The Graeco-Roman god of wine appears frontally in full length. The figure has a subtle sense of movement, with the weight shifted to the left leg and the proper right leg bent at the knee, as though about to take a step. The left arm is bent at the waist, probably to hold an inserted attribute now lost. The short-sleeved tunic is gathered with a belt high above the waist, with v-shaped folds at the neckline. A mantle is draped over his left shoulder and around his left arm, waist and lower body. Most interesting in terms of iconography are the prominently sculpted breasts. The hair of the figure is parted in the center with long corkscrew tendrils falling over each shoulder at front and fanning across his back. The face is accentuated with a full beard, arched eyebrows, straight nose and full lips. This sculpture is a compelling and rare example of a hermaphroditic Dionysos from the Graeco- Roman period. The iconography is not without precedent, but this example seems to combine elements from different periods. Roman period representations of Dionysos tend to emphasize youthfulness with undertones of androgyny, but nothing quite as explicit as those from the preceding Hellenistic period. Classical Greek statuary depicts a less idealized image of the god from that of Roman Imperial times. The mythology surrounding this figure is rich with cultic associations from the Eastern world. Comparable statuary of a male Aphrodite (Aphroditos) has been found on the island of Cyprus and in the sanctuary at Perachora in Greece, dating back to the seventh century BC. This cult later evolved into the Greek deity known as Hermaphroditos – Son of Aphrodite and Hermes – and came to represent the ancient Greek’s embodiment of sexual duality in human form. In the fifth and fourth centuries BC, Hermaphroditos is associated with Dionysus and together these deities represent the patron gods of fertility and sexual duality.
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References: For a comparable representation, see the Hellenistic seated statue of a bearded and heavily draped Dionysos in St. Petersburg, Hermitage Museum (18.832): Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC) Vol. 3 (Zürich and Munich 1986) under “Dinoysos”, no. 136, illus. (C. Gasparri).