Essay on Hellenistic Period: Description of Free-standing Dionysus with a Panther

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Free-standing Dionysos With a Panther

When I arrived at the gallery I had the first statue I saw in mind for my essay. Then I came across a piece that seemed to steal my attention. I was absolutely captivated. I had noticed the Statue of Dionysos standing next to a small panther. This piece is believed to be from the Hellenistic period of art. In Khan academy, it says “The word Hellenistic comes from the Greek word meaning 'imitating the Greeks.' Hellenism introduced and spread the Greek language, art, culture, political ideas, and philosophy across the Mediterranean and the Middle East” (Hellenism’s Influence). The statue is made out of marble and Dionysos is in a very relaxed pose. Even whilst standing next to one of the most dangerous predators in the world, Dionysos seems to have what I identified as a smirk on his face. Along with most sculptures made by the Greeks, this one seems to carry the same influence. “The death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. traditionally marks the beginning of the Hellenistic period” (Art of the Hellenistic). The date of Alexander the Great’s death is usually what we consider to be the beginning because there is no other exact date that is I guess what could be called a defining point.

While looking around the sculpture I noticed some little things. His left eye seems to be slightly smaller than his right which is weird to me because Greek art focused a lot on the symmetry of the body. Apart from this, the body was very symmetrical when it came to the rest of the body.

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They assured symmetry even down to the genitalia. “Greek sculpture from the Hellenistic era was more exciting, and typically featured more movement and stronger emotion...But although more active than classical forms, Hellenistic works retained several classical features such as all-round viewability of statues, meticulous drapery, and suppleness of posture” (Hellenistic Art). It follows the art of its time with the drapery. Greeks liked to focus on and seemed fascinated by the physics of cloth and how they draped it over the skin. They liked to emphasize How silk flowed and still emphasize the physique beneath the drapery. I also found it odd that his body wasn’t overly masculine. He had average-sized biceps and normal pectorals. When most statues that were made by Greek sculptors had very prominent biceps, abs, and pectorals. The men were made to seem young and be very strong. Dionysos has a wreath-type crown on his head that partially covers his long wavy hair that reaches down to his upper back. As expected his chest and pelvis were exposed. Better put his genitalia were exposed to the viewer. This statue of Dionysos is one of the more exciting sculptures I’ve seen of Dionysos. Most of the sculptures from this time that I've seen include Dionysos him standing alone or sitting on something not usually anything that stands out.

In reference to Dionysos and the sculpture, I took a couple of notes. I said “Dionysos is leaning on a support beam that is covered in grape clusters. The jaguar could possibly represent the exoticness of Dionysos. He could have possibly held a jug for wine in his right hand but this can only be an assumption because both of his hands are missing. He has a grapevine wreath in his hair. He is nude except for the drapery on his legs and left shoulder. There is some corrosion and what seems to be the front right corner of the jaguar's jaw is missing. The jaguar also had no claws.

I also took note of the jaguar in comparison to Dionysos he is quite small. The jaguar is obviously not meant to be life-sized. I wondered to myself why the jaguar would be looking up and then it hit me. The jaguar looking up to Dionysos emphasized the man’s power. For such a powerful apex predator to be calm at the side of a man and even look up at him is quite a feat.

Dionysos was an interesting God. The myth summary of chapter 13 states, “Dionysus is a god of vegetation in general and in particular of the vine, the grape, and the making and drinking of wine, with the exhilaration and release it can bring. He is the coursing of the blood through the veins and the throbbing intoxication of nature and of sex. He represents the emotional and the irrational in human beings, which drives them relentlessly to mob fury, fanaticism, and violence, but also to the highest ecstasy of mysticism and religious experience. Within Dionysus lies both the bestial and the sublime” (Morford, Lenardon, Sham). After reading this I understood the statue a lot better I thought his duties had no deeper meaning than just that of a God of crops. His role plays deeply into the lives of those he presides over. He is our animal side. He is what could be used to explain back then the behavior of those who had no impulse control. People that just acted instantly on a thought instead of taking the time to consider consequences. Dionysos is our recklessness, our obsessions, our violent nature, and pure bliss. He is the depiction of so many things in Greek culture. I found the Greek's view of their Gods interesting. They had a God for every possible thing. Grape crops were failing – must be because of Dionysos.

This piece seems to be one of the more classical ones. Because at the time Hellenistic era art was more active in its depictions. Usually depicting the subject moving in a certain way flexing muscles or making some sort of strike on a lesser character. This statue has the classical features common in the pre-Hellenistic sculptures in its having all-round viewability, suppleness of posture, and meticulous drapery. A book by Linda R. Bascara and Adela T. Avillanoza says “Hellenic sculpture existed during the 5th century B.C. and have important aspects such as it reflected classical Platonic philosophy in its quest for ideal form and it gained the important insight of the body as revolving around its axis. Greek artists attempted to embark on a quest for ideal ratio and proportion” (Bascara, Avillanoza. Sculpture 28). This is just basic background on the sculptures of the time and where their influences really came from. This sculpture happened to use these influences somewhat as its references. Dionysos does look very young almost boyish like most Greek sculptures of the time.

Works Cited Page

  1. Bascara, Linda R, and Adela T Avillanoza. “Humanities and the Digital Arts with Emphasis on Arts in the Philippine Setting.” Google Books, Rex Bookstore,
  2. “Hellenism's Influence.” Khan Academy, Khan Academy,
  3. Morford, Mark P.O., et al. “Myth Summary.” Classical Mythology,
  4. “Free-Standing Dionysos with a Panther.” Free-Standing Dionysos with a Panther. | Yale University Art Gallery,
  5. “Hellenistic Art (C.323-30 BCE).” Hellenistic Art: Hellenism in Classical Antiquity,
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