Dioniso e il Vesuvio
There is a fresco at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples originally in the casa del Centenario of Pompeii, where the god Dionysus is depicted dressed in a bunch of grapes in front of a mountain relief covered with vineyards, the Vesuvius.
Red figure crater
Napoli Museo Archeologico Nazionale
Painter of Promonos 400 BC roughly - From Ruvo di Puglia
Against a rich background, within the frame of a vine shoot with bunches of grapes sits the wedding couple of Dionysus and Ariadne among musicians, actors and choirs of a satirical drama. Next to Ariadne sits the muse Paida, who holds in her hand a female theatrical mask; to her the little Himeros. The scene seems to represent a moment of rest from the drama, the actors joke and chat among themselves.
Kylig with red figures
Munich, Staatliche Antikensammlungen
530 B.C. roughly - from Vulci (VT)
Exterior of the cup or kylix, decorated with two big and penetrating big eyes, part of the production of the most famous of the Athens ceramographers of the time, one of the few who uses to affix his signature, Exekias, active between 550 and 530 BC, as in the case of this specimen. The inner bottom is decorated with the image of Dionysus lying on a ship, whose mast is covered with vines and surrounded by dolphins. Many scholars recognize the representation of the myth according to which the god transformed into dolphins the Tyrrhenian pirates who had kidnapped him.
Death in Venice
Luchino Visconti 1972
Film from the novel "Der Tod in Venedig" by Thomas Mann
The story of Gustav von Aschenbach, protagonist of Thomas Mann's Death in Venice (1912), takes place under the sign of the same contamination that the arrival of Dionysus in Thebes unleashes in the Bacchae. A.'s journey becomes a disturbing and revealing experience: the protagonist's attention is captured by the young Tadzio. The writer gradually falls prey to the silent and subjugating charm of the young man.
Aschenbach represents the artist of severe control, self-discipline, the cult of form: the Apollonian artist in short. Dionysian encounters see him in a position of submission and passivity, until his death on the beach. Just as Pentheus, who had to pay with his life for his obstinate refusal of the god, so the late encounter with Dionysus upset Aschenbach, to whom only one possibility remains: to die alone, while he contemplates Tadzio walking in the sea, on the same beach where he first met his gaze.
And it is precisely the element of the gaze that becomes central in Luchino Visconti's 1971 adaptation of the same name. Visconti thus makes great use of the zoom, thanks to which he manages to visually render the continuous play of glances between a restless Dirk Bogarde, as Aschenbach, and a very young and ephebic Bjorn Andrésen in those of Tadzio.
Italiot crater with red figures
Roma, Vatican City - Museo Gregoriano Etrusco
last quarter of the 4th century B.C. From Paestum
The crater, a vase used to mix wine with water, according to the custom of the ancient Greeks, was painted by Asteas, a ceramographer from Paestum, of which several signed vases are preserved. The scene depicts characters taken from the theatrical world of the Fliaci, a popular comic genre widespread in the Samnite-Campanian world. The episode could be that of the myth of Zeus who uses a ladder to reach the room of Alcmena, wife of Anfitrione, on the night he returns from the war. From the union of the god with the woman will be born Hercules.
Pentheus torn by the Maenads
Pompeii, Casa dei Vettii
The fresco forms the central picture of one of the yellow background walls in the room to the left of the peristyle of the house anscribed to the brothers Aulus Vettius Restitutus and Aulus Vettius Conviva, free and rich merchants. The attribution was possible thanks to two bronze seals.
All the walls of the room are decorated with scenes from epic and mythological stories related to the Greek city of Thebes, including this one with Pentheus, king of the city, torn to shreds by the followers of Dionysus during a rite on Mount Kyteron, as he refused to welcome the cult of the god in his city.
Bacchus and Vesuvius
Pompeii, Casa del Centenario - 69-79 AD
Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples
The fresco originally decorated the lararium of the secondary atrium of the house, i.e. the small aedicule intended for the worship of the lari or protectors of the house and the master and his family. The function of agathodaimon or demon protector is usually assumed in the larariums by the snake, here depicted in the foreground as it advances towards an altar. In the background at the side of a mountain, where one generally wants to recognize Vesuvius, is represented Dionysus, covered with bunches of grapes, with in his left hand the thyrsus, the stick that characterizes his followers maenads, and while with his right hand he pours wine from a cup or kantharos, who ventures to drink a panther, an animal sacred to him.
The whole scene, enriched with a garland of fruit and birds, is a hymn to the fertility and richness of nature surrounding Pompeii, kissed by the gods, including that Dionysus whose depiction could be the source of wealth of the host, the dominus, perhaps a wine producer and entrepreneur.
Pier Paolo Pasolini 1968
Kyterion mount outside Attica
Glances, fascination and unhinging of rational balances are the central elements that intertwine with the themes dear to Pasolini's poetics: the return of the Sacred, the critique of bourgeois ideology and body language. In Theorem the story is marked by the arrival of a mysterious guest within a family of the small bourgeoisie in Milan. Silent, obscure and irresistibly fascinating, the guest has in himself all the characteristics of the figure of Dionysus: he represents, in the eyes of the bourgeois ideology of the family, a radical alterity, both foreign and scandalous.
You seduced me God and I let myself be seduced. You raped me and prevailed. I became an object of ridicule every day. Everyone mocks me. Yes, I felt the slander of many, terror around me. Denounce him and we'll denounce him. All my friends spied on my fall. Maybe he'll let himself be seduced so we'll prevail on him and take his revenge on him.
Zorba the Greek: The Madness
Before starting his strategy, the Greek god confesses his madness and dances to coincide with life. This film is on the path of knowledge towards Dionysus. We're not talking about a remote past, but about the main elements of our culture and culture is to be able to fit today's things into a context that has always included yesterday. On Greek soil, in a Greek village, among Greek stories only Zorba is the Greek, a figure clinging to the same conception of nature and life that produced Dionysus in the minds of men.
The ending of the film is an explicit declaration of Dionysian faith, in which irrationality is the fuel of freedom. Perhaps for this reason Nikos Kazantzakis, one of the most important European writers, today buried in his Crete, in the rock that recalls Venice, wanted to write on his tomb: "I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I am free".
The epithets of Dionysus
Zorba the Greek, a 1964 film directed by Michael Cacoyannis and based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, there is a clear return to Dionysus. Alexis Zorba is a wanderer who meets a young English writer of Greek father's who is about to embark for Crete, where he inherited a mine that is now out of use. As Dionysus is invoked using various epithets, Zorba also introduces himself to the writer, boasting many names:
A film set in Greece in which everyone is Greek, of birth, nationality, but only Zorba, a legacy of a disappeared Olympic culture, is Greek. From this, in my opinion, the title. Zorba the only Greek in a world of Greeks beyond the wall of modernity. To remove all doubt, one need only dwell on the scene of the tavern where the contract of collaboration between the two takes place.
Santuri: music is enough
As Dionysus does not carry clothes in his bag, he is not a traveler like the others, he carries what is necessary to live: a santuri with which to produce his music. He proposes himself as an assistant, cook, miner and to the question "what do you do" he answers: "I have hands and head and these can be suitable for any job", because in the irrationality of a Greek god everything has the same value as its opposite. Mr Basil, that's the name of the Englishman, lets himself be persuaded and the two make a deal.
Billy Elliot as Dionysus:
In the film produced in 2000 and directed by Stephen Daldry, in which many talented teenagers identified themselves, little Billy Elliot tries to explain in simple and powerful words to the examiner at the Royal Ballet School in London what he feels when he dances. It is the return of Dionysus who once again proposes to govern, through the art of dance, the irrational that lives in each of us.