"What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy"?
Ode on a Grecian Urn - John Keats
A very rare and ultra smart, mid 19th century, Paris decorated, French antique lamp in neo classical Greek revival style. The urn shaped lamp finely decorated in terracotta enamel with figure subjects taken from classical Greek mythology. The decorative subjects painted in Athenian red figure style. The lamp in the Lekythos (λήκυθος) vase shape of circa 500 B.C. These early Greek vase shapes were fired with a black ground with the figures reserved to show the underlying terracotta of the body.
The figure subjects are Dionysus, the Greek god of fertility, wine, and ecstasy. The Dionysian cult was popular throughout much of the ancient world. Within the complexity of Greek mythology, Dionysus is seen as the son of Zeus and Semele, a mortal.
His symbols include ivy, vine, snakes and grapes. Dionysus is shown seated and presenting the Kantharos or ritual drinking cup, to a maenad. In Greek mythology, maenads were the female followers of Dionysus and the most significant members of the god's retinue. Their name literally translates as "raving ones". Often the maenads were portrayed as inspired by Dionysus into a state of ecstatic frenzy, through a combination of music, dancing and intoxication.
Dionysus is a a complex deity, who played two very different roles in Greek mythology. As the god of fertility, he was closely linked with crops, the harvest, and the changing of the seasons. As the god of wine and ecstasy, he was associated with drunkenness, madness and unrestrained sexuality. His nature included a productive, life-giving side and a destructive side.
He is shown holding his attribute, the thyrsus, a wand or staff of giant fennel, a symbol of fertility, covered with ivy vines and always topped with a pine cone. The seated figure of Dionysus bears the title in Greek letters “Κ Α Λ Ο Σ” which translates as chaos! In fact, Dionysus in Greek mythology represents chaos in general.
The second figure shows Hermes, the messenger of the gods. He is quick and cunning, and moves freely between the worlds of the mortal and divine, as emissary and messenger of the gods, he is the intercessor between mortals and the divine and conductor of souls into the afterlife. He is protector and patron of travelers, herdsmen, thieves, orators, wits, literature and poets.
In some myths he is a trickster and outwits other gods for his own satisfaction, or the sake of humankind. He is portrayed as a full-grown and bearded man, clothed in a long loose tunic and wearing his attributes, winged sandals, winged cap, and his main symbol, the kerykeion or the herald's staff.
The third figure subject shows a maenad, a female follower of Dionysus. She is shown wearing the classic Greek full length tunic or Chilton. The Chilton is portrayed as diaphanous to illustrate her as a "raving one", portrayed as in a state of ecstatic frenzy, bought about through a combination of music, wild dancing and wine. She holds the thyrsus, a staff of giant fennel, topped with a pine cone, symbols of fertility. The fourth figure subject shows a priestess of the cult of Dionysus.
The source of the figure subjects on this rare lamp are derived from an early 19th century engraving entitled “Bacchus Presenting the Kantharos in Game with a Maenad”. The engraving by the well known and established Austrian engraver, Benedict Piringer (1780–1826). The engraving taken from a Greek vase in the Paris collection of the 19th century Ms Le Comte de Lamberg. Please see the original Piringer engraving shown as a detail.
The lamp seated in a matte, gold plated, bronze base, the gold base detailed with an enamelled, satin black line finish. The lamp cap, matte gold plated. The border of the base and top rim of the lamp with a wide band of Greek key decoration. The lamp shown with a pleated, black silk shade suggestion.
Greek Revival -: The Greek revival movement began in the mid 18th century, lasting, almost until the close of the 19th century, 1750 – 1890. There were several revisits of this ultra smart design and are generally known today as periods of “Greek Revival”. The French and English glass and ceramics of these revival periods, was often closely modelled on specific Greek vase and urn forms.
NB - Due to the highly reflective surface of this lamp, photography flashlight can be seen.
Napoléon III - Circa 1860
Overall height (including shade) 26"/66 cm approx
Lamps shipped to the US and UK are wired to US and UK specifications