Feb 10, 2011

Aesthetic Thursdays: Dionysos Holds a Theater Mask

Terra-Cotta Mixing Bowl, Dionysos and Young Pan, 410-390 B.C., Metropolitan Museum of Art
The mixing bowl depicted above was probably made in Greek occupied southern Italy in the 5th century B.C. The bowl was used to mix wine for the celebration of the feast of Dionysos, the god of the theater. Dionysos stands opposite a young Pan who pours water into a mixing bowl. 


Dionsysos holds a mask. Masks were used by actors on stage to personate the roles they played. In this piece Dionysos appears to hold a mask of himself. The mask he holds is identical to the artistic representation of his face. Dionysos wears the person of the character he personates. His mask is his person. To personate means to wear the person of someone. Person derives from the Greek word for "mask." To personate is to wear a mask. Personation is the act of personating. In an obsolete usage, a personation is also the mask itself. So we could say that Dionysos holds his own personation. 


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