners are pairs of putti holding helmets against a black background. In the centre of each side are pairs of Bacchantes.
I lifted the present images out of a larger selection of etchings from a 1776 folio by one Marco Carloni entitled Le Terme di Tito e loro Interne Pitture, that is, roughly, ‘The Baths of Titus and their Interior Decoration,’ The Baths of Titus ‘occupied the area just northeast of the Colosseum […] to the side of the Domus Aurea,’ and it is specifically the excavated interior of the Domus, the Emperor Nero’s grandiloquent palace, that is depicted in these etchings, which are close copies of the original paintings and decorations.
The Domus Aurea (Golden House), Rome (A.D. 64-68 and possibly later), was built or begun by Nero after the great fire in A.D. 64. It was less a palace than a series of pavilions and a long wing comprising living and reception rooms, all set in a vast landscaped park with an artificial lake in its centre where the Colosseum now stands. Most of it has largely disappeared - Sir Banister Fletcher, A History of Architecture.
The captions for each of the above pictures is taken, by way of the Galleria Trincia website, from the Franco Maria Ricci volume Roma Domus Aurea. Some other of Marco Carloni’s etchings are available to buy in poster form. For my own future reference, there is more about Dionysus here and here.Posted by misteraitch at October 31, 2003 01:11 PM | TrackBack