The tale is told by Ovid in his book “Metamorphoses.” A Greek peasant named Ikarios lives with his daughter Erigone (“born with the dawn”) in ancient Attica. One day a mysterious visitor appears. Always a gracious host, Ikarios is unaware that the traveler is the god Bacchus, who presents him with a grape vine and teaches him how to transform the fruit into wine. Then Bacchus sees the beautiful Erigone and decides to have his way with her. He succeeds. In this porcelain figure, Erigone is represented as being completely under Love’s spell, in the momentary throes of that one delightful moment when she succumbs to Bacchus, who, to seduce her, has transformed himself into a bunch of succulent grapes. Ikarios, wanting to share the god’s gift of wine with the shepherds of Attica, offers several of them a flask filled with wine. Not knowing its effects, they proceed to drink, and they drink too much. Furious, and convinced that they have been poisoned, the shepherds club Ikarios to death, abandoning his corpse beneath a tree. Concerned about her father, who has been missing for many months, Erigone goes looking for him, and her dog Maera directs her to the spot where her father lies unburied. Inconsolable, the young girl hangs herself from the tree which marks her father’s burial place. After her death she becomes the constellation Virgo; the dog Maera becomes the star Procyon and her father becomes the constellation Boötes. Standing nine and three-quarters inches tall, this outstanding figure was modeled by Johann Georg Muller. We see Bacchus pressing his grapes into Erigone’s bowl as she reclines (perhaps a little woozy) on grapes that are growing around her. She also has a tambourine but I don’t know how that fits in. Maybe as a sign of Bacchanalian revels? Behind her, two dogs are stationed but they seem not to be paying much attention to their mistress’s welfare. The title of the figure is molded on the lower rim at the back. A colored example is in the Kunstgewerbemuseum in Berlin and illustrated in Kollmann/Jachow, plate 184. As you might expect, there has been some damage. There is a lot of overpaint, but it looks like both Erigone’s arms have been reattached and repainted. One dog’s head is repainted, along with his tail, but it’s not obvious what the damage might have been. Her big toe is also repainted. Bacchus looks okay. There are other small chips. The repairs are expertly done and the figure displays very nicely.
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