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Spoon Handle


Manche de cuillère © J.-F. Peiré
Manche de cuillère © J.-F. Peiré
This very rare ivory object is a utensil handle for which the functional part disappeared.

It has a rich and complex decoration that is difficult to perceive with the naked eye.
At the point, a centaur plays the lyre seated on a rock at the base of a tripod. Each foot of the seat forms a fluted pilaster crowned by an engraved capital and completed with a base of four claws.
On the first capital, a man carries an overturned torch and a vase. On the second, another man lifts a goatskin sack of wine, and on the third, there is a woman dancing and raising a tambourine while carrying a stick on her back called a thyrsus. She is a maenad, a woman in trance belonging to the group of Bacchus’s followers.
A border of three masks separates the tripod from the lower part of the object. They are satyrs. Two of these masks represent a long-haired, barbed face with pronounced features turned toward the left. The third, which faces the other, is young and beardless. A vase for drinking wine called the kantharos and a thyrsus separate the masks.

Manche de cuillère © J.-F. Peiré
Manche de cuillère © J.-F. Peiré
The centaur is none other than Chiron who was entrusted with the education of Apollo’s son Asclepios, the god of medicine, among others. The kantharos, thyrsus, maenad, and satyrs conjure up images of the followers of Bacchus, Dionysus for the Greeks. The masks are allusions to theater, of which he is part of the founding, while the goatskin sack and the overturned sack represent his cult.

The tripod symbolizes the seat of Pythia, the prophetess that spoke for Apollo at Delphi where in the winter Dionysus’s followers replaced those of Apollo. Delphi is the place of the alliance of the two divinities with opposite characteristics. Dating back to the end of the first or beginning of the second century, this decoration referred more to Bacchus’s cult who experience a renewal during this period rather than that of Apollo.

Discovered in a house on a major road leading to the sanctuary of the area’s current cathedral, this handle could have corresponded to a cult object similar to incense spoons. Was it perhaps linked to the altar with the bacchanalian decoration presented?
Spoon Handel discovered in 1988-1989 in Toulouse (at the corner of the roads Saint-Anne and Saint-Jacques).

Elephant ivory.

End of the first or second century common era.
Inv. D.98.2.1.of
Lu 502 fois

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