Engraving, Minerva & Silenus


Two engravings on handmade paper, made around 1770. Engraving 1, 18 x 14 cm, shows Minerva. Engraving 2 18.5 x 15 shows Silenus. Both engravings are anonymous. There is a small hole in the edge of the Minerva engraving. The Silenus engraving has folds (see photo)

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Minerva was the Roman goddess of wisdom and strategic warfare and the sponsor of art, trade and strategy. From the second century BC, the Romans equated her with the Greek goddess Athens, although the Romans did not emphasize her relationship to war and warfare as the Greeks did. According to the Greek myths around Athens, she was born in Metis, who was swallowed up by Jupiter, and burst out of her father’s head, fully armed and dressed in armor. Jupiter impregnated the Titanes Metis, which resulted in her attempt to change shape (or change shape) to escape him. Jupiter then remembered the prophecy that his own child would overthrow him as he had done with Saturn, and Saturn for him with Caelus.

Fearing that their child would be male, and become stronger than he was and ruled the heavens in his place, Jupiter swallowed Metis after catching her trying to turn himself into a fly. The Titanes gave birth to Minerva and forged weapons and armor for her child while they were in Jupiter’s body. In some versions of the story, Metis continued to live within the spirit of Jupiter as the source of his wisdom. Others say that she was just a vessel for the birth of Minerva. The constant banging and ringing left Jupiter with terrible pain. To relieve the pain, Vulcan used a hammer to cleave Jupiter’s head, and Minerva emerged from the gap, whole, mature and in full combat gear. She was the virgin goddess of music, poetry, medicine, wisdom, trade, weaving and crafts. She is often depicted with her sacred creature, an owl usually referred to as the “owl of Minerva”, which symbolized her association with wisdom and knowledge, and, less often, the snake and the olive tree.

Silenus was a companion and teacher of the wine god Dionysus. He is usually older than the satyrs of the Dionysian consequence (thiasos), and sometimes considerably older, in which case he can be referred to as a Papposilenus. The plural sileni refers to the mythological figure as a type that is sometimes differentiated from a satyr by having the characteristics of a horse rather than a goat.