You are here: Works / Graphic art / Demeter with Dionysus

Demeter with Dionysos

Year: around 1937 to 1941
Material: lithography
Dimensions: 64 x 49 cm

Under the spell of the Dionysian not only the covenant between man and man together again: the alienated, hostile, or subjugated nature again celebrates her reconciliation with her ​​lost son, the people.
Friedrich Nitzsche

In this compositionally charming work of the Month Fritz Griebel knowledge in classical archeology be clear once again. The artist holds in his presentation, however, not strictly in antique image conventions.

A large, sedentary woman holds in her lap with her left hand a bowl of fruit, with the right a small, empty shell. Her long dress is translucent. The right chest and arm are exposed. The head is surrounded by the garment. The female figure fills the image space of almost.

Demeter, nach einem Wandgemälde in Pompeji, aus Meyers Konversationslexikon von 1888. (Quelle: Wikipedia)

On her legs lays a naked little boy. His long hair is combed back and seems to be partially braided. He is just about to fill grapes in an amphora or even to press the juice from the grapes with their bare hands.

As a kind of bar various items are on the right side above the boys arranged vertically: a Spitzamphora, one filled with grapes basket with a handle, a guitar, a aulos and a pan flute.

The seat motif of female figure is typical of the representation of the gods Demeter, Zeus or Pluto. Demeter is the Greek mythology, the goddess of fertility, grain, seed and seasons. Their attributes are flowers, fruits and seeds; often it is rarely shown with a pig or dolphin with a bee; as it carries a scepter Labrys (double ax). The entblösen the chest can be seen, however, closer to Venus, the goddess of love, erotic desire and beauty.

The Via Labicana August, der röm. Imperator als Augustus Pontifex mit dem Kopf verschleiert für eine Opferung, 20 v. Chr. Nationalmusem, Rom. (Quelle: Wikipedia)

In small bowl, which presents the seated figure, there is a patera, a sacrificial bowl. The shell shape is flat, round and handleless, in the middle it has a curved inward hump on. Throughout the Roman culture, this form was used. From the shell, the libation was particularly taken the wine victims. Even the head of the victim out of the shell was watered prior to sacrifice. After sacrifice, the blood was collected with the Patera, but it was considered morally reprehensible to drink the blood from the shell.

In the context of patera also drawn over the head of Demeter's robe is to interpret well. According to Roman Rite are Togastatuen with a drawn over the head Togateil (capite velato) to be interpreted as sacrificer.

When the little boy could be to Dionysus, the god of wine, fertility, of intoxication and madness. Then let the grapes and musical instruments indicate: Usually, the God with a wreathed in ivy and vines thyrsus (Bacchus bar) and cantharos, a cup of wine, shown, often clothed with panther or tiger skins. In the ancient world depictions of God are rare as a child, it outweigh representations of the type with a beard since the Archaic period to the Hellenistic-Roman period. In addition, the youthful type of Dionysus developed in the 5th century.

Die Erziehung des Dionysos, Fresko, heute Nationalmusuem Rom, Rom um 20 n. Chr. (Quelle: The Yorck Project, Wikipedia)
Statue des Dionysos, röm. Kopie um 50 n. Chr., griech. Original um 340 v. Chr., Britisches Museum, London. Foto: Jack1956 (Quelle: Wikipedia)

Dionysus was usually in the wake of satyrs and maenads (the "madman"). Garlanded with ivy, his companions wrapped in deer deer and fox skins, carrying torches and Thyrsoi. They embodied the fertility of untamed nature. Accompanied by flutes, drums and tambourines, satyrs and maenads orgiastic rites celebrated: They practiced "free love", torn wild animals, and ate them. Early figures show maenads with sinuous snakes around his arms. The God appeared to them as a bull.

Satyr und Mänade, Tondo einer attischen rotfigurigen Kylix, um 480 v. Chr., aus Vulci; Staatliche Antikensammlungen, München, Inv. 2654 (Quelle: Wikipedia)

Fritz Griebel appears in his image Demeter and Dionysus as mother and son have shown. In addition mythical sources, probably testify cultic aspects of the combination of the two gods: In the Eleusinian Mysteries Demeter and Dionysus was worshiped together as mother and son. Symbolized Demeter cereals and bread, as Dionysus the wine. Probably Demeter were sacrificed grapes. From this cult form the Eucharist should be developed with bread and wine in Christian worship, where everything is based on the person of Christ.

In Griebel image dominates the mother goddess Demeter. It embodies the fertility of the people, but also the nature and animals. For them, there is no end, only change and growth. The androgynous young Dionysos can also be interpreted as a symbol of the rampant nature (of the people).

Griebel's confrontation with ancient mythology and visual arts seem to be supported by the wistful desire to reunite with the man alienated nature.


Andrea Bendlin: Patera, Patella. In: Der Neue Pauly. Band 9, Stuttgart 2000, Sp. 397–397.
Klaus Mailahn: Dionysos, Gott der Göttinnen. Die wahre Herkunft und Identität einer griechischen Gottheit. Hamburg 2014.
Friedrich Nitzsche: Die Geburt der Tragödie. Oder: Griechenthum und Pessimismus. Stuttgart 1993, S. 23.
Renate Schlesier, Agnes Schwarzmaier (Hg.): Dionysos. Verwandlung und Ekstase. Regensburg 2008.


© Antje Buchwald 2015