AN EARLY IMPERIAL ROMAN BRONZE SPOUTED JUG
The massive bulbous body with a rolled spout, the underside of the vessel decorated with a series of concentric circles in deep relief. A band of abstract floral motif encircles the neck. Cast separately, the base of the handle features a rare image of Attis as an infant, nude save a Phrygian cap, in the company of the he-goat that reared him. Above, a shepherd’s goad and a sacrificial knife are crossed, and still further up the handle, a bowl of fruit and then a floral motif. Throughout the decorative program, details are picked out in silver.
Attis was the consort of the Phrygian (Asia Minor) mother goddess Cybele, later worshipped throughout the Roman Empire. He was exposed at birth, but rescued by a he-goat. His beauty was legendary. Driven mad by his father Agdistis, Attis mutilated himself and died. Zeus made him divine, and ensured that Attis’ body would never decay.
By the Roman era, Cybele had been conflated with the Greek Titan Rhea, the Mater Theon (Mother of the Gods), and the Olympian Demeter, who all presided over various aspects of the spring, fertility and agricultural. As such, worship of Attis and Cybele was intimately intertwined with the cult of Dionysos, also a harvest and fertility deity who, like Cybele and Attis, came to the Greek world from the east: it is entirely appropriate for Attis to appear on a wine vessel.
Julio-Claudian, 1ST Century AD
21 x 13.7 cm (8 1⁄4 x 5 3/8 inches)
Ex: Private American collection, Mr. M.M., 1960s; thence, another American collection, Mr. W.F., 1960s.
Antiquarium, Ltd.; Ancient Treasures XVII (London, 2018) p.38-39
Ferrari, Oreste ; Le Collezioni del Museo Nazionale di Napoli (Rome, 1986) pp.174-75, no. 7 (for the vessel)
The British Museum reg. no. 1772, 0302.122
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston acc. no. 97.301 (for Attis as a winged boy)