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12-NOV-2009 DHouck

Greek Dancing Maenad

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

Relief with a Dancing Maenad
Marble, Roman, Augustan period, ca. 27 B.C.-A.D. 14.
Copy of a Greek relief of ca. 425-400 B.C. attributed to Kallimachos

This relief shows a maenad, a female follower of Dionysos, god of wine.
The maenad is someone who is especially susceptible to the divine frenzy
Dionysos inspires through wine. In the relief, she is dancing to some
hypnotic music we can only imagine. As she dances, the fabric of her dress
moves with her; look at the rippling movement of the hem above her feet.
The dress is fanciful, but highly expressive. In some places it clings
tightly to her body; in others, it flutters in artful patterns.

While this maenad dances, she bows her heavy-looking head and seems not to
see out of her eyes; there is something very serious about her experience
of Dionysos. In Euripidesí tragedy Bacchae, women possessed by Dionysos
dance with vigor. They also tear animals apart and dismember Pentheus,
the king of Thebes who refused to welcome the god into his city.
Euripides describes them in this lyric:

When the ebony flute, melodious
and sacred, plays the holy song
and thunderously incites the rush of women
to mountain, to mountain,
then, in delight, like a colt with its mother
at pasture, she frolics, a light-footed Bacchant.

from: The Met

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