Aryballos in the form of a Satyr's Bust

Greek, Rhodian, ca. 580 B.C. Ceramic 2010.10.1 Carlos Collection of Ancient Art. Gift of Ms. Thalia Carlos.

Among the most delightful creations of archaic Greek art are perfume vessels modeled in the round in a variety of forms. These so-called plastic aryballoi were made primarily in terracotta and faience, although a few examples in bronze and precious metals also survive.

Many who saw the beautiful exhibition The Fragrant Past at the Carlos will recall that men and women alike enjoyed the use of perfumes and unguents. For men, the contexts for use were extremely varied, including the gymnasium after exercise, and the symposium. Lyric potery of the archaic period makes it clear that the pleasure of using perfume was not simply its fragrance, but the gleaming freshness it imparted to the skin and hair.

This aryballos is modeled in the form of a satyr's bust. The equine ears, exaggerated beard, stippled skin (implying something shaggy), and snub nose are all characteristic of the non-human side of this creature. Satyrs, companions of the wine-god Dionysos, were interested primarily in wine, women and song. They offer a counter-model to humanity rather than a caricature of bad male behavior. The association with Dionysos could suggest that this aryballos may have been created for use at a symposium.

The aryballos, unique in form, joins one already in the Museum's collection that takes the form of a monkey. Both were make around 580 BC on the island of Rhodes, one of the most sophisticated and artistically advanced centers in Greece at this time.