Maenads were the female followers of Bacchus, who were frequently depicted dancing in a state of ecstatic frenzy. Here she is wearing a long chiton with a high belt tied at the center in a Herakles knot. She cavorts with her left leg advanced, her upper torso leaning dramatically to her left. A swirl of drapery would originally have framed her head, no doubt tilted further to her left.
The dancing maenad became a popular subject in Greek sculpture by the late 5th century B.C. Ancient literary sources mention a dancing maenad by the 4th century B.C. sculptor Skopas of Paros, and a statue now in Dresden has been attributed by some scholars to the master (see pp. 255-256 and pl. 61 in B.S. Ridgway, Fourth-Century Styles in Greek Sculpture). While the pose of the present statue recalls that of the Dresdan maenad, the drapery does not, since in Dresden her left side is exposed. Perhaps closer in spirt is the maenad on a gold ring in the Getty Villa, no. 52 in J. Spier, Ancient Gems and Finger Rings. Dancing maenads were also common on Neo-Attic reliefs, most inspired by the work of the 5th century B.C. sculptor Kallimachos.