VIEW LARGER

Artist: Roman
Title: Double Herm of Silenus and a Satyr (120-150 ACE, Marble, 9 3/8 in., Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., 77.374)

 

 

 

Looking Questions

How would you describe this sculpture to someone who could not see it?

Look at the two faces.  How are they similar?  Different?

As you look at this sculpture, what questions come to mind?

About The Art

A herm is a plain rectangular pillar topped with a head, usually of a god, that marked a crossroads or boundaries.  These markers functioned as shrines for travelers as they made their way along a road.  This particular bust is considered janiform, which means looking both ways.  The word janiform is derived from the Roman deity Janus, god of beginnings and endings, who is often depicted with two heads facing opposite directions.   On one side of this Janus bust is the bearded forest spirit Silenus, the oldest and wisest tutor and friend of Bacchus, the god of the grape harvest, wine and excess whom the Greeks called Dionysus.  On the opposite side of the herm is another follower of Bacchus, a satyr.  The Roman satyr was goat-like from the waist down, with a man's torso and head, complete with horns.  In classical mythology, Silenus was the head of the satyrs, who were rebellious creatures, yet cowardly, dancing and playing pipes as they enjoyed the grape harvest. 

The Midas Touch

According to the Roman poet Ovid in his Metamorphoses XI, he tells the story of how Silenus was lost and wandering in the woods.   Found by peasants, they took Silenus to their King who recognized him and cared for him, listening to tales and songs over the course of several days.  Eventually returning Silenus to Dionysus, the King was rewarded for his kindness.  Dionysus offered the King the opportunity to choose his repayment.  King Midas chose to have the ability to turn anything he touched into gold.  The King soon found that his food would harden, his drink would stiffen and his power was actually a curse.  He prayed to Dionysus to have his power removed, and Dionysus consented.  Afterward, Midas hated wealth and chose to live in the country and worship Pan, god of the satyrs.

Discussion Questions

After learning about the connection between Silenus and the satyrs, do you view the sculpture differently?  How?

Look at the bust and imagine what the rest of the satyr would look like.  Try drawing your version.  What details would you include?