Head of a Young Silen or Satyr with Crown of Wheat, 300 BCE-300 CE
Hellenistic or Roman
Egypt, Al Ashmunayn
2 1/8 × 1 × 1 ¼ in. (5.4 × 2.5 × 3.2 cm)
3-D Object/Sculpture
1972-62.19 DJ

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Representing the head of a young, unbearded silen or satyr, this figure has horse ears rather than typical human ears. Originating in Greek mythology, Silenos, who raised Dionysos, was a minor deity associated with drunkenness and winemaking and often represented with animal ears and tail. Silenos is also the ancestor of silenoi and satyrs, male figures that have human bodies with horse ears and are often depicted with a short nose. In more complete examples, they also have horse tails (such as on a black-figure vase in the Menil Collection, 1965-27 DJ). Most often they are depicted as older, sometimes balding, males with beards. This younger figure, with short hair and no beard, may also have small goat-like horns. He wears a large hat or garland of what may be wheat, which could relate to either a festive context or the agricultural association of such figures.  

This head is one of eighteen terracotta objects in the Menil Collection that was once part of the collection of Dr. Daniel Marie Fouquet (1850–1914) and appeared in the posthumous catalogue of his terracottas, published in 1921 by Paul Perdrizet. Like some other objects from the Fouquet Collection, when this piece was acquired, it had a number written on it in black ink: “2180.” The ink on this particular object, however, is entirely faded, but others in the Menil’s collection are still visible. The origin of these numbers and their meaning are not fully understood, but some appear in archival records representing Dr. Fouquet’s inventory system.