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A decorative terminal bust of the infant Dionysos

Parian marble

Height: 14cm, maximum
Height (excluding neck and bust): 9cm
Width: 9cm, maximum

Museum number: M1176

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 407help-vermeule-catalogue-number

On display: Museum South Passage
All spaces are in No. 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields unless identified as in No. 12, Soane's first house. For tours https://www.soane.org/your-visit

Curatorial note

This is an infant bust with eyes hollowed, mouth partially open, crowned with a filleted wreath of vine leaves and grapes. The two ends of the fillets hang down on the shoulders either side of the neck.

A number of similar, small household-size, herms of the vine-wreathed young Dionysos are exhibited in the mosaic galleries of the Museo Nazionale, Naples, and come from Pompeii and Herculaneum.1 The Naples Museum also possesses at least eight similar small herms in bronze, likewise from the buried cities.2

From some of these and other analogies it is not impossible that this bust represents half of a double terminal bust of the infant and the elder Dionysos, the other half having been removed through mutilation or for separate sale.3 Compare the double-Herms or terminal busts cited in the various books on Pompeii and listed under Soane M414 (Vermeule 406). A number of similar herms (single and double) or terminal figures have been incorporated into the decoration of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Fenway Court, Boston, USA.4

1 See especially Museo Nazionale no. 6445 and Arnold Ruesch, Guida, nos. 537-539. For a late Hellenistic terracotta head of the child Dionysos showing similar features and the characteristic expression of partly opened mouth, see Burlington Fine Arts Club, Exhibition of Ancient Greek Art, London 1904, exhibition catalogue, no. E42, pl. LXXX.
2 V. Spinazzola, Le Arti Decorative in Pompei e nel Museo Nazionale di Napoli, Milan, 1928, pl. 252; Ruesch, Guida, no. 1594.
3 Compare P. Arndt, Photographische Einzelaufnahmen antiker Sculpturen, Munich, 1893-1912, no. 4497 and discussion.
4 Cornelius Vermeule, Walter Carn and Rollin van N. Hadley, Sculpture in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, 1977, nos. 27, 28, 34 (varied subjects, including a Macedonian Hellenistic ruler). In the Vatican Museum, in the Braccio Nuovo, several dionysic sculptures are assembled to form a dionysic composition/programme.

Provenance help-art-provenance

From the collection of the neoclassical sculptor John Flaxman (1755-1826) and acquired by Soane after Flaxman's death from the sculptor's sister-in-law Maria Denman.


John Flaxman 1755-1826: Master of the Purest Line, exhibition catalogue, Sir John Soane's Museum, 2003, pp. [check]

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